Instilling a strong team culture within employees is a hugely important part of business in this day and age. Independently talented people who can work together tend to have a powerful shared vision and continuously search for ways to improve how they carry out their duties.
The effects of a good culture can be hugely positive; nurturing teams with these qualities often leads to greater performance, loyalty and engagement than those who function without. And in these challenging times, a positive team culture is not only desirable, it’s pretty much essential.
Culture is a bit of a buzzword of late, but it’s one that can sometimes be easily misunderstood. A strong team culture is something that requires work, strong leadership and the mutual understanding of a group of individuals to fully come to fruition.
If getting everyone on the same page is something you’ve struggled with in the past, then you should find this article useful. We’ll run through some definitions of team culture, why it’s important, and some methods you can use to start building a better team culture going forward.
• Why is team culture so important?
• How to build a strong team culture
What is “team culture?”
At its core, a team culture is the values, beliefs and attitudes that a team shares. These values inform the way this group of people work towards a certain common goal and how they treat each other. Depending on what these shared beliefs and attitudes are, team culture can be positive or negative.
A healthy team culture is one with integrity; everything fits together, and the team can work like a well-oiled machine. On the other hand, an unhealthy team culture sees individuals that aren’t in sync with the mission, vision and values (that may not have been set out in the first place) of a team and the company. The team starts to falter as a result.
Culture is difficult to define as a concept because, by and large, it’s unspoken. Additionally, different teams in a company can have their own differing cultures. Generally, though, these cultures are influenced by the company as a whole.
Why is team culture so important?
In a team with a strong culture, individuals are given to collaborating, sharing knowledge, communicating effectively, and, crucially, supporting one another. When people receive support, they feel empowered and encouraged to do great things. Such cultures enable employees ask questions, have confidence to speak up when they need to, and deal with challenges. This benefits both the company and each other’s personal growth.
Like we hinted at earlier, culture can often be dictated by the values, behaviours and decisions of an organisation’s leader. If a leader routinely behaves in an inappropriate manner and lets the actions of others go unchecked, then the behaviour normalises. At this point, these values are in a position to trickle down into the other management levels.
And although this doesn’t mean everyone in the company then acts in the same way, it has a negative impact on company culture. The support and safety offered by strong team/company cultures has been weakened as a result, and employees are unlikely to speak up about things that aren’t in line with their own values. In a good culture, the opposite would happen because they know their company and peers support them.
How to build a team culture
Define your core values
Start by writing down the core values that you feel are essential to your team’s success. What’s written down should set the standards for your team to follow, whether it’s performance or customer service. Refining what’s there into a written statement that defines and makes clear your team’s purpose can let everyone know how they should behave and what they’re driving towards, strengthening your team in the process.
In coming up with values, try answering some of the following questions:
• What values are important to you personally?
• Are these the same values you’d base your professional success on?
• Do you look for these qualities in the people you hire?
• What actions and behaviours would you never tolerate in the workplace?
Create a bigger vision within the team
Once you’ve completed the above, the next logical step is to articulate how it will be achieved to your team. Engaged employees need to feel like they can contribute, and so letting them know how their work will add to the bigger picture is hugely important. Otherwise, they’ll feel like just another cog in the machine of the company.
The bigger picture of the team should be reinforced regularly. Simply mentioning it once and then falling back into previous habits is not enough; team members need to feel a sense of purpose runs through everything they do to continually grow and improve their productivity.
A regular weekly meeting can have a positive effect on team culture, helping to build rapport, encourage each other and underline the importance of consistent improvement. It’s a challenging time for everyone right now, and even holding meetings over Zoom if your team is working from home can be hugely beneficial.
Be sure to schedule these meetings in advance so that everyone can familiarise themselves with the agenda beforehand. Likewise, having clearly defined roles gives everyone purpose, stopping team members from becoming passengers as a result; have someone lead the meeting, another to keep time and a third to take notes, for example.
Promote learning and development
Give your team the opportunity to expand their skill sets by providing access to training and personal development. The plethora of online learning sites now available allows people to learn on their own time in ways that suit them (an undoubted boon right now).
Let your team have the chance to take on new responsibilities by offering them access to these online courses.
Doing so prevents boredom and complacency settling into the team, allowing them to learn new skills that create further value within the team and workplace.
Keep expectations clear
Making your expectations clear at all times is key to building a strong team culture, helping employees and new hires alike know what’s expected from them. Whether it’s someone new joining the team, or an employee who’s been at the company for a while, it only takes one person to disrupt the balance of a healthy team culture.
Therefore, it’s important to resolve issues quickly to preserve the culture you’ve built. Explain to the team what your expectations for them are, whether it’s accountability, honesty, or always doing their best. Doing so provides the attributes with which they can ground their work at all times.
Make time to care about your team
Respect and honesty are important elements of a strong company culture, helping to build positive, caring qualities within the team and helping everyone get to know each other. Once again, these attributes are crucial at a time like this, so it’s important to let your team know you care about them during what has been a tough period for many people.
Not only is this important in times of strife, but by building relationships with your team, you’re more readily able to understand their strengths, weaknesses and skills to be developed in the future, too.
As well as being someone they know they can talk to, make sure to further strengthen the team’s culture by celebrating their birthdays, informing everyone of individual achievements, and holding team lunches together – even if you do have to do it over Zoom.
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