Team culture – 9 steps to create and make it work in your team
August 2, 2021
Building a strong team culture is more accessible when the company has a good leader who can face challenges. It should start by clearly and honestly identifying where the company and your team are and where they should be. To bring about change, you must take responsibility and act as a united team.
What does team culture mean?
Team culture is a difficult concept to grasp. And for each team, it can mean something different. Regardless, the assumption is that team culture isn’t about individual performances or attitudes – it’s about looking at all team members as one – how the team works together as a cohesive unit.
By fostering and maintaining a robust and positive team culture, a leader can keep their employees happy and make their work easier.
Team culture consists of norms, values, attitudes and behaviors shared by the team. It’s the way people work towards a common goal and how they treat each other
Who creates team culture?
Undoubtedly, culture is created by people. It’s formed through everything they do, especially through communication – conversations, meetings, e-mails etc. All those have a vast influence on the atmosphere within the group.
In an effective team culture, team members understand that their work falls within the overall context of an organization’s strategic plan. This understanding reflects in their decisions, tone of communication and way of sharing information. As a result, people are willing to adjust their attitude to work in order to feel comfortable working towards common goals.
The company’s culture begins with the values, behaviors and decisions of an organization’s leader. However, if a leader doesn’t have strong moral values, they begin to normalize certain behaviors. So a leader sets the fundamental values, but one person cannot create the whole culture.
Organizational culture is united by the unique values of each team member. At the same time, it is organic and can change every time someone new joins the team.
By creating the principles of team culture, you can prevent a toxic work environment and other risks
9 steps to building a strong team culture
Building good team culture consists of various elements that one should keep in mind every day and actively work on. If you are the leader in your company:
1. Define the team culture and mission of the company
Start by defining your organization’s team culture and communicating that to your team. It is crucial because by fostering strong team synergy, you create a work environment that minimizes conflict and helps you build a road toward success.
Good ideas help us collaborate to solve problems, and shared visions help us focus on the future. At the same time, actively work on the company’s already defined culture and mission. It is a continuous effort and should be organized consciously.
Core values are critical to thriving team culture. Define them and write them down – this way all team members can see them and edit them later. Moreover, saving these values in a physical form can make it easier to stick to them.
Questions to ask when defining company’s core values:
- What are my most important personal values?
- Are these the same values I attribute to professional success?
- Am I looking for these characteristics in the people I employ?
- What I could never tolerate in the workplace?
2. Set the tone of communication
It is essential that people communicate effectively. Make sure they talk openly about their plans, achievements and also problems. A good communication culture in a team does not depend only on its CEO, although it certainly reflects his/her strengths.
CEOs should instill their professional personality in developing good employee habits, initiating conversations and sharing their enthusiasm to inspire the rest of the team.
Part of effective communication is collaboration, transparency and adaptability. In addition to conducting discussions, it is important to create documents that define and communicate a company’s goals and mission. They should be accessible so that every team member can edit and comment on them at any time.
The CEO’s responses and comments set the standard for teamwork in everything from getting the job done to customer service. During team meetings or industry conferences, it is also worth talking about the culture of communication in the team.
The communication culture factors:
- what channels to use for communication (Fleep, Slack, e-mail, etc.);
- what channels to use for collaboration (Google docs, virtual whiteboards, design and development programs);
- how the CEO informs the team about his availability;
- the tone of voice (misunderstandings and heated discussions are ok, but with the right voice, etc.);
- choice of words (exclude slander, offensive language, etc.).
As part of process communication (e.g. preparing a new product for launch), it is essential to know which team members to include and in what discussions – so that no one feel left out.
3. Be transparent and have clear expectations
It is essential to explain to the team the expectations towards them, whether it is honesty, personal responsibility or open conflict resolution. Sometimes, despite clear expectations, someone does not want to meet them, understand common goals nor accept responsibility. Then, it is necessary to react quickly, so the team culture does not suffer.
Nobody likes to stay in the dark, so it’s important to keep your team informed about what’s going on in the company. It is good when everyone is aware of the key decisions. Team members should feel essential, connected and informed.
