Podcast: Billy Boughey on How to Build an Engaging Team Culture


Almost every leader acknowledges the importance of organizational culture, but building an engaging and lasting culture for their business is easier said than done.

Billy Boughey is founder and president at Elevate Experiences. Billy had a brief stint as a professional baseball player for the Philadelphia Phillies, but now he and his team at Elevate serve organizations by showing them the importance of establishing a great team culture. They know a healthy culture sets your company up for both the present and the future.

Growing up, Billy thought baseball was a solo act—he’d get on the mound and attempt to conquer the other team by himself. But over the years, he learned he needed the entire team, and he fell in love with the concept of bringing different people’s gifts and talents together to serve as one.

In this episode of The Leadercast Podcast, we caught up with Billy to hear about how he built the team culture at his own company, and how he helps other organizations build engaging cultures themselves.

Admit You Have a Culture

The first step in building an engaging culture is to admit you have a culture to work on. This might sound odd, but even if you feel like you don’t have a culture in your company, you do.

Billy and his team do culture audits for their clients. They begin by asking brainstorming questions: “When your team members get in their cars and drive home, what do you want them to be thinking and feeling? Are they glad they don’t have to be at work anymore, or are they glad they get to work where they do?”

Once you recognize you have a culture, (and maybe some problems to fix) get intentional about it. Work on the fundamentals first; get the little things right. If your team feels heard and cared for, you’re on the right track.  

Duke University and Team USA Basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) stresses the importance of playing for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the name on the back. In other words, teamwork is about the entire team you represent, not your own personal gain. This type of mindset is the foundation for a winning culture. “The chemistry in the dugout is more important than the stats on the field,” says Billy.

What Creates a Bad Culture?

Fundamentally, a bad culture is created when a leader allows actions, behaviors or attitudes to exist where they shouldn’t. This doesn’t happen in one day; it happens over time. It happens when leaders jump to conclusions and don’t ask the right questions.

In general, people are drawn more to weaknesses than to strengths, but leaders cover up their weaknesses in a bad culture environment. Rather than being transparent about their mistakes, leaders in these types of environments have too much pride.

Healthy cultures celebrate victories, but don’t hide defeats. They use their weaknesses and mistakes to motivate others and constantly improve.

For example, a few years ago, both Mariah Carey and Jimmy Fallon had technical issues during massive performances, but they had opposite responses. Mariah fumbled through her performance and immediately placed blame on others. But Billy loved Fallon’s response: He was honest with the audience and let them know his teleprompter was not functioning. Billy encourages leaders to embrace where they’re at, weaknesses and all, and let joy come out of those experiences.

A Better Culture = Better Customer Experiences

Billy is a firm believer that assessments help him evaluate his team and place them in the role they’re supposed to fulfill. He wants to put his people in the best position to win because happy employees create better experiences for customers. He wants his whole team to care deeply about their customers. “Operations for us equals caring,” he says.

Billy likes to ask leaders: “Are you part of an organization you’d want to work at?” He has them examine what processes and red tape have been added over time. What would it look like if you stripped some of that away and focused on fun? He likes to say that some elements of your culture need a tweak, some need a facelift and some need a funeral.

What does fun look like in your organization? It doesn’t have to be a confetti cannon, but if you take the time to make sure your employees are having fun at work, your customers will have fun doing business with you too.

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This post is based on an episode of The Leadercast Podcast with Billy Boughey, founder and president at Elevate Experiences. To hear this episode, and many more like it, please subscribe to The Leadercast Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

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