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Inside the Detroit Lions ‘Culture Task Force’: Establishing a winning culture that sticks

The Lions are clearly committed to doing things the right way this time around.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

With the Detroit Lions’ new regime in place, one of the main goals appears to be creating a culture shift. It’s a term we’ve become accustomed to hearing from every new face that comes into Detroit, whether they promise to finally “hold players accountable” (whatever that means) or “establish a championship mentality” (more hollow words).

However, it appears this version of the Detroit Lions aren’t just talking the talk. Chris Spielman, the team’s special assistant to owner Sheila Ford Hamp and CEO Rod Wood, joined the team’s official “One Pridecast” podcast recently and explained how the franchise had established a “Culture Task Force” aimed at maintaining a healthy working environment up and down the franchise.

“Culture change. It’s easy to say, but it’s difficult to do,” Spielman told podcast host Tori Petry. “If you look at it statistically and from an analytical point of view, 63 percent of culture changes in corporate America or within a sports organization usually fail. But I think why they fail is you lose your due diligence in pursuing that culture.”

The task force consists of four members: Spielman, senior vice president of business development Kelly Kozole, senior director of community relations and Detroit Lions charities Jen McCollum, and husband of team owner Steve Hamp. Their goal: establish a healthy and sustained organizational culture based on teamwork and bridging the gap between the football side of operations and the business side.

“It’s not that difficult to do. It’s basically how you treat people,” Spielman said. “It just comes down to that, but in this world—as you know, Tori—everybody can get tunnel vision once in a while. So we have good reminders around the building and the personalities in the positions of leadership around the building to make sure that whatever culture change happens here, it’ll be a positive one and a sustained one.”

One simple way they’ve kicked off the process is to simply get to know everyone new on staff better and make some of that personal and professional information available to everyone in the organization.

“(I) sat down with every new hire from a coaching standpoint—I believe there were 18 interviews—and asked them three questions: How’d you get here, tell us about your family, and what does ‘One Pride’ mean to you,” Spielman explained. “Then what will happen is once we have the intranet up and running, every employee of the Detroit Lions will be able to see and put a face to the new coaches, to the new people around this building, know a little about them personally, and understand what One Pride means. Is it just going to be a word or is it going to be an action?”

Spielman is the natural swiss-army knife of the task force, easily jumping from department to department on both the football and business sides of the organization. He’s explained the processes involved in the soon-to-be-official Matthew Stafford trade to those in the organization not typically privy to the details. He’s personally called a season ticket owner interested in canceling this year. He’s even helped break down linebacker film for the team. It’s all an attempt to create uniformity and transparency within the organization, and to make everyone feel like they’re part of the process.

As Spielman said, all of this is easy to say, difficult to pull off. And culture is just one facet to building a successful football team. But if the first month of this new era is any indication of the franchise’s resolve to get this organization fixed—and stay fixed—things are off to a promising start.