In addition to transparency in the company from top to bottom, it must also be clear on horizontal issues. It means paying attention to the work process – being clear about responsibilities and how the different roles and workflows connect.
4. Build a bond between current and new team members
Even in a team working together for a long time and looking to be coherent, it is vital to continually check its members’ satisfaction and create personal, not just professional, relationships.
Especially in a small team where everyone works closely together, connection greatly facilitates effective collaboration.
When someone new is joining the team, it is worth encouraging “old” employees to contact them in person. This way, you will overcome the possible shyness or caution and make newcomers feel welcome.
5. Cultivate an open environment
It is crucial to cultivate an open and non-judgmental environment where employees are not afraid to express their opinions (respectfully, of course).
It should be a norm to give everyone a voice and make sure they are comfortable sharing their opinions. As a result, you will get more different points of view and more excellent ideas!
Even with an open environment, you should regularly discuss the subject of team culture with everyone. This way, employees will understand how the team works and its values, expectations, and concerns. Finally, what they can do individually to make the team more successful as a whole.
6. Create an atmosphere of trust and responsibility
The best business culture creates a sense of responsibility. Build team unity on the foundation of respect, patience and honesty. It all makes trust part of the job. Once the company reaches these values, strict control and micromanagement should be abolished. Such methods are proven ineffective and demotivating (e.g. closely monitoring time spent at work).
For example, for a long time, employers were stricly controlling their employees’ work. This concerned the hour of arrival at the office or ways of performing specific tasks. Nowadays, more and more companies rely on trust and self-reporting of working hours by employees instead of controlling them all the time.
To make it easier, you can promote in the team the use of time tracking tools that will help the employees generate their work reports on their own. This way, they will spend much less time preparing their timesheets, and you will prove your trust.
In an effective team culture, its members should understand how their individual work fits into the overall strategic context of the organization. It brings effects in the form of self-awareness and personal responsibility.
Nowadays, more and more companies rely on trust and self-reporting by employees instead of controlling them all the time
7. Strengthen the team culture systematically
Building a team culture requires regular doses of positive reinforcement as well as creating some rituals and traditions with your team members. No matter how often this happens, it helps keep the team united.
The group should be cohesive on a personal level, especially if it is a small team. People have to match in order to work effectively together. It may require additional logistics and organization, but it will benefit the entire team culture in the long run.
What actions can strengthen the team culture?
- conducting personal discussions about team culture and core values;
- offering mentoring to solve internal problems;
- encouraging off-site lunches, for example, to undertake new projects;
- organizing family activities for employees on weekends;
- planning integration trips, during which you work on projects and participate in integration activities;
- discovering different locations around the world with your team.
8. Organize regular meetings
Scheduling regular meetings are essential in any organization that cares about team culture. Here are some possible scenarios:
- no scheduled meetings/meetings upon request;
- longer scheduled meeting once a week/month/quarter;
- shorter stand-ups every day.
In addition to figuring out which schedule is best for your team, it’s vital to create team time. In addition to regular meetings between people in management positions, it is good to contact the team, for example, through daily 10–15 minute stands or weekly video chats. You can use them to discuss work-related issues as well as to get to know people better.
Each week, someone can present a topic while the others create a thread with getting to know each other. It’s a way of encouraging personal relationships and building mutual trust. In addition, an employee has a chance to share knowledge about themselves in an open environment, while others can realize what they have in common (and where they differ) and learn about their interests, culture, habits and hobbies.
9. Take care of cultural alignment
Cultural alignment does not mean hiring people with the same personality as that of the organization’s leader. When hiring individuals, it’s essential to be aware of your own cognitive biases. Human nature tends towards like-minded people of the same personality or beliefs.
Cultural fit is people’s ability to work comfortably in an environment consistent with their own ideas, values, and needs. And people are different. They differ in age, race, gender, prospects, and weaknesses. We need diversity in a team because each experience will strengthen and add value to the team.
Building a strong culture takes time and is not measurable. Such a culture is one in which team members collaborate, share knowledge, communicate and, most importantly, support each other. When people feel that someone supports and trusts them, their confidence grows and they are able to do great things. It benefits not only the company but also the personal development of each team member.