The culture of Spanish football team Barcelona was enhanced more than a decade ago when they started to engage the players in a culture and a set of behaviours that would give Barcelona a competitive advantage.
The three behaviours that have, since that time, underpinned Barcelona’s culture are ‘humility, hard work and putting the team above your own self-interest.’
Their philosophy was very much, “Your talent will get you through the dressing room door, but it’s your behaviour that’s going to determine whether we keep you or not.” When Pep Guardiola was the manager at Barcelona, he employed former water polo legend, Manuel Estiarte, as a technical assistant and one of his duties was to watch the bench, particularly when things weren’t going so well. Guardiola wanted to know who the players were on the bench that didn’t react when chances were missed. Guardiola interpreted the lack of reaction as sulking on the part of some of those who weren’t picked to play who were not putting the team above themselves.
Someone who didn’t ever fit the culture of Barcelona was Zlatan Ibrahimivich, who was bought for €69 million in 2009 and sold for €24 million just ten ten months later. Ibrahimivich didn’t understand the culture of Barcelona and lacked the humility that they demanded. Although given the keys to a club Audi and told not to arrive at the training ground in one of his flash cars, Ibrahimivich couldn’t help himself. When things weren’t going so well for him and he was dropped from the side, Ibrahimivich arrived at work the next day in a yellow Lamborghini, betraying one of the club’s cultural behaviours, humility.
The Barcelona culture is something that Guardiola has brought with him to Manchester City, where it is evident that the players have brought in to those three cultural behaviours. This is much of the reason for them having a record breaking season in the Premier League last year.
Whether your team is involved in sports, business or some other endeavour, having a culture and a set of behaviours that everyone feels able to sign up to is a great way of creating cohesion and a sense of team identity.