How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture – by Jeff Janssen (Book Review and Critique)

It’s true that everybody learns in a different way. Some people work well visually or spatially, some learn best interacting in groups, and some learn best through language and words. I was fortunate enough that I found my preferred method of absorbing and applying information relatively early on in my life. I’m one of those weird people who learn through written language, i.e, I studied in college by reading the textbook cover to cover. As an aspiring coach who knows how he learns, it made sense to me that I would require a lot of copy on not only technical and tactical lacrosse skills, but general coaching and leadership as well.

Jeff Janssen, author of How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture is a prolific author and one of the world’s first and foremost experts on leadership and culture development in sports. Though his primary expertise is in athletics, his principles and guidelines can and should be applied wherever there is need for leadership and culture change — most notably in the business world.

Whether it was work or on a sports team,  we’ve all been in a toxic environment before. I worked at Sports Authority one summer after Freshman year of college and the lack of empathy and trust exhibited by the management was infuriating. Granted, my lack of respect for authority probably didn’t help the situation all that much, but the culture at Sports Authority was one of “gotcha” and “toe the line or else”, not one of inclusion, trust, excellence, and respect. It’s no wonder the company is now out of business.

The key point opening Janssen’s book is that culture is king. It’s the most important aspect of any organization because it permeates every part of it. He likens the culture of an organization to the water in an aquarium, meaning a dirty, dark, toxic aquarium suffocates the organisms living in it, while a fresh, clean, light aquarium promotes growth and harmony. It’s not enough to just have a talented team — your players and staff must be bought in to your vision as a leader if you are to reach your full potential together. On the flipside, a well coached, driven team with championship culture will usually beat a more talented team with a corrosive culture.

Janssen highlights 8 specific team cultures based on the relationships between the individuals on the team and the results that they get. A Corrosive Culture for example, is when the relationships between many teammates are sour and the team barely achieves at all. The goal is to push your team from the bottom end into a medium level Comfortable Culture, and after some patience and consistency, you can push for a Constructive or even achieve a Championship Culture where everybody is firing on all cylinders both in terms of team relationships and success on the field or court.

Janssen’s 6 key components of a Championship Culture are:

  1. Credible Leadership – those who create and cultivate the culture
  2. Clear and Compelling Vision – your organization’s purpose and goals laid out clearly and agreed upon by everybody
  3. Core Values – the principles that are the foundation of what your team expects of its players
  4. Standards of Behavior – the identity of your program reinforced daily — not so much what you do but who you are
  5. Committed and Unified Team – sustained success at an elite level can only be achieved when you have everyone in your program giving their best effort and operating in sync with each other
  6. Aligned Systems – structure put in place to sustain the culture even when new players enter and old players leave.
Janssen’s ‘Commitment Continuum’. Where do most peopl fall in your organization?

The blueprint for developing this culture outlined in the book provides a step by step guide for how to develop the kind of culture that will bring your organization success. The book closes detailing the steps of how to do this, including enforcing unacceptable behavior, the importance of evaluation, and establishing and embedding the appropriate vision, values, and standards.

As someone fascinated by the dynamic and somewhat nebulous subject of leadership, I found this book very interesting. I took away so many bits of information that it took me some time to get through even though it’s a relatively easy read. I feel like the author repeats himself a lot, which oddly enough is what you must to to establish a Championship Culture — so I can’t fault him for trying to drive the points home. Boiling it all down, developing a 10/10 culture on a team is very difficult to do and getting people to “buy in” is something that takes a lot of practice and a lot of failure to truly master. Though I’m very nervous for the upcoming year, this book calmed my nerves a bit, asking that the reader remain patient and consistent through the process of turning a bad culture good — it’s always worth it once you get going,

Read this book if you’re interested in: How to begin, cultivate, and sustain a culture of excellence on your athletic team or in your business using championship systems and guided by a clear and decisive vision.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like further details, or go to for much much more from the author.

Happy Monday!!


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