Prioritising Culture in the Workplace

One of our biggest goals at Maxwell Bond is to create a community of local commercial leaders and nurture their success. Our core business is of course recruitment, but we have always strived to offer much more value than this by providing unique insight. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from the Gen Z event, we wanted to follow up with something equally relevant while helping people to create high-performing teams.

Culture is often overlooked by employers, despite it being the foundation of work ethic and success. Having a team that is motivated and working towards the same ethos guarantees engagement. Engaged employees work harder, stay longer and develop as individuals.

Ahead of economic uncertainty, it?s never been more important to cultivate a winning mindset in your workplace. For inspiration, FC Barcelona is a great place to start. They are one of the most successful football clubs in the world. In the four years that Pep Guardiola was in charge, they won 14 out of a possible 19 trophies – something which has never been beaten!

Damian Hughes has studied the science behind this success closely, much of which can be applied to any organisation – especially tech teams. In his book ‘The Barcelona Way’, Damian reveals the key principles that made FC Barcelona just so successful and how a high performance culture can be applied to any working environment.

A private session with Damian

Before the main event, Damian hosted a private session for the Maxwell Bond team, sponsors and lucky winners of our recent competition. Here he spoke about:

Alex Ferguson’s simplicity approach – Emphasising the need for simplicity, Damian gave the example of asking people to catch a single tennis ball. Add another ball and ask yourself how they coped? Once you get to 4-5, people start dropping the balls and you’ll witness a visualisation over complications.

Managing behaviours – Most businesses have 5-8 values incorporated into their workplace, but how many follow these religiously? Instead focus on 3 core behaviours that are integral to your business and reward those who work in line with them.

Emotional intelligence – The late Emmanuel Stewart trained his fighters to ‘contain then explain’ and if they couldn’t do this, they would never be successful in combat.

An introduction from our sponsors

Next, we headed downstairs and joined more than 80 attendees in anticipation of the main event. Armed with pizza from Crazy Pedro’s, our event sponsors took to the stage to say a few words.

Sam Vickerman from Doris IT brought their client, Co-op, up to discuss how Doris’s programme worked and its impact on the creation of a high-performance culture at the retail giant.

Explaining the relevance of intranet in building Winning DNA, Interact and Phil Clare demonstrated their solution to performance issues with the implementation of connectivity.

Matthew Priestley from Eagle Labs then concluded the introductions by explaining the creation of the hub, and how they help tech teams thrive with spaces and services.

The main event

Damian kickstarted the conversation by explaining that if you don’t create a culture there are five different outcomes. It’s a lottery as to which you end up with.

1. A Star culture – businesses under this banner go out of their way to find the best people. They pay top wages and hope this will naturally generate success - this is the Galactico model used by Real Madrid, who have only won 4 titles since 2003. Damian explained that while everyone wants to be head waiter, no one wants to wash the dishes meaning this way of thinking isn’t sustainable.
2. Autocratic culture – in this particular culture, employees are dominated by one powerful individual. This is typically the founder of the business or the CEO. For example, following the passing of Steve Jobs at Apple, the company struggled as he had carried their presence for so long and been integrated in every aspect of the team.
3. Bureaucratic culture – this is one of the most common cultures and is where decisions are made by committees. Often choices are made in a cautious nature, designed to keep everyone happy. As a result, it’s often referred to as ‘Safeonomics’ and usually recruitment will be based on a candidate fitting in with the team as opposed to ability.
4. Engineering culture – this relates to the technical ability of the team, where skill is prized above all else. However, people often make excuses here based on talent. Frustrated by the results and lack of cohesion, team members turn against each other and accuse individuals of not being talented enough. Arsenal is a good example of this and demonstrates how it can become toxic.
5. Commitment culture – research has shown that this model has the greatest chance of sustainability. Those in this organisation stay loyal even when offered pay rises. While it may be the hardest to build, it offers the greatest rewards. The commitment model is what Pep Guardiola cultivated and essentially perfected during his time as manager for FC Barcelona.

How Barcelona FC adopted commitment culture

Damian Hughes continued to explain that since Barcelona adopted the model they outperformed consistently. Pep’s total trophies at the club amounted to 14 as a manager, proving himself to be an incredible asset. More about

According to Damian, before Pep’s placement, the team had a case of Madriditits – they were constantly compared to the competition. This in turn meant the vision ceased to focus on progression.

What Damian found significant however, was the adoption of the Commitment model. Pep was aware that while skills got players like Messi into the team, it wouldn’t sustain their career or success. In essence he studied the engagement of current players and began to build an ethos which the team could work towards.

Txiki Begiristain, Director of Football at Manchester City, once said that ‘Talent will get you into the dressing room. How you behave determines how long you remain there’.

Company or team values weren’t enough according to Damian. They’re abstract and have little in regard to commitment. Behaviour however is more significant. Values and behaviours need to be consistent and aligned throughout the organisation.

Integrity, energy and intelligence will mean nothing if you don’t guide behaviours in your organisation. The Commitment model focuses on setting no more than three behaviours that govern what your team does.

Build the BARCA Way

Behind FC Barcelona’s success is an acronym, aptly named: BARCA.

B for Big Picture

When FC Barcelona chose the commitment model, it chose – humility, hard work, team first and encouraged stakeholders to see the big picture. Get a clear idea of what your objective is and drive everyone around it. These core behaviours formed the basis of the FIFO model: Fit in or fuck off.

A for Arc of Change

Following the outline of the aims and objectives for the club, they created a roadmap that would deliver an arc of change. Using the research from Joseph Campbell (Hero of a Thousand Faces) and his student George Lucas, the team identified the challenges along the way. This helped to navigate the messy middle and ultimately prevent a change in direction. As Kanter said “everything looks like a failure in the middle”.

R for Recurring Systems

Damian explained that the brain makes around 10,000 decisions on a daily basis and it typically looks for models to follow. Instant feedback is the best way to achieve compliance in the brain, essentially providing your mind evidence of the benefit of the decision. Using this information FC Barcelona applied recurring systems to warm up drills during training, creating a 70% rule of not losing the ball.

C for Cultural Architects

Humans are pack animals by our nature. When we join organisations, we become part of the tribe. But, imbalance in your organisation can lead to toxic cliques and office politics. Messi crashed his car twice from drink driving when he entered this environment at a young age. This proved that cultural architects don’t rise naturally – or artificially. Barcelona needed to choose leaders wisely.

A for Authentic Leadership

Practicing authentic leadership means recognising those who are demonstrating core behaviours and highlighting it. When this isn’t happening - call it out. People respond to feedback and transparency - it builds trust and gives people a chance to correct behaviours. This approach works much better than letting it fester.

Damian summarised by explaining that this is what commitment culture looked like. These five elements worked together under the instruction of Pep Guardiola leading to domination in the Champions League, Copa Del Rey and La Liga.

How you can adopt the BARCA Way

“Know you can change your culture and you can change the world.” These were Damian’s concluding words.

You can change culture. All you need is the determination to do so. If you can identify what the aims and objectives of your business are then you’re halfway there to establishing a bigger picture. Offering insight into the industry and an academic approach to success, Damian effectively demonstrated the value in creating Winning DNA.

Here at Maxwell Bond, we would like to thank Damian Hughes, our team as well as Eagle Labs, Doris IT and Interact Intranet, whom without the event wouldn’t have been nearly successful. If you find yourself looking to build a new team around the commitment culture, please get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to assist.