In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

Today I am talking about one of the most bastardized terms in the human lexicon: culture. It’s often used to describe what’s going right or wrong with teams or organizations, but we really don’t have a good working definition of what culture is, which means it’s pretty hard to make changes to it if we don’t know what it is.

So on this episode, I will share a definition I really like and then explain how culture can become stagnant and corrosive and how we can prevent that or fix it if it is happening.

Check out the article Culture Change In Elite Performance Teams that I mentioned in this show.

If you are interested in checking out my course Bought In head over to to do so. Enrollment for it closes this Friday.

If you have questions you want to be addressed on this podcast feel free to reach out via

Have a great week!



Brett Bartholomew  00:00

Hey everyone, before we get started, I wanted to give you a quick heads up that October 17th to the 19th. I’m gonna  be opening the enrollment for my five-week course Bought In. Now even though the enrollment only goes from the 17th to the 19th. When you enroll you do get lifetime access to the course. So it is completely self-driven from a timeframe you don’t have to worry about if you have current commitments or anything keeping you from that. And really the point of the course is to give you the foundational underpinnings of the Art Of Coaching and many of the things we’re going to discuss on this podcast. To date. It’s my most in-depth resource. It comes with over 150 different references within it. various fields from sociology to psychology that really explore the interdependent factors that shape athlete behavior, how we impact them through different communication and influence tactics, and really focuses on why athletes need certain frameworks just like they do with training to help all of us build more trust more meaningful relationships and just become better communicators as coaches overall. 

You do not have to be a strength and conditioning coach to enroll in this course currently, the population within it includes everything from doctors, dentists, lawyers, strength coaches, personal trainers, and even physical therapists so it’s broken down into several modules. After that there are everything from archetype guides if you’ve read my book, Conscious Coaching, communication guides, there’s workbooks, and manuals, so if you’re somebody that owns their own facility or is a director of performance, and you’re looking for a resource to really help upskill your staff and your coaches, this has that and it’s not just something where you watch the videos and there’s no accountability. There’s an exam. All of it is CEU approved fully through the National Strength and Conditioning Association for 1.5 CEUs. And I hope to see you guys in there. So again, if you want to learn more, go to and I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thanks for your time. Moral class and I believe great culture. Do they do when they’re happy?

Brett Bartholomew  02:13

We don’t take no for an answer leave no doubt. Leave No. No doubt. Once we get there, we’re gonna go go go go go go. Go Live Are you kids are probably saying to yourself, hey, I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna get the world by the tail and wrap it around and pull it down and put it in my pocket

Brett Bartholomew  02:59

what’s going on everybody? Thanks for joining me for another episode of The Art of Coaching podcast. This is episode two. One of the main things that we’re gonna talk about today is culture and I’m touching on that because that has been a buzzword that has been bastardized, mismanaged, thrown around. You know, I don’t know what many of your experiences are with the term but I feel like it’s always kind of this cloudy, esoteric ambiguous go-to when people are trying to explain either what’s going right with something whether it’s a team, a company, an organization or what’s going wrong, people always it’s the culture you know, there are books written on culture, tons of them, that everybody’s got their own take on it. 

But what’s been odd is it seems like over the years, there really hasn’t been a definition, you know, and, of course, people have come up with their own definitions. And I think they usually leverage those into purposes that suit them. You know, some kind of agenda and that’s fine. 

I mean, listen, sometimes we have to wait for that education to find us as well. There’s a lot of terms that all of us I know, especially myself have misused in the past, and then later on, I kind of find a better way to kind of make it more cogent and piece it together in a way that’s not only a bit more clear, but suited for its more intended purpose. 

So just to define culture real quick, and then I’ll share where I got this. Culture that is the best definition I’ve found personally. Culture is a dynamic process characterized by the shared values, beliefs, expectations, and practices across the members and generations of a defined group. I’m going to read that one more time. Culture is a dynamic process characterized by the shared values, beliefs, expectations, and practices across the members and generations of a defined group. 

And here’s what I like about this and I’ll talk about the source here in a minute so you guys can have that for your notes. What I love about this, pardon the occasional coughing I’m fighting a little bit of a cold. What I love about this is first and foremost, the dynamic process, part of it, you know, and that is something that we all know, culture is not a static thing. Nobody can set a culture and then it just, you know, it’s put in place. I think culture is very much like buy-in and trust. I think that it’s gained in drops. And I think that it’s lost, or in this case, graded in buckets. 

