BOOK REVIEW: The Culture System

REVIEW: Vicky, FCN Founder

If your twitter account is anything like mine, you can’t scroll through it without the word CULTURE jumping out at you. And, listen to any coaching podcast from just about any sport, and the concept of ‘culture’ is talked about as a magic solution for fixing just about anything. Whether it be Alistair McCaw (Consultant on leadership, team culture and mindset), Catherine Baker (author of Staying the Distance) or even me, Coaching and Leadership Consultants around the sporting Globe repeat the word ‘Culture’ as if it’s a panacea.

The truth is….it is.

Culture exists whether you like it or not and whether it is intentional or not. Culture is simply the collection of behaviours that you experience day in day out.

And as we have seen throughout the sporting world, ‘culture’ is the reason behind many different scenarios in sport; abusive coaching going unreported, it’s the reason behind poor team performances, and it is also the reason behind winning team performances.

But how do we intentionally create a culture that we want, that builds psychological saftey and that ensures an efficient, effective and safe culture for all?

The Culture System” written by J.P. Nerbun, is deep dive into the practical aspects of creating extraordinary team cultures, through the development of a Culture System. It’s a step by step guide, a road map and a guide book as to how to build a culture of high standards and strong relationships.

As someone who leads sports federations into creating change by “fixing the system, not the women”, this was a fantastically useful book to work my way through. As was identified through our research project “Achieving Gender Equity in High Performance Athletics Coaching in the U.K” one of the biggest barriers to female elite coaches is the current culture of the sport and it’s our job to keep pushing the governing body into making that change.

The book is split into 4 parts, ensuring the pathway to establishing an effective culture is developed step by step: Part 1, Transformational Leaderships, Part 2, Establish Culture, Part 3, Support Culture, Part 4, Enforce Culture. Each part is again split into a a number of chapters

Author J.P Nerbun explains his ‘Culture Operating System‘ as both “mechanical and organic” and wants everyone to access it. He goes on to say that the “Culture OS does not provide solutions, but instead gives coaches and their team members the tools to fins solutions“, and this book is “designed to help you orginsaze the tools and methods themselves.”

As with nearly all books of this type, I do wish more examples from elite female coaches would be used (any authors who need pointing in the right direction, get in touch!), as I believe many of the standards needed for “extraordinary team cultures” come naturally to many women as has been proven with coaches such as Jane Figueurido, Mel Marshall, Sarina Wiegman, Dawn Staley, Pat Summitt and Laura Turner-Alleyne. However, the examples used in this book are far and wide and back up very well the authors points.

For anyone out there who is responsible for the success and safety of a sports federation – please think carefully about this line from the conclusion of the book: Make “a personal commitment to prioritise character and culture and be more intentional as a leader.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone working in sports administration, coaches and of course those of us on the outside looking in, shaking our heads at the decisions (or lack of decisions) being made in sport (particularly track & field!)