Do You Have a Royal Culture?

November 2, 2015 — Leave a comment

After repeat appearances, the Kansas City Royals have accomplished something they haven’t done in 30 years: win the World Series. Baseball experts point to a wide variety of factors for the team’s success: an emphasis on putting the ball in play vs. hitting home runs, aggressive base running, a dominant bullpen and a flair for dramatic victories. But people close to the team highlight an additional factor: the organizational culture carefully crafted by General Manager Dayton Moore upon joining the team back in 2006. When Moore came on board the team had lost 100+ games in three of the previous four seasons. It certainly wasn’t an easy ride – it took eight whole years before the team achieved a winning record. Now, the results speak for themselves. But what about the behind-the-scenes elements?

You may not work in the front office of a professional sports team. (Neither do I). But shaping your organization’s culture is always a top leadership responsibility. Here are just a few things the Royals did to build a championship culture.

Make Your Players Proud to Represent the Organization

Admittedly, when your team is the perennial laughingstock, this can be quite a challenge. But Dayton Moore didn’t wait until the Royals were a proud organization to instill pride in the players. Little initiatives can go a long way. One of the things the Royals did was place large action posters of each player inside the clubhouse – rookies included. That way each player would begin their team experience with a constant and visible message that being on the team is a royal privilege. Another thing the team did was give the spring training facilities a makeover. That way players could see that even a little used home away from home was a special place to be if you’re a Royal.

Give Everyone a Voice

In his book, More Than a Season, Dayton Moore talks about the importance of everyone in the organization having a voice. In the Royals organization, this means having a preference that each person has some experience as a scout – even for front office staff and coaches. This allows more voices to weigh in on personnel decisions.

In lousy cultures, only a select few make organizational decisions. In good cultures, the right people make the appropriate decisions. In great cultures, the right people make the appropriate decisions with input from as many qualified sources as possible. According to Moore, it’s important for every person to have a sincere appreciation for the expertise of every member of the organization. “If they feel like they can never weigh in, they’ll never buy in.”

Put Family First

Baseball is one of many industries that places large demands on family life. Long road trips often compete with family time. That’s where the Royals get creative in their commitment to family. In recognition of the fact that many players trace their roots to playing with their dads as boys, the team invites each player’s father to join the team on an incredible road trip experience the week before Father’s Day. In 2015, three players had the misfortune to lose parents during the year. Each situation was handled delicately and uniquely given the circumstances – with the player’s well-being placed first. As a result, team members consistently returned stating their desire to be with their “team family.”

Work and family should never have to compete with each other. That said, sometimes it takes getting creative to help foster a healthy balance. For Moore, it’s about creating an organization you would want your children to be a part of.

Stand Up for Each Other

Everyone makes mistakes at work, but one of the challenges in athletics is that most mistakes take place in the public eye with instant analysis and critique. Standing up for each other doesn’t mean a lack of accountability. It means helping each player perform to the best of their ability for the benefit of the team. It means having confidence that a player who made a mistake will come back and get it right the next time (and providing that opportunity as well), from the top of the organization all the way to the bottom – both in public and in private.

Share the Glory

Even though seven players represented the Royals at the 2015 All-Star game, the team was often heralded as the one lacking any real superstars. Team success always trumped individual success. Coach K lauds the value of team’s ego when it is a collective (vs. individual) one. The Royals fell right into this category in 2015. When an organization is on the same page (from ownership to front office to coaching to scouting and to players), winning is truly a collective success.

The common message from the players of the Kansas City Royals 2015 baseball team was short and simple: “We play for each other.” Do your teammates say the same thing? If not, your culture may be ready for a Royal makeover.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website  or follow him on Twitter.