I think, you know, growing up in Nebraska, that’s something that I’ve witnessed, you know, you grow up and you are a football fan from the moment you are born in Nebraska, the Nebraska Cornhuskers for some of my older audience members out there. I mean, one of the all-time winningest programs from the 70s, the 80s and the 90s. 

They exhibited a dominance that has yet to even be surpassed by Alabama, although Alabama is getting there for sure. It’s uncanny what they’ve been able to achieve in their own right. And this isn’t me going on and on but you know, some kind of Homer fan theory, I’m just saying that when you grow up as a Nebraskan, you’re well aware of everything that goes on and the way that university or football team and the way it played reflected the values of the people in the state, very blue collar state, no nonsense, the type of people that would let a stranger in their home but at the same time, punch someone in the face if they dishonored their wife, you know, and it’s just very what you see is what you get. And for a long time, that culture and their ability to develop athletes and then being on the forefront of strength and conditioning early on, and a host of other things. There’s a great book that really details what made them so unique at that time. It’s

Brett Bartholomew  06:38

called anatomy of an era. And there’s actually two versions of it not versions. I’m sorry, it’s a series of two different books, but anatomy of an era and it talks about the confluence of variables that came together to make them truly, truly a unique organization. But that organization had the sense degraded for a host of reasons and listen, I was a part of it, and I’m blessed and proud to have been a part of it.

You know, early on in my career, I always knew that I wanted to have an experience of giving back to my state and being a part of the Nebraska kind of tradition, and even though I went there as basically a volunteer or glorified GA that didn’t have paid graduate assistant positions. 

When I went it was you know, volunteer or you were full-time one or the other. And at the time I was there, I still trying to get my start trying to there were so much idea to learn. I was fortunate to learn under guys like James Dobson, who had came under the tutelage of coach Doyle at the University of Iowa, which if you guys are not in the strength and conditioning profession, just a very proud and learned kind of lineage, there are people that had they went about things the right way and the training environment which is not always so common people tend to kind of sell their souls sometimes and you know, they either sacrifice discipline for some kind of hype environment or you know, it’s it’s too far down one path but they did a really good job and I learned a lot from them and I’m grateful for that. 

But, you know, in the years after that, and some things leading up to it, there were a lot of things that went on both, you know, just from an administrative standpoint and a lot of the inner workings of the university that kind of unraveled that put that football team in a state of turmoil over the past 15 to 20 years. 

I mean, they lost their identity. Scott Frost is on his way to doing his best to repairing that now as a host of other coach coaches, but it just really the point of this is getting back to that dynamic process piece of culture. You see that it can grow stagnant and it can degrade and it can become corrosive, if it’s not managed. 

So you know, that’s my favorite part because it really says however you define culture and I’d urge you to use this definition, it’s a great one. You know, understand that it takes daily care, it takes a daily maintenance, it’s it’s one of those things that is a continual process, and it has to be upgraded or really deconstructed in perpetuity if you want to have success there no matter what you do. 

So moving on to the other piece is it talks about this dynamic process being characterized by shared values, beliefs, expectations, and practices, right. So there’s a lot there to unravel. When we look at values. We know that that’s how something is regarded. It’s meant like what is its importance worth? What’s the utility or the usefulness of that thing? Right? So we’ve got to understand what people value is really a huge part of the fabric that’s baked into whatever culture you have their beliefs, self explanatory, their expectations. That’s a critical one to understand. 

You know, sometimes you can go into places that has really, really high expectations, but they don’t have the resources, right. They don’t have the history. They don’t have a lot of things that kind of give them an asset or a stepping stone to be able to achieve those expectations. 

And again, having used my own experience working at a place like Nebraska, they have the expectations of a powerhouse, but they have all the disadvantages of an underdog, right? They’re centrally located. It was hard to recruit. There’s a lot of things they had to do that focused on development in order to surpass all those things. And maybe you’re dealing with that and your team, your company, your organization within your staff, whatever realm you work in, within human performance, which is wide-reaching, you know, what, what are the expectations of the culture that you have and what advantages and disadvantages are you up against? 

This goes into the importance of reflective practice and saying, okay, did you feel like you don’t have the culture that you want, if operationally you are not, you are not where you want to be? What could be contributing to that from a native standpoint, you know, what things do you have going on from a native standpoint and then outside of that,


Brett Bartholomew  11:04

what could be influencing it the various social agents? Yeah, is it perception? Is it the employees are or your colleagues trying to do too much? Is it people not being focused enough on the values and your core beliefs? Is your communication as a leader not clear enough about what those things are? Are we not making it simple enough? 

