As we continue the journey towards the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Australian Team Chef de Mission Petria Thomas OAM, joined Sport Australia’s ‘Sport Governance Principles Podcast’ to discuss the importance of building a positive culture within sporting organisations.
Speaking with host Kate Corkery, the nine-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and now team leader knows the importance of a positive culture, especially in a sporting environment.
“I think, you know, all of us throughout our lives have experienced both positive and negative culture in various circumstances that we’ve been in. And definitely, you know, as an athlete, I had that experience as well, both positive and negative culture,” Thomas said.
“Thankfully for me, it was more positive during the time I was involved in swimming. You know, all in all, I had a great experience as a member of the Australian swim team.
“Obviously, if it’s a positive culture, people feel comfortable. And I think, you know, when you can feel comfortable in your environment is when you’re going to get the best out of yourself, no matter whether you’re an athlete or a staff member or whatever it might be.”
“But I think it is really important that, you know, people feel like they’re safe and in an environment where they can speak up if they do see things that are not acceptable.”
When establishing a strong and sound set of organisational values, Thomas believes it is important for organisations consult widely with all members and staff.
“It’s really obviously critical that from an organisational perspective, that the organisation has a strong and sound set of values and which leads obviously then to the culture within the organisation, both for its staff and its members. The consultation on that process is really important because, you know, I think when the top down just sort of says, oh, these are our values and this is our culture, you need that ‘buy-in’,” Thomas said.
“And I think you can only get that ’buy-in’ when you’ve had a strong consultation process. And it is a tough process, I think, because obviously members and staff will come from a diverse perspective.”
“But I think it’s important to capture those perspectives as best you can when you get that ‘buy-in’ and I think is when you can really establish a good, strong culture where it is okay to speak up when things aren’t necessarily going as they should be.”
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Thomas continues that by building a positive culture, people are more likely to feel safe and have an enjoyable experience. A positive culture is an important feature, which Thomas will be focussed on establishing the values for the Australian team heading towards the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“I’ve been on a number of multi-sport teams now with the Commonwealth Games, and it’s really challenging to bring together 700 plus people from, you know, I think 19 or 20 sports that all have their own subcultures and own standards and things. It’s hard to bring all those people together, expect them to gel and feel like they’re part of something bigger,” Thomas said.
“It is really challenging, but I think the approach I’ve taken to it in the past is just to treat people how you like to be treated yourself. And when you pass an Australian person during a games with the same uniform on as yourself, just lift your head and say hello or sit down next to them in the dining hall and share a meal with them and ask them how their day was.
“So I think they’re the sort of basic approaches that that I’d like to see our Australian team members, certainly for Birmingham in 2022 to take.”
Birmingham 2022 is set for the largest-ever female and para-sport programme in history with women’s T20 cricket, beach volleyball and Para-table tennis joining the existing sports including aquatics (swimming, Para-swimming and diving), athletics and Para-athletics, badminton, basketball 3×3 and wheelchair basketball 3×3, boxing, cycling (mountain, road, track and Para-track), gymnastics (artistic and rhythmic), hockey, judo, lawn bowls and Para-bowls, netball, rugby sevens, squash, table tennis, triathlon and Para-triathlon, weightlifting and Para-powerlifting and wrestling.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place from 28 July to 8 August.
You can listen to the full podcast here.
With Sport Australia.