Four Behaviors You Need to Shape Company CultureNov 25, 2022
Welcome to Friday 411, issue, #005. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll discover 4 behaviors that will create a healthy company culture.
Read Time: 4.5 Minutes
Great cultures don't happen by accident. Great cultures are created when leaders translate their organization’s core values into tangible behaviors. These behaviors can be divided into 4 categories: Habits, Attitudes, Resource Allocation, and Processes.
In 2020, I (Garland) discovered a baseball cap with a fun logo online. I’m not a big baseball fan, but I love hats, and I’m fascinated by logos. This one was a determined yellow banana swinging a baseball bat. The logo belonged to the Savannah Bananas. At the time, I knew nothing about the team except that their logo was quirky enough for me to place my order.
A few days later, I received a bright yellow box in the mail. As I opened it, I discovered the box was filled with crinkle-cut confetti paper, like a party had been delivered to my house. I pulled out the new hat and uncovered extra gifts: a Koozy, a sticker, and a handwritten note thanking me for my purchase.
The joy of receiving my first unconventional-logo Minor League cap sparked a passion for collecting them. Since then, I have unboxed dozens of new hats. None of these experiences have come close to what the Savannah Bananas delivered. No other team has gone above and beyond in their order fulfillment. A boring cardboard box shows up in my mailbox with nothing more than the hat and a receipt.
My curiosity was sparked. Who were these Savannah Bananas? What were they doing to stand out against every other team? Their co-owner, Jesse Cole (who runs the Bananas with his wife, Emily), has published two books: Find Your Yellow Tux and Fans First. I ordered my copies and began my research into what this organization is doing differently.
An Unparalleled Culture
By reading Cole’s books and watching an ESPN+ documentary on the Savannah Bananas, I realized this team’s exceptional delivery extended well beyond their merchandise:
- They have sold out every game since their first season.
- They have a 60,000+ person waitlist to see a game.
- They sold 250,000 tickets in the first two weeks of their 33-city “world tour” playing in stadiums across the country.
- They have a 2,000-person waitlist to work for the team.
- They expect to have a 500% revenue increase in 2023, after a $10 Million year in 2022.
How in the world are the Bananas doing it? It comes down to one word: culture.
The Savannah Bananas have created a culture unparalleled in most sports. They have a world-class organizational culture that can teach you how to do the same.
What is Culture?
As popular as the concept of a “culture” is, the idea remains nebulous. Some gurus talk about culture being how you “feel” when working for a company. That feeling, though, is a byproduct of a culture, not the culture itself.
A culture is the lived-out values of a company. Every organization has a culture. But few leaders intentionally shape the culture of an organization. In fact, in our observation, most leaders are unintentional with the culture they create. If your unintended values become behaviors, then these unwanted values will overtake your culture. This is how culture becomes bad—and often becomes toxic.
How can you create a great culture?
Know Your Values
A healthy culture intentionally cultivates its core values into behaviors. To shape behaviors, you must articulate your core values.
For the Bananas, their first core value is Fans First. Here’s how Jesse Cole described it:
“Customers aren’t enough, even millions of them. Employees aren’t enough, even the best. They aren’t enough because they can leave you…. Create fans of everyone you touch — customers, employees, friends, family, you name it. Be fanatical about creating fans. Act as if your business’s entire life depends on it because it does.” (Fans First, p. 55)
Once you have communicated your values, actively turn those values into 4 types of behaviors:
- Allocated Resources
Behavior Type #1: Habits
Identify repeated actions that everyone on your staff must do.
When the Bananas put extra swag into my hat box, they fulfilled a habit: giving more than a customer expects. I’m sure they didn’t do this for me alone. They put extra swag in every box. It’s a habit.
There’s another habit that every Banana’s staff member is trained to do. They look for boring lags in the game and find ways to make them remarkable. This habit leads to more moments of surprise and delight.
Behavior Type #2: Attitudes
Align attitudes with the core values, and model those attitudes to others. If one of your core values is competitiveness, you need to ooze competition in your attitude. If you have a core value of service, your employee’s attitudes should relish in helping customers.
For the Bananas, one of the attitudes of Fans First is “we will do anything possible to create a great experience for fans.”
Take this example from Jesse Cole:
In most professional baseball teams, the athletes are revered by the fans. But for the Bananas, the fans are revered by the players.
Behavior Type #3: Allocated Resources
Great cultures designate resources like money and time to help them live out their core values.
All too often in our corporate engagements at AdVance Leadership, we’ve seen the opposite tendency. For example, a CEO says that he values leadership development but fails to budget for managers to get coaching or training.
The Bananas believe so strongly in Fans First that they budget for it. Here’s how Jesse Cole described it recently in a LinkedIn post:
“We reward our people based on Fans First stories. 1% of our top-line revenue goes to celebrating our team. That can be taking everyone on a cruise, turning the ballpark into a spa, or taking our team shopping for the holidays…. How can the employees create a great experience, if they don’t know what one looks like?”
Another way that the Bananas have allocated resources is the unique way they deal with ballpark concessions. The team has a saying, “every pay point is a pain point” (Fans First, 83). At other teams' baseball games, you pay an arm and a leg for food. The Bananas decided to put fans first and remove the pain of paying to eat.
Every ticket includes unlimited hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, chips, soda, water, and desserts. The Bananas charge more than most Minor League teams for their tickets to cover the cost of food. But they have allocated resources to take away their customer’s pain points.
Behavior Type #4: Processes
Processes are repeatable series of tasks. Companies that create a good culture design processes that reflect their core values.
The end of most baseball games is boring. The last inning is played, the announcer tells you when the next game is, and everyone walks out to the parking lot.
The Bananas created a process for ending the games in a Fans First way— a plaza party with music and dancing. The staff lines up on both sides of the exit gate, thanking fans. A band plays while players sign autographs, pose for selfies, and even dance with fans. Finally, the staff, players, and fans wrap arms around each other, and all join together in singing “Stand By Me.”
Great cultures are rare. But leaders who intentionally create a healthy culture ingrain that culture into everything: even the shipping of a $30 hat. A healthy culture will cause your company to stand apart from everyone else.
This week, select one of your company’s core values. Brainstorm how you might turn that core value into behaviors by creating habits, attitudes, allocated resources, or processes.
Want to live and lead more intentionally?
Here are two ways we can help:
1. Follow Garland on LinkedIn for daily posts on leadership, culture, and intentional living.
2. Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as "one of the books everyone on your team should read."
3. Contact us about speaking for your company or event.