Create Culture Through ENERGY

While speaking recently to the Oregon State University (OSU) Recreation Center leadership staff about my book and principles on how to be your best self, I was able to sit in on their follow up meeting. I was pretty pumped when I heard the topic. I normally don't stick around after my talks, but this group was special to me, because their leader is my good friend Troy Snow. Troy values people and teamwork. It was refreshing to see a leader be so intentional about addressing head on what many leaders don't...and that is the power of culture.


Whether in sports, business, scholastics, or even marriage, success comes down culture.

Merriam-Webster defines culture as:

 • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization 

• the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic

My basic definition of culture is this statement:

Culture is the way we do things.

Reflecting on my athletic career, 13 years as a sales professional, seven years of marriage, and the past four years of studying what successful individuals and teams do, I've come to the conclusion that culture can be shaped by many forces, but one of the most powerful forces that creates culture is through ENERGY. 



The first element of a winning culture comes down to energy.

I just left Dutch Bros. Coffee in Spokane. That is saying a lot, because I've never been a coffee drinker. My wife Kendra, however, has a Starbucks iced coffee I.V. drip in her veins all day everyday. I don't like the taste of coffee and have never found that perfect drink or latte, frapp, tea, medley that works for me. That was until I did a coffee run for a business account in Boise, Idaho. When I offered coffee, they said they wanted Dutch Bros. I said, "What is that? We don't have those in Seattle." (The shock, no Starbucks)


They laughed and explained that I hadn't lived until I didn't just taste, but experience Dutch Bros. I said ok and went on my way. When I arrived at what looked like a little shack, there was a 7 car line. The flow moved fast though and I was greeted by a dude outside that seemed so excited, like he was about to tell me the secret behind J. Lo's ageless face or the winning numbers to that month's Powerball. When we spoke, he didn't have those answers, but because it was my first time, he offered me a free drink (winning!). It must have been a blessing from the caffeine gods, because I finally picked a winner – a single shot iced mocha (doves flew and angles sang after that first blissful sip). Music was playing, the attendant at the window was so polite and nice, and everyone seemed happy. I truly felt a kinetic energy that day that made me want to seek out a Dutch Bros whenever I'm in Eastern Washington, Oregon, or Idaho. 

This last time I visited a Dutch Bros in Spokane, I asked the baresta what he liked most about working there. He said, "We have a family like culture here." "I love the people," he added. "There's a high level of trust and camaraderie. We just have fun together." 

Imagine what teams can accomplish if they made the concepts like FUN, FAMILY, and LOVE, part of their everyday culture? I think they would serve up a masterpiece just like my iced mocha.

Learn more about Dutch Bros. amazing origin story and mission here.

Questions to consider dealing with your team's ENERGY

How is your team's energy? If you are a leader, how is your energy? Do you set the tone with enthusiasm and passion? Do you expect that from others?

Here's the kicker – enthusiasm, passion, and energy do not have to look the same. For example, football icon Bill Belichik and billionaire Richard Branson have a much different type of energy, but they are both filled with passion and enthusiasm in their own unique way. Being your true authentic self is the best form of energy.  


How do you monitor energy? What do you do with energy vampires that suck away energy from the team with poor body language and a negative attitude?

There are two types of people on any team, energy makers or energy takers. Energy takers need to be identified and addressed. If not, their energy can spread and negativity impact the whole team.

During my senior baseball season at WSU, a few of us senior captains had to confront a couple of energy takers on the team. These few players would constantly second guess and put down our coach. We felt their energy was holding us back. We addressed them individually, and said we needed them on board with their attitude and energy. Through a heated, but open discussion, they agreed. With a new more positive energy behind us, we had our first winning season in ten years. The power of energy is real.

How to Enhance Your Team's ENERGY

Own the energy

Be intentional with your energy. People do what you do, not what you say.

While working with a sales team, I watched the manager address the group like he was a zombie. No passion, no energy (no wonder their sales results were underperforming).

Step it up a notch! You don't need a title to be a leader. With that said, don't wait for somebody else to set the tone. You be the tide, the light, and the oxygen. Your collective energy can make or break the team.

Also, avoid being a BCS, by Blaming, Complaining, and Shaming. Instead, have enthusiasm, grace, and empathy for others. By simply stating that having a high energy is important to you and your culture, you will create an environment where people will be more aware of the vibe. 

During meetings or time together, do an energy check-in with yourself and others. Do you or don't you feel the juice? Judge the energy on a scale from 1 to 10. If you feel the energy is low, do something about it to get the juice going. Accountability, support, and teamwork is powerful – even with energy. 

My favorite way to be intentional and increase the energy is through music and movement. We start every morning at the Henderson household (4 kids 5 and under) with music going (usually during breakfast). This usually leads to an impromptu dance party. Give this a try to start your meeting or practice (dancing optional!). I promise, you will shift the energy with this strategy (Pete Carroll pioneered this technique at his football practices...seemed to work pretty well at USC and with the Seahawks).  

5 Minute Rule

Be sure to start each meeting or practice and check-in to see how people are doing and how they are feeling. I call this the 5 Minute Rule. The first five minutes of any meeting should be about highlighting wins and conversing on a deeper level then just X's and O's or profits and losses. This approach sets the tone for a more productive, upbeat, and positive time together. 

Check-in on topics like family, hobbies, and other interests. These conversations build the super power of culture and energy – and that is TRUST. The better the energy, the better the trust. The better the trust, the better the performance.

Look For the Good

Can you think of a leader you were under that would only point out your mistakes? We all have one. Remember how it would feel going into meetings with that person? Probably not very good. Based on the research, the magic number for high performing teams in terms of positive to negative feedback is 5 to 1. Meaning, for every negative critique, there needs to be five statements of positivity for balance.


Constructive feedback is definitely necessary, but when that is the only feedback people receive, they tend to perform trying not to screw up, versus making something positive happen. This type of energy suffocates creativity and peak performance. Instead look for people behaving the right way that supports your culture. Recognize a job well done. Look for the good, and when you see it, give positive feedback away like it's free (because it is!). This technique wil help improve moral, and uplift each other to return the favor. 

Energy flows where focus goes.  

Studies suggest that love is a stronger motivator then fear. When people see their peers receiving praise, they want that feedback too. Thus, they will work harder to make it happen.

Want more insights on ENERGY?

Read the book Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon, and learn the 10 rules to fuel your life and team with positive energy.

Watch this great Ted Talk on the power of culture and energy below.  

Check back in soon to learn about the second key to a high performing culture (part 2 of 4). And while your waiting, treat yourself to a cup of coffee at Dutch Bros. If it works for Seattle's most famous rapper, Macklemore, I think it's time you feel their positive energy and delicious coffee as well. 

Collin HendersonCulture, Energy