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Five Tips to Building an Elite Business Culture

The Simon Group engaged in a leadership summit with twenty-four business executives representing the sports world earlier this year to grapple with the question, “What Does an Elite Business Culture Look Like?”

From the many thought-provoking tips we took away from the leadership summit, here are five that stood out to us to share with you.

1. You Are Either a Leader, a Follower, or a Roadblock. We were shocked when we heard this. But, we do like the idea that the best leaders are also the best followers. In the military, good leaders are good followers. And, in order to give orders you must be able to take orders.

We don’t like to be roadblocked. We’re on the same team, so let us try, and sometimes fail, together. Just don’t be a roadblock. If we have an “out of the box” idea, give it some thought, communicate, and even if it is a “No” or “Not Yet”, that is okay.  Just communicate and don’t be a roadblock. Help solve problems while helping each other solve their problems.

2. Never Stop Learning.  The commitment we made to carve out the time to go to that summit, in our minds, could be enough. Busy people, in their minds, are already going to the next function. Be deliberate and review the takeaways, the things you learned from attending, and review them frequently. Have a “Championship Review” of the nuggets and not just go through the motions. Otherwise, you will probably forget 50% of it by the next day and likely 90% a week later.

It’s foolishness to ever think that any leader will stop learning. Learning is creating the capacity to grow, pivot and do more. The wisdom of learning more – to build a life and to have the margin to learn more – takes time. As each day passes, there is less and less of it. So whatever you are learning, be passionate about it, otherwise, you might be wasting your time.

3. Healthy Tension is a Good Thing. “Tension” is another roadblock word. Unhealthy tension causes stress. Who wants tension, stress and anxiety? Healthy tension promotes growth. Think of a rubber band. If you get right to the point where it is comfortable, it has energy to it and it can go. Pull it too far and it snaps. Healthy tension has to do with relationships. The people you work with will accept the tension if you are in a relationship with them.

Encouraging your co-workers to provide better customer service or more creative sales techniques is healthy tension. Of course, tension can be challenging. You challenge your employees, your productivity and your work ethic. It can bring people closer. When you have a healthy tension, the whole environment is in it. There is one tension and we should all be in it. Look at it as the culture’s healthy tension, not to be satisfied with where we are.

4. Striving for Vertical Alignment with Your Employees. Like a river,everything should flow in the same direction. The person who came up with this concept was a former NBA basketball coach. He said the problem is “talent versus character.” If a kid has so much talent, how much of his character do you overlook? As leaders, we all strive for complete alignment. Our job is to create clarity of the vision and goals for the team.

Many professional sports organizations strive for an elite culture.  However, it is tough when you have a sensational talent that isn’t completely aligned with the culture.  The ideal situation is to get superior talent aligned with superior culture, from top to bottom.

5. There is No Substitute for In-Person Meetings.  We call these meetings, “Whites of the Eyes.” The deepest relationships are built when time is spent with a person. The meeting with sports people and executives was a confirmation of how we feel about this. We were in an open room with round tables. No glitz. Just a room filled with like-minded leaders.

For more information about this topic, or about your own financial situation, contact The Simon Group at or call our direct business line at 412-633-1620.

DISCLAIMER: Past performance does not predict future results. This report is based on data obtained from sources we believe to be reliable. Hefren-Tillotson does not, nor any other party, guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report or make any warranties regarding results obtained from its usage. All opinions and estimates included in this report constitute the firms judgment as of the date of this report and are subject to change without notice. This report is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell the securities herein mentioned.

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