Talking About Culture: Conversation Starters

As part of our #SaferCultureSaferSport campaign, we’re encouraging organisations to listen to members and create an environment where people’s concerns are listened to and addressed appropriately.

Encouraging open conversation in your own organisation can take many forms. You will want to consider both how you practically manage this, as well as how you will react and respond.

We’ve listed the questions and some supporting information below, or you can download our ‘Conversation Starters’ resource.

Conversation Starters

We know that beginning the conversation can feel daunting – so we’ve put together some conversation starters to help you learn about the culture in your organisation and listen to the experiences of your athletes, participants, staff members and volunteers.

What’s your favourite thing about the club?

Whether this is a question you ask in a one on one setting or in a group, listening to everyone’s favourite thing about the club can help you understand the positive cultural elements that you might want to encourage. Make sure you really listen to what is being said and ask follow up questions such as ‘do you think we should do this more?’, ‘do you have any ideas of how we can encourage this?’ or ‘is there anything we can do to expand on this?’.

Secondly, while it’s important to actively listen to what is said, it’s also important to pay attention to what isn’t said. Is there something you would have expected to hear that you didn’t, or do you have an activity or scheme you’ve already introduced with the aim of improving your culture which isn’t mentioned at all? If so, consider why. How does it match up with what everyone has said already?

If you were in charge for the day, what are the top three things you’d change and why?

The ‘if you were in charge for the day’ can add a fun element to this question. If you’d rather, you could ask just ‘what top three things would you change about the club and why?’. This is a great conversation starter as it can allow people to explore and express things they think could be better in the club.

The key here is to listen not just to what is being said but the ‘why’. Why do they want that change and do any of the changes have ‘whys’ in common?

For example, someone might say that they’d make training an hour later, 15 minutes shorter or even for it to be ‘non-compulsory’. In some cases, this may even be dressed up as a joke. But this could be an indication that they are looking for more flexibility, understanding or variety.

Again, be sure to actively listen, ask follow up questions and have a plan in place to show that you’ve taken the feedback on board and how you’ll be enacting it.

How would you describe your team to a friend?

This question is a great opportunity to learn what thinking of your team or club immediately brings to mind in your participants, staff and anyone involved. This might include their favourite thing, their least favourite thing or something else entirely. Listen to their description to learn what they value and what themes emerge.

We all know that clubs and groups are about more than just the activity – whether that’s running, football, rowing or swimming. This question is an opportunity to begin discussing what else makes up your club.

What do you most look forward to about coming to the club?

When your participants, athletes, staff or volunteers are in the car on the way to your club or group, what are they looking forward to?

The camaraderie? Pushing themselves? Catching up with friends?

Finding out why they want to be there. Why they come every week, every month or however often you meet, is key to learning about your culture and how you can improve it.

Learning from what attracts and keeps those involved in your club coming back again and again can help you make your club more inclusive, more appealing and positive environment to be a part of.

What do you least look forward to about coming to the club?

If you’re going to begin a conversation about what everyone most looks forward to, it’s essential to discuss what they least look forward to.

Open and honest conversation helps build the foundations of a positive and safer culture. Listen to what people least look forward to, can you do anything to change it, do they have any ideas about how you can change it and are there any themes which being to emerge?

Listening isn’t a one-off exercise. Be open and honest with your participants about the aim of these conversations and what you’re hoping to do with the information. Plans and changes based on these conversations should also be discussed – and if changes are made, open conversations about them should be had to ensure they have the intended impact of making the club a more positive environment for everyone.

Download this Resource

We’ve listed the questions and some supporting information above but, if you’d prefer, you can download our ‘Conversation Starters’ resource which you can print and take along with you to your next team meeting.

Download this resource

Listen, Learn, Lead

Listening is essential to create an environment where everyone is confident their concerns are welcomed, listened to and addressed appropriately. Having open and honest conversations is one part of listening within your organisation. Find out how else you can listen to your members.

In addition to listening, it’s important that organisations encourage continuous learning and reflection at all levels. Find out more about how you organisation can learn.

It’s also essential for organisations to lead with positive actions and values to empower everyone with the confidence to challenge and instigate change. Find out how your organisation can lead.

Creating a safer culture

The #SaferCultureSaferSport campaign is for sport & activity organisations to create safer cultures. Where welfare, safety & wellbeing is at the heart of values & actions.

Join the campaign