Culture and Behaviours

“Culture is what happens when you sum-total all the behaviours”

I would have to say that over the last 12 months or so, the biggest influence on how I view culture from a coaching and professional perspective comes from this podcast. I’ve written about this before, but the quote above kept me awake on one particular sleepless night as it occurred to me that if we were to express it as a mathematical equation it would look like this:

Culture = ∑ Behaviours

Sounds trivial. But the light bulb moment came when i realised that by looking at it like that, there were things that weren’t in the equation. Things like external events.

There’s always talk about how external events can shape a culture, but another way of looking at it is it’s actually the behaviours in response to those events that determine a culture.

I’m convinced this applies on an individual level too. We don’t have to be a product of our environment. We can be a product of our behaviours. Published science has plenty to say about nature and nurture, but at the end of the day it’s the behaviours we choose that make us who we are. We can’t choose what happens to us. We can only choose our behaviours.

How does this relate to volleyball? I’m always amused when i hear coaches and players talk about a culture, a behaviour or a performance as if it is something beyond their control. “we played badly because ….”, “people don’t turn up to training because…”. At the end of the day, people choose and need to hold themselves to task.

Culture is what you get when you sum-total all the behaviours. And all those behaviours are within our control. and just because nobody sees certain behaviours, doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

For me, culture and systems of play are equally important and two sides of the same coin. To build a system is to build desired behaviours. To build desired behaviours is to build a desired culture.

I never tell my players what their behaviours should be. Philosophically, I’m too laissez faire to tell anyone how they should behave. But I like to ask them if they think their behaviours matches their desires.

I have always found the notion that as individuals, we are the sum-total of our behaviours, both empowering and frightening. It’s frightening because it would suggest there is no divine force determining who you are and your identity is not absolute in any shape or form; empowering because it’s within your means to create your own reality.

It’s the reality that people choose (or not choose) to create, and how those realities compares to their desires, that makes coaching interesting to me.


2 Responses to “Culture and Behaviours”

  1. Alexis Says:

    Nice post Huy. I like the simple formula: Culture = ∑ Behaviours

    Only thing I’d add is that you are saying behaviours are independent of environment. There is plenty of evidence that people behave differently in different environments. Therefore, if you want to change behaviours (perhaps in order to improve the culture), then if perhaps you can do this by changing the environment?

    • Hugh Nguyen Says:

      Thanks Alexis. What I’m trying to say is that BOTH nature and environment influence behaviour but ultimately the individual chooses the behaviour, and it’s the sum total of these behaviours that make people and cultures what they are. Can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you respond. Certainly environment can make it easier to respond in a certain way but ultimately the individual chooses. We have a fine worker in our sasi programme who has been given the short end of the stick at least 4 times in the last 2 years. Any lesser person would give up or throw a fit, but this individual has responded by going about their business and working harder. In fact we have two of them. They are the sum total of their behaviours end choices, and not the raw deal that their environments dealt them.

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