Your team, regardless of size, has a culture all its own. Why all the hoopla about culture? Team culture goes beyond how you celebrate a coworker’s birthday; it affects how your team manages time, how they account for responsibilities, and how they facilitate their goals. When a team forms around a healthy culture – the benefits are exponential.
What is Culture?
What does the word “culture” mean to you? Is it your ethnic background? Your family? Your nation?
Culture is a word we hear all the time, but rarely stop to think about its meaning. It is formally defined as a set of beliefs and values that a particular group of people holds and the system of behaviors that come from those beliefs. Culture is visible in the clothes you wear and the people you relate to, but it also comprises the invisible thoughts and attitudes you’ve developed over your lifetime.
Just as our unseen beliefs can shape our daily lives, the hidden values of a team show up in the everyday operations and interactions of its members.
Sometimes team culture can be overlooked for getting “down to work”, and team leaders give up on trying to change it for the better. Nonetheless, research shows that the overwhelming majority of company executives and their employees consider workplace culture to be a fundamental factor in successful businesses. Something that vital should never be overlooked.
How can you harness something so elusive?
In this next example, I’ll show you the 4 keys to shaping your team’s culture and what they look like in action.
Using the 4 Keys to Shape Team Culture
- Make Values Explicit
At his non-profit, Anthony has just been put in charge of a new fundraising team responsible for organizing its first annual gala. He has high hopes for the project and is excited about the new perspectives his team will bring to the table. The team seems to be running smoothly after everyone becomes familiar with each other and expectations are set. It’s not long before he notices his teammates seem aimless and distracted and poor communication starts becoming a habit between members.
Anthony uses the first key to shaping culture—make your values explicit. He calls a meeting to addresses how central collaboration is to the team’s culture. Then he describes his top three team values: Accountability, Communication, and Creativity, and shows how each will look in day-to-day function.
2. Connect Culture to a Mission
He uses the next key: connecting the team culture to a mission. He outlines why this set of values is important to reaching the team’s larger purpose of creating a compelling, well-organized fundraising event. He doesn’t stop there. Anthony makes sure his team discusses how raising more money allows their non-profit to offer more services to those who need them most. Keeping this mission at the forefront helps team members see why having the right mindset about the little things makes a difference in the big picture.
3. Use accountability to reinforce expectations and course correct as necessary
With their inspiration and purpose rekindled, the team has greatly improved their coordination around fresh ideas for the project in only a few days. Unfortunately, what the team has begun to struggle with is follow-through on crucial tasks. Anthony takes action to reinforce and course correct his team based on the core team value of accountability. He reiterates what is expected of his team when they are relying on each other so heavily. In an interactive process, Anthony makes sure to secure commitment to the goals and action plan with each team member.
4. Celebrate successes
When the gala finally takes place as planned, the work of Anthony’s team has paid off. The event is a huge success, drawing compliments from Anthony’s supervisors for his team’s cohesiveness and collaboration. He takes the time to use the last key, celebrating the team’s success in a meaningful way with his coworkers and their families. Anthony makes sure to express his appreciation for all of their work and their commitment to the team’s values and mission.
Team culture goes beyond how you celebrate a coworker’s birthday; it affects how your team manages time, how they account for responsibilities, and how they facilitate their goals.
Summary: Exponential Benefits
The strength of a company’s culture doesn’t automatically transfer to your team. To lead a team focused on results, intentionally shape a specific culture for your team. But keep in mind, as responsibilities and relationships change under the umbrella of a team, so can the culture. Course corrections are a necessary part of your team leadership.
As demonstrated in the analogy, the benefit of shaping your team’s culture doesn’t end with you; it helps create a more unified and supportive environment among team members, especially when your mission is specific. Everyone benefits.
Depending on the values you have in place for your team, the benefits of creating a healthy and meaningful team culture can be endless. Creativity through work, open communication, and creating supportive relationships between coworkers are just 3 of the 12 facets of a good team culture, as listed in the chapter “Call-Out Culture” from my eBook Leading Teams that Get Results.
Next month, we’ll be looking at how teams solve problems and use clear goals to achieve results.
Have you been following along with the team cohesion series of blog posts? What have you tried? What’s worked? Let’s learn together.
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