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By: Brett White •  2 years ago •  

For the last 8 years, I have worked with over 50 different organisations and believe Smart Culture is foundational to developing great teams, families, and organizations. From the affluent streets of Sydney to the developing streets of Phnom Penh. From corporate biggies, small business, partner companies, not for profits, NGO’s, churches, community organizations, sports clubs, and teams. My experience has revealed 3 culture killers that are guaranteed to impact the growth of your organization. These are identity, conflict, and exclusion.

On a sliding scale, the higher these three culture killers are in an organization, the higher the levels of toxicity, ineffectiveness, stress and misalignment.

On the flip side, if an organization can effectively learn to manage these challenges, they will experience higher levels of engagement and productivity.

This is what I refer to as Smart Culture.

Smart Culture is focused on building bigger, better and brighter people and not just structures, systems and processes.

The process is usually well thought out, but the people who are running the systems are neglected.

Smart Culture people are less insecure and more focused, less offended and more intentional, less hesitant and more effective, less fearful and more creative, less pushy and more proactive, less misaligned and more loyal.

In Brene Brown’s new book, Dare to Lead, she identifies ten behaviours and cultural issues that get in the way of organizations.

The research from her book is incredibly aligned with my own experience and belief about the importance of equipping people with the skills to nurture emotionally healthy cultures where people flourish.

In her book, Brene says,

If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmoured, whole hearts – so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people – we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

Building Smart Culture

Identity is about knowing who you are, not as an individual, but as a team. When teams don’t have a clear understanding of their values, purpose and a shared understanding and alignment on goals, it creates a heightened level of uncertainty, confusion, and apathy.

In Smart Culture there is a clear understanding and buy-in to the bigger purpose, to the team’s behavioural values and a commitment to developing a culture of trust and alignment. Relationships take precedence over results.

Conflict is created whenever our sense of self-worth is threatened. Conflict is often fuelled by a difference in values, goals, capacity, priorities, expectations, interests or opinions.

When there is no self-awareness or understanding of team diversity it can lead to unhealthy behaviours such as insecurities, competition, comparison, and fear.

Trust is lost and conflict becomes toxic. In Smart Culture organisations normalise conflict and teams learn to respect individual differences. When conflict is handled well it can lead to greater collaboration and is a powerful catalyst for new and creative solutions.

Exclusion occurs when someone doesn’t feel like they belong. Everybody wants to feel connected and when they don’t, they can often feel rejected, devalued and disappointed.

Inclusion can be as simple as copying someone in on an email, inviting feedback, or asking for input when making decisions. It is also about leading the change process well, and understanding the potential loss for people in the midst of transition.

Leading change is what leaders do and helping people understand and deal with loss in the midst of the change is what exceptional leaders do.

If leaders don’t learn how to lead loss whilst leading visionary change they will leave a wake of unhappy, dissatisfied, hurting and misaligned people wherever they go.

Smart Culture is being intentional about investing in people so they become bigger, better and brighter.

The challenge for coaches who are committed to building a smart culture in organisations is that it is long-term people investment.

Many coaches and clients want the quick fix solution because immediate results are flattering and financially impressive.

I don’t believe sustainable, profitable and transformational outcomes that are foundational to a smart culture can be achieved without investing in people – and that takes time.

This can be a challenge for coaches because the market can be competitive and getting long term buy-in from clients can be difficult when everyone wants immediate change.

For example, one of my clients in the finance sector was struggling to get the results they wanted in their company. Staff turn-over was at epic proportions, team alignment was appalling and the culture was toxic.

Two years later this firm’s staff are engaged, the retention rate is healthy and their profit is up 38%.

It took over 2 years of coaching and working with this client to develop an empowering smart culture.

Here are 3 smart culture coaching focuses for people to utilise, adapt and apply to their coaching journey.


Bigger people are growing and contributing to the team and have increased awareness of their behavioural blind spots, conflict styles and strengths.

Helping people grow and develop in these three key areas builds confidence, trust, and deeper accountability. “If you focus on people’s weaknesses, they lose confidence.” ― Tom Rath, Strengths-Based Leadership.


Better people are loyal, aligned and committed to the ‘WHY’ of the team or organisation. Helping people establish shared values, clear behavioural expectations and massive alignment to the ‘WHY’ is critical in developing smart culture.

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.” ― Simon Sinek


Brighter people are happier, more grateful and deeply engaged. They enjoy what they do, and they appreciate who they do it with.

Helping people grow and develop confidence, inclusive communication processes and effective feedback skills are critical in building brighter people.

“It doesn’t matter how much authority or power a feedback giver has; the receivers are in control of what they do and don’t let in, how they make sense of what they’re hearing, and whether they choose to change.” Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

Brett White (Sydney, Australia) is the founder of Be Leadership and Sports MindSHiFT, which consult, coach and train leaders, teams and organisations in developing brilliant culture, effective behavioural change and empowered mindsets. He has worked with over 150 senior leaders, elite athletes, teams and organisations.

He is the author of 3 books, Beyond Broken Leadership, Shift Happens (effective thinking skills for 16-24-year olds) & Sports Mind Shift (building the character & mindset of a champion).

He is a motivational speaker, leadership & business coach, organisation consultant, pastor and cultural architect with over 25 years’ experience in leadership, communication, transformational thinking, mindsets and behavioural change.

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