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Is the ideal organizational culture a “family” or a “team”?

Candidate Advice, Hiring Advice

When I’m on an intake call with a client prior to launching a new search, we spend much time discussing the company’s organizational culture. I ask them to describe it to me. Often, I’m told, “We are more a family than a typical employer / employee environment”. We all understand what that basically means. The employer and leadership strive to genuinely take care of their employees. They treat their employees with respect and empathy. Take an active interest in their lives outside of the workplace and often engage in social activities and have fun. You know, a group that actually “likes” each other. I’ve seen, however, articles and social media posts recently saying that senior leadership that refers to their employees as “family” can be bad. It’s explained that “families” do not get rid of members and members don’t exit their “family”. Fair enough. Would a better positive label be “team” culture or environment instead of “family”?  Perhaps. So, let’s define “team”. Excellent sports teams are comprised of high-performing individuals that embrace being held accountable for their results. An excellent team coach in sports creates a results-based culture. Excellent sports coaches lead by example, they roster the right players to help the team improve while aligning with the team’s culture, they are agile, and they let their players know exactly where they stand with consistent and open feedback. Clear expectations are set from the beginning and coaching sessions then reinforce their teaching. Core values are established, and regular check-ins validate adherence. Excellent coaches help the players on their team perform at or above their potential…in short, they ensure the player’s success is realized. Great sports teams create a sense of purpose, have an excellent mentoring culture, have defined goals, assigned roles and have a strong sense of accountability. They enjoy open communication, collaboration, and trust, and drive personal and organizational growth to reach goals and achieve results. A genuine desire to constantly improve. It sounds like I also just described a successful business organization, doesn’t it?

Sports analogies (in this case defining a successful “team”) directly translates to business. Being an excellent leader in business requires many of the same qualities seen in successful team sports coaches. The same qualities and cultures consistently found in great sports teams directly apply to great business teams. So, maybe it’s best to use “team” when describing a great business organizational culture rather than “family”, even though both terms are interchangeable.