The AFL season is done and dusted for another year, and it finished on a high note for me personally as my team, the mighty Richmond Tigers, took out the 2019 AFL premiership. It was their second win in three years, and came after a somewhat slow start to the year.

Richmond's team-first culture

Much has been written about Richmond's recent emergence from long-time AFL cellar-dweller (for 30+ years) to multiple premiership-winning powerhouse.

The Tigers have built an amazingly strong team culture based on learnings from thought leaders including Jim Collins and Brene Brown.

First who, then what

The idea of building a strong team culture by firstly finding the right people and then choosing the path to take is one of Jim Collin's most powerful teachings.

The Tigers are led, off-field, by CEO Brendan Gale who happens to be a big fan and student of Jim Collins.

In August 2009, the struggling Tigers Board appointed Gale as CEO. In 2010, Gale released his version of a "Painted Picture" vision for Richmond's future.

That plan, along with the appointment of their new coach, Damien Hardwick, involved growing membership, making finals and eliminating millions of dollars of suffocating debt.

The Tigers were embracing the Jim Collins' concept of first who and then what by appointing CEO Gale and coach Hardwick as some of their first 'chess moves' in building a strong culture as a foundation of future success.

Culture first, success later.

“If you get the culture right, success follows,” - Peggy O’Neal, President of the Richmond Football Club.

Peggy O'Neal is the current chair of the Richmond Tigers and the first-ever female chair of an AFL football club.

A recent interview had Peggy sharing some of the Brene Brown-inspired learnings the Tigers have applied to build their thriving team culture:

“One of the big changes was people’s interest in caring for one another, people’s acceptance that we aren’t all perfect, but we’re all good people and we’re trying to be better. Those sorts of elements lead to a culture where people can more readily put their hand up and say, ‘I think I messed up here.'"

A critical five letter word for a strong culture: trust.

“... he trusts us. We go out there, we give it everything we’ve got, and let it happen.”- Bachar Houli, veteran Richmond Tiger and premiership player in 2017 & 2019.

The above quote from one of the most senior Tiger players is from this article about Tigers coach Damien Hardwick.

Trust is a defining factor of strong cultures based on research by the Great Place to Work Institute.

The Richmond Tigers have built a strong and trusting culture by attracting the right people; that team connecting with each other in a caring and vulnerable way; and, having a clear vision of future success, together.

Many people scoffed at Brendan Gale's 2010 vision of Richmond's future success. A decade on, everyone is trying to understand and duplicate the path the Tigers have taken.

Talking Action

As we come to the end of 2019, what action/s are you taking to plan and build your team culture as a foundation of future success?