Improve Team Culture: Fix Broken Windows

Improve Team Culture: Fix Broken Windows

Jim Thompson, founder of Positive Coaching Alliance, shared this concept last night on a webinar. It’s the second time I’ve heard of improving team culture by fixing broken windows, so I wanted to share it here.

If you walk into a neighborhood and see a building or home with a broken window, you might think:

  • this isn’t a safe area
  • people here don’t care
  • expectations here are low

The theory is that if a broken window remains, then more will surface. The building will become inhabited with squatters and soon more buildings will have broken windows. But if the broken window is repaired, then the rest of the cycle will likely never happen.

Now, apply this concept to your team culture. Broken windows on a team might look like:

  • players being permitted to talk back to coaches/officials
  • coaches losing control of emotions in game/practice
  • ongoing selfishness among team members
  • disregard for team goals or policies
  • win-at-all-cost attitudes

Left unattended, behaviors like this erode team trust. When athletes and coaches can act however they want with no accountability or consequences, individuals begin taking precedence over the team while unity and chemistry go, well…out the window (pun intended).

But fixing a broken window creates an expectation of excellence. Raising the bar develops pride in your program. Individuals who want to be part of something bigger than themselves adhere to the new standards as the enjoyment, excitement and pride of being part of the team takes precedence over  selfish desires.

Improving team culture is challenging but not difficult. Start by fixing a broken window.

What broken window do you see in your program? What action will you take to begin fixing  it?