These are questions you have to ask and then of course, practices, the practices across the members and generations of a defined group. How are you living your reality as you preach it or you tell it? Are you instructed daily, and I know sometimes we think that leaders need to be perfect right? So there’s somebody probably listening to this and thinks well, you know, I go in early I get my work done. I’m amiable, you know, I try to propel and lift others up. I try to empower them. 

But sometimes if you’re a little bit too perfect in the way you perform that makes you less relatable to those that you’re trying to lead. You know, people want something to aspire to. And if they see this kind of almost not performance, but they see this routine that you’ve crafted, and although it’s you believing you’re doing the right thing, and it is it’s the right thing to be organized. It’s the right thing to make sure that you have a routine, that you’re efficient, that you’re warm, and that you’re trying to make sure that other people are succeeding. 

But if they never see the scar tissue, or the mistakes you made, or even some of your struggles, that you’re not transparent with those things, that’s hard for that individual to relate to or that group of individuals, more than anything. 

People want to see that their leaders are human, you know, and we tend to think that in this, we live in this cinematic era where you know, we’ve kind of sensationalized things like, oh, we’re brave heart. You know, like the people heard this legend and William Wallace, you know, we hear about these CEOs that have just like these lives, where it’s every minute of every day is planned out. 

I’m not gonna get started on productivity hacks, because I think that stuff is well-intentioned, I think it’s, frankly, garbage. 

I think that this idea that we can hack our way to success, that we can take all the shortcuts and enjoy true adaptability and fluidity and efficiency over the long term is not real. I do think that you have to show your imperfections as a leader in today’s world. I do think that you need to embrace the fact that some things are gonna be chaotic. I think that you need to be able to turn to your colleagues and say, hey, I’m out of my depth here. And I’d love to bring you on board. That’s mentoring in its own right. 

That’s the Art Of Coaching and practice, right? Like don’t trust anybody that never ever tells you about their failures or when they’re struggling. You can only keep up that facade for too long. And it’s just really not effective. You know, whenever that’s done, it’s usually for branding, or marketing or advertising purposes, when some companies trying to build up this CEO as the savior of Zion and all these things, but understand that, you know, in the real world are, we, a true leaders have scars that are the result of shrapnel on life, the shrapnel of life is going to get to all of us and and your ability to be transparent very, very much affects the quality, consistency, and just the robustness of a culture without a doubt. So if you guys want to learn more about you know, just or read more about that definition or have something to resort to for your own, whether it’s a staff meeting or your own research the article is culture change in elite sport performance teams, examining and advancing effectiveness and the new era. That’s a beast so I’ll make sure that it’s linked in the show notes.


Brett Bartholomew  14:52

It is a peer-reviewed article from the Journal of Applied sport psychology. Andrew recruit shank and Dave Collins are the authors two individuals that I would love to meet. People often ask who would you like to sit down, and have a cup of coffee with things like that? I would love to meet Dave Collins in person. 

Professor Cruikshank and I have interacted briefly on some emails before but big fan of their work as somebody that just has worked in the team side of sports performance, the private side as a coach and a consultant, and gone into numerous organizations around the world. 

You see these things, this is a reality and performance isn’t clean, just like coaching isn’t clear that we talked about in the first episode. And you know, teaching or leading and coaching especially is part pedagogy, part social science, part politics, and for those of you that aren’t as familiar with the world of sports, you know, I contend that the majority of issues you see at elite levels actually are usually not truly physical performance related, meaning it’s not usually the training or the physical therapy, those things are critical, but the biggest obstacles they’re facing are the politics and the power struggles within those organizations. 

So even if you have the best training, the best PT the best nutrition staff, what have you, if those pieces of the puzzle aren’t playing nicely, and everybody’s scared for their job and trying to point the finger? Well, that culture degrades quickly, doesn’t it? And that’s why I say it’s not those things that are the most critical. They are the linchpins for sure, but understanding how to navigate politics is a huge part of being able to adapt and maneuver around culture. 

So here are some questions I urge you to consider right thinking this and you’ve got to ask yourself a lot of tough questions you know, how are you currently defining culture? 

Now that you have this definition whether you believe in it or not, but now that you’ve heard this, how would you redefine it? And most importantly, what does that look like when it’s good and when it’s bad? 

