Creating a Culture of Champions

No disrespect to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets of 1993-1995, but if Michael Jordan didn’t take an inexplicable two-year sabbatical to play minor league baseball, the Chicago Bulls would have won eight straight NBA championships.

It’s not that Hakeem wasn’t one of the all-time greats and a true champion in his own right, but perhaps nobody in the history of professional sports has ever epitomized the word, “champion” quite like “His Airness.”

Internally motivated, relentless in his preparation, amazingly resilient, and a better team player than most people even realize, Michael used more than his unquestionable talent to achieve the pinnacle of NBA greatness six times. It was those intangibles that made him a champion like no other.

In 1992, he teamed up with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, and other NBA legends to form the “Dream Team.” Some call this the greatest sports team that’s ever been assembled, and they’re probably correct.

On this team, Jordan was surrounded by players who displayed the same traits of a champion. Magic Johnson already tested as HIV positive, giving new meaning to the term resiliency. Larry Bird was famous for a pre-game preparation where he always arrived hours earlier than anybody else, just to get as many practice shots in as possible. And, despite his less than statuesque height, Charles Barkley was one of the best rebounders in the history of the game, largely because of his lionhearted motivation. These amazing intangibles consumed the entire roster.

Imagine the possibilities if you could assemble a similar team or teams for your business. After all, the same intangibles—motivation, preparation, resilience, and collaboration—often construct a champion in the business world as well.

The question is, how do you cultivate an environment in your business that capitalizes on the sound character and strong will of its team members? How do you unify a group of individuals around a singular focus: winning it all?  At Appleseed Consulting, we’ve got a few ideas on how to make it happen. Consider the following list of five ways you can create a culture of champions:


1.    Detail the Desired Future State (DFS) – Paint a clear, compelling picture with quantitative and qualitative attributes of what the company will look like when its mission is implemented. Then, identify the key behaviors and specific responsibilities required of each team member to effectively contribute to that vision. Finally, make sure everybody knows how important their individual role is to achieving success as a team. Encourage your employees by communicating the benefits associated with the success - both for them and for the customer.

2.    Reflect Your Value System – Communicate your corporate values consistently at meetings, retreats, and conferences. Furthermore, create new events that embody these values and reward team members for enacting them. It’s also important to remember not to just employ a hollow value system, or make it something you aspire to be. Rather, construct a value system that is representative of what you actually believe in and what you actually do.  Align the company’s behaviors with how you want the company to be seen by customers and team members.

3.    Equip and Empower – Identify the key metrics of each role that will determine success, and acknowledge the barriers that could prevent team members from achievement. From there, develop systems and processes to address and overcome these anticipated barriers. This could be in the form of a training program, similar to how a champion athlete would use a strength and nutrition program to enhance their physical stamina. Allow team members to determine their ideal path forward [in alignment with the vision], and provide consistent, constructive feedback to effectively communicate and encourage their progress.

4.    Celebrate Wins, Coach through Losses – “Failing fast” is a popular entrepreneurial mantra these days, because failure should never be interpreted as the final destination. Rather, you should embrace failure in your organization as an opportunity to learn. It should be viewed as a chance to brainstorm potential solutions to complex issues. Lessons learned by savvy professionals will result in long-term wins.  Remember - the ultimate goal is to win it all. Winning it all is the culmination of several small victories and these should be celebrated wildly. Picture Michael Jordan kissing the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy as red and white confetti seemingly falls from the heavens to shower him in glory. This is how a wins should be celebrated in your business.

5.    Keep the Crowd at the Forefront – Find ways to encourage the team to routinely identify and assimilate with the customer. Everybody should know what their customer’s wants and needs are. Create an environment where empathy is welcomed; one where team members understand the customer’s pain points and persevere to innovate ways that address those issues. Finally, share success stories—big and small—with the entire organization to create a strong sense of team unity.


Much like the way the Dream Team rolled through their opposition at the 1992 Summer Olympics, never winning by anything less than 32 points, you too can create a culture of champions - winners inspired not just by victory, but equipped for sheer dominance in your industry.

Appleseed Consulting can help you to construct comprehensive systems and specialized processes to develop  a culture of champions in your business. Contact us about building your Dream Team today!