On Culture and Behavior at ESPN

In his book “Every Town Is a Sports Town: Business Leadership at ESPN, from the Mailroom to the Boardroom, George Bodenheimer and Donald T. Phillips (Authors) wrote the following on culture: The importance of culture to a company cannot be overstated-and it becomes even more valuable as the organization prospers and grows. In my view, there are three main reasons why culture is important in business:

  1. First, it is the only thing leaders can truly control.
  2. Second, culture supports everything a business is trying to do. It drives quality, profit, and employee passion.
  3. Third, a great corporate culture attracts an industry’s best people- and that results in more action, superior products, and better efficiency

I am going to discuss all three but in three distinct parts. So, let’s start with number 1. ‘It is the only thing leaders can truly control.’ He goes on to say: “Most variables in business are beyond the direct influence of any single individual.” He then goes on to discuss that sometimes ‘stuff happens’ even with the best of intentions and planning. I would concur. We all know the old cliché “Best laid plans of Mice and Men often go astray.” So, what does this mean and why is it important?

How we get there and how we react to our challenges is behavior driven. If we are truly building teams that interact and synergize toward a common result we will win. If we blame instead of practicing ‘Blameless Problem Solving’, we lose. And who sets the example? Who do we watch when things get rough? Our CEO, our persons in charge. We, like our children, observe behaviors. We, then, mimic them. Only the leader can create the culture that he/she wants that generates innovation and solve our various challenges.