So go down and in your planner, your journal, whatever on Google Docs, write down like what is almost this post or pre mortem? If what I’m doing fails if our culture degrades, what led to that list out at least 10 examples of behaviors or breakdowns in communication that led to that and be as specific as possible do not put a lack of trust in staff, others, or the process? What does that mean? What does lack of trust look like? How was it displayed? Was it somebody subverting you and going behind your back? Was it you being scared to delegate to other people because you didn’t think they’d follow through be as specific as possible? Think about what your biggest pain point is currently, when you first recognize down to the T, down to the T, What day was it? What happened before that occurrence? How did things change after that? What are all the events that led up to it? What’s the primary goal that you’re gonna try to watch? What’s the primary goal that you’re going to try to achieve as a result of, of deep diving into your culture, your practices, the possible issues, what it looks like, if it’s successful, what’s the goal? 

Don’t say stuff like unity and efficiency and getting everybody on the same page so we can serve others? That’s great. And that sounds great on a mission and vision statement. But what I want to know is from a visceral standpoint, what’s your primary goal and why? You know, like, I found that one of my primary goals is to really enhance the way we interact as coaches and leaders to look deeper into the social science to apply it into human performance settings at the highest level, or at least the most adaptive level. 

What does that look like? That looks like a lot of people that have contingencies planned and knows that, you know, what we do is chess, not checkers, and no matter if they’re dealing with somebody with a large ego and irascible persona, whether that’s dealing with somebody that is biased because of their success, whether that’s dealing with your own our own when I’m saying you I mean all of us your own incompetence in a certain area. What are those things look like? And how can we bridge those gaps? 

Some other questions I


Brett Bartholomew  19:16

want you to ask yourself, what are you willing you personally and professionally to sacrifice to advance your culture, right? Like what’s gonna be needed? Are you going to have to  create a staff operating document that is much more clear, you know, they talked about how BMW has as an incredibly detailed document for almost every contingency. 

And so people always know a resource to go to that as specifics in there to guide them if they are having trouble with something and that leads to a lot of consistency that leads to clarity and a ubiquity of kind of purpose that permeates the larger goals of the company. You know, are you willing to commit to this cause for at least three years because culture is not a quick fix? operational practices can degrade on multiple standpoints. And, you know, if you can’t commit to this or what you believe your solution is for at least three, and it could be as much as 6, 10 years. 

Then, you know, what do you do then? Or who are you bringing up for an apprentice standpoint, that you can teach so that if you do move on or there is a transition, there’s something there, there’s a time capsule for a future leader that even if they come in and they don’t like anything you did at least they know what you did? 

Brief story here. I used to think that if I went back to the team setting of sports performance, you know that oh, you like kick down the doors and change everything and rejuvenate everybody and like, man, would I have been wrong to do that? 

You know, now, if I ever went back to that setting, the first thing I do is shut my mouth, observe, and excavate. I’d want to know exactly what the last step did, what was successful what the steps prior to that and yeah, that was successful honor that. build off that and adapt my beliefs and strategies to what we already know works. It is not this just huge cleansing of the old one with the new that, again, is popularized in the media. So I’d urge you to consider that. 

Coaches, leaders, teachers, again, I’m going to use the word coach for all these things in this podcast. Don’t try to flip the switch on everything something’s working, find a bright spot, even if you have a really negative, negative, corrosive culture. I use that term repetitively because it puts that rust image in your mind, you think something is a sheen metal, it’s smooth to refine but when it corrodes, it becomes a rusty and just abrasive, you know, so even if something’s awful, there’s something there. There’s a whim there build off of that. 

So that’s today’s talk, guys. I want to just kind of hit you with a quick one. There is a building note from this. So when you guys think of these things, and when you choose to allocate your time throughout the day and you do go into these questions, understand that you don’t have to attack them all at once you know, try to find five minutes here where you can answer a question expand upon a thought use a voice recorder on your phone, get a note down anywhere you can. Sometimes I’m in the shower and an idea hits me and I’ll literally write something in the steam on the window. Excuse me, get out and take a picture of it. So I don’t lose that idea. But just attack these things incrementally. And it’ll really help you guys a lot. 

For more information on kind of how to increase your adaptability, any of these things, any of these practices and more importantly, how you can evaluate yourself as a coach, as a leader. You can go to, my course Bought In talks about some ways we can do this as well, but we’re gonna keep tackling this. Some of these podcasts are only gonna be 15, 20 minute quick hitters, some are going to be more in-depth. And again, we’re gonna get some exciting guests on in the future. If there’s anybody in any realm that you’d like to hear. Please shoot an email to your suggestions are always welcome. I appreciate you all and hope you have a great week ahead. Take care.

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