Thursday, July 5, 2018

Nine ways to develop an exceptional culture

It was the spring of 1984, and my father was working in Birmingham, Alabama. The rest of our family - my mom, my younger sister, and me - were supposed to move that summer. (That meant a new school and new friends for this VERY shy teenager.) My dad had heard about a school called Berry High School that he thought might be a good fit for his daughters. He was looking for a school with a good girls' sports program, so he went to visit the athletic director. 

When my dad got to the school, he asked where he might find the athletic director, and someone told him that he would be in the gym. My dad says, “I saw this guy sweeping the floor and asked if he could tell me where the athletic director was. The guy said, ‘I reckon that would be me.’ That guy was Bob Finley."

I was lucky to get to play my last two years of high school basketball for Coach Finley. He created a culture of excellence and hard work in everything he did. (Here's a great article written a few years ago about Coach Finley's legacy.)

When I think of Coach Finley, I remember 

...that he never liked "hotdogs." He once pulled a player from the game when she pointed in the stands after making a shot. 

...we practiced the fundamentals. He made sure we knew them and practiced them until it was second nature and until we did them well.

...politeness along with competitiveness. He picked up trash in the bleachers after games. He was respectful to others. He wanted us to win. He wanted our actions on the court to speak for themselves. He never asked us to do anything he wouldn't do himself.

...he was a man of character. He set positive examples for integrity, grit, and hard work. 

So, when I saw the tweet below, it took me right back to high school and my fond memories of Coach Finley.

How can we as school leaders develop an exceptional culture?

Developing an exceptional culture by @Jennifer_Hogan

1 - Do the little things. Never be "too big" to do little things yourself. Clean up. Hold the door. Be at a post. Smile. 

2 - Be ON the team, not apart from the team. Have employees' backs. Work on the work together. 

Developing an exceptional culture by @Jennifer_Hogan

3 - Be open to stepping away from organizational charts. Empower others to hold each other accountable for the mission, vision, goals, and results.  

4 - Keep raising the bar. Don't settle for complacency, including the decisions where it would be "easier" to settle.

5 - Own your energy. We are responsible for the energy we bring to each and every interaction and relationship. Be relentless to share positive energy only.

6 - Keep your word. Period.

7 - Set gutsy goals. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. 

8 - Focus on the journey. Trust the process, and the results will take care of themselves. Focus on the people, lessons learned, successes, and stay consistent.

9 - Love your team and the work. Roll up your sleeves, enjoy yourself, laugh, and love the people with whom you get to do the important work. 

Developing an exceptional culture by @Jennifer_Hogan

Developing an exceptional culture is no easy task. In your experience, what would you add to this list? Which one resonates the most with you? I look forward to hearing from you either in the comments below or on twitter.


  1. Great post ! I ,like a lot of people , have a similar Coach Finley story. I like 1-9 but number 1 resonates with me. I know when people “do the little things” it makes an impression on me and how I feel about where I work.

  2. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I also love the post. A positive culture can be such a fragile thing. We should always take time to recognize those people who do the "little things" that build a strong school.