Is Your Culture a Country Club or Prison?

More than anything else, culture matters.

One of the primary responsibilities of any team leader is the establishment of the team’s culture. Think of culture as being the rules of behavior.


The easiest way to think of this concept is to draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper. Put “Jail” at one end of the line and “Country Club” at the other end.

If you have a jail kind of rule set, everything is spelled out in advance and everything is “by the book”. On the other hand if you’re running a country club, you have a laissez-faire type of atmosphere where anything goes.

Next, think about the behavior of your team. In this context the team can be the entire company, a department, a separate project team or a short-term initiative.

If you’re the leader of any of these teams, then you have the primary responsibility for establishing told “rules of the road”.

Thinking about the culture you have established for your team, put a mark on an area somewhere along the line. You may have put it way over next to the word jail or next to the word country club.

Wherever you have placed your mark is the indication of how you would like the entire team to behave. And, wherever it is that’s fine as long as that’s what you want. Point being, you’ll attract employees that like that environment and you will repel those who dislike it.

Neither of these extremes works very well for a high performing and well oiled team atmosphere.

It’s much better to have situational rules in place.

With this scenario you need to have a clearly defined rulebook that states how various situations will be acted upon.

As an illustration, you may decide to have safety adherence very strict (near the word jail). On the other hand, when you host a company party, that may call for behavior closer to the country club spectrum.

In summary, think about the messaging you’re giving to your team. Your own personal behavior on a situational basis will dictate where the team’s behavior will fall.

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