Identifying the Culture Gap

By Stephanie Zonars

Building team culture seems like such a huge task and feels so overwhelming. Where do you start?

The first step is to identify where you are and where you want to be. In another post, I asked how you would describe your culture in your own words. Today, I’d like you to consider the same question in a different way.

Jeff Janssen has done some great work on this topic. He defines culture as a function of relationships and results. What score from 1-10 (1=poor; 10=excellent) would you give your team in terms of its relationships? These questions might help:

  • What is the level of trust?
  • How much do teammates hang out together when they don’t “have to”?
  • How willing are teammates to have uncomfortable conversations and hold each other accountable?
  • Are there cliques or fractured relationships on the team?

Now, give your team a score from 1-10 with regard to results. Consider these questions:

  • How strongly have teammates bought into the team vision and goals?
  • How willing are team members to go the extra mile in preparation and practice in order to win?
  • How do they respond to losing?
  • How willing are teammates to embrace whatever role will help the team achieve desired results (even if it’s a role he/she doesn’t want)?

Once you’ve answered those questions, check out this awesome visual that Jeff Janssen created that highlights the different types of team cultures. Plot your score and read the corresponding description. A simplified view of a complex topic, this grid is a helpful way to conceptualize and discuss culture with your team.

Now that you have a visual of the gap between your current and desired culture, you can see whether relationships or results need more attention. Most likely, both areas will need some level of improvement, but one may take precedence. Then, you’ll want to develop strategies to help close the gap. In future posts, I’ll highlight strategies to improve your relationships and results.

Regardless of their present situation, the best leaders aim for a culture where both relationships and results run on all cylinders. Whether your “win” is games, meeting budget or higher profits, championship cultures allow for extraordinary team experiences where people are loved, challenged and held to high standards as they pursue greatness together. The result? Rewarding work, low turnover and FUN!


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Stephanie Zonars helps coaches build and maintain championship cultures through her business, Life Beyond Sport. Teams at Penn State, Notre Dame, West Point and over 65 other schools have built stronger trust, communication and teamwork through her workshops. Stephanie spent three years on staff with the Penn State women’s basketball team, assisting the team to back-to-back Big Ten Championships. An author of four books, she now serves as Assistant AD of Marketing & Promotions at Cedarville University. Learn more at

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