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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Cochrane

Culture...The Boys in the Boat and the 49ers

Have you ever worked for an organization that felt rudderless? The CEO lacks a consistently clear vision? The management team isn’t working as a unit and employees feel completely handcuffed to make changes, take initiatives or suggest new approaches to improve performance? Let’s face it, we all have. 


A couple of thoughts to consider. First, Have you read Dan Brown’s book “The Boys In The Boat”? Having been a parent of rowers, you quickly realise that crew is the ultimate team sport. There are no Michael Jordans or Tom Bradys of crew. There is no individual GOAT. 


You see in crew, if one team member is too strong, the coxswain adjusting the rudder to keep the boat moving in a straight line creates drag slowing the boat. The champion boats have a team rowing in the same direction, at the same pace, and exerting the same power with each stroke to efficiently propel the boat forward. Each crew member shows up on time, knows the mission and focuses on getting better as a team every day.


In today’s issue of “The Athletic”, David Lombardi writes “How a Stanford Professor helped lay the foundation for this 49ers era”. When John Lynch was hired as the 49ers general Manager, he had observed as TV football broadcaster that poorly performing teams lacked a clear vision, and clear communications between management, coaches, and players. He consulted with prior mentors and realised the first thing he had to was have the same “mindset and vision” as his head coach. He then brought in a Stanford professor to work with the wider management team to build a common vision and an elite culture. I suggest you look into the story, it’s a good read.


Think about your organisation’s culture. The highest performing organisations have great cultures. The strugglers do not. Also, look at distribution, do they reflect the culture, are they aligned with your mission, and are they “rowing” in the same direction?  

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