A team of champions or a champion team?

Building a business, keeping customers happy and creating a coherent and successful long-term strategy demands more than just individual brilliance. Truly successful organisations focus on developing a strong team that pulls together. And building an effective team is all about cultural fit.

Take the small Swedish football club of Ostersunds (non-football fans stick with me for a moment!). In 2010, the team had just been relegated to the country’s fourth division. They were struggling to keep fans and players; even chairman Daniel Kindberg considered walking away. Fast forward six years and three promotions later and Ostersunds are back in the Swedish top tier, have won a major Swedish trophy and beat Turkish team Galatasaray 3-1 on aggregate in their 2017 Europa League group games.

The secret to their success: creating a strong, well-defined team culture.

The process started with some serious self-analysis. After their 2010 relegation, the management and players sat themselves down and asked some hard questions about their purpose and their hopes.

“We sat down and talked and asked ourselves why? What is everything about? Through that process we created our values and an ambition of where we should be – in the elite part of football and playing European competitive football in our stadium. People thought we were lunatics!” says Kindberg.

Kindberg faced another common problem: he struggled to recruit the right staff. “I called a friend of mine and I was upset. I said to him: ‘Why can I never find a good manager?’ This friend said to me: ‘Daniel, the problem is you, you keep picking the wrong ones.”

Kindberg’s friend recommended Englishman Graham Potter as a manager. A former full-back with a solid playing CV, Potter had plenty of coaching ideas but no experience. He and Kindberg hit it off and both of them took a risk: Kindberg on Potter’s lack of experience; Potter in moving his family to a tiny town on the edge of the Artic. It proved a successful combination and the team won back-to-back promotions. But there were still plenty of challenges around staffing.

“For the first couple of years it was impossible to get players here because there was no history, no tradition, no culture. We had to provide an identity, a football style that was interesting to people,” explains Potter.

Rather than trying to sign the on-form, expensive players the club could not afford, Kindberg and Potter focused on recruiting the kind of person that would fit in with the team. “We wanted players who had their careers ahead of them or would bring a bit of personality to the club,” says Potter.

Once players arrived they found the club’s ethos reinforced through its off-pitch ‘culture academy’, where players sing, dance and act in projects that have included staging a rock concert and a performance of Swan Lake. The results speak for themselves: promotion, trophies and happy fans.

“We started with 500 people at the game; now we’re averaging 6,000 and there’s a real club feeling in the town,” says Potter.

Football is a world of its own but whatever game your business is in, it is ultimately a team effort. And to build a successful team, in corporate life as in football, the key is understanding your culture and recruiting those who are a great fit.  Contact us to find out more about how we can help you define your culture and recruit the right people.

NOTE: Quotes from the Osterunds’ club are taken from: Ostersunds: Rise of Swedish club under English manager Graham Potter, By Phil Dawkes & Kevin Kirrane on BBC Sport. Read the full story here: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41902664

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