How to Develop a Team Culture You Can Get Excited About
You’re passionate about your business, and you want everyone on the team to feel the same way. Building a strong team culture can help. Employees who truly feel part of a team are more likely to develop lasting relationships, demonstrate greater engagement and be more loyal to the business.
There are also financial benefits to a strong team culture. Gallup research shows organizations with highly engaged teams have 20% higher sales and 21% more profitability than those whose employees aren’t engaged.
To develop a team culture that everyone can get excited about, commit to following these five steps.
Engage your executive team in building a shared vision.
You might believe that in order to be a leader, you need to develop a vision on your own and sell it to the team. But coming up with a vision isn’t always a solo effort—it can also be a group activity.
Other people need to touch and feel and shape the vision so they can make it their own. Your job as a leader is to guide the process of building a shared vision, to inspire passionate support around it, and to use all of the input you can gather to make sure it’s the right vision for the business.
Use the hardest moments to have fun.
In hard moments—like when a major client decides to walk—everything can feel like it’s “do or die,” and that feeling can rapidly spread throughout team and even whole-company culture. During hard moments, tunnel vision can set in very quickly; many people may focus in on themselves and stop looking out for others.
As a leader, your job is to have fun in hard moments and inspire others to do so, too. Having fun shows the team you truly believe in a bigger purpose than whatever is threatened in the moment. If your hard moment is financial, does your business have a big enough vision, and do you as a senior executive have a big enough vision, to encourage people even when finances aren’t going well?
When everyone else has downcast eyes and is full of anxiety, your job is to lift people’s eyes up, whatever that takes. It might mean doing something that’s counterproductive to solving the problem in the moment, but that is human and reminds people this really isn’t do or die. Do that and you’ll not only enable better performance, but you’ll also build relationships and loyalty that will last a lifetime.
Highlight and reward the best.
Some people have a gift of identifying what’s missing. If you were an art teacher, your student might be making a statue, and you say, “This is good, but it’s not detailed enough and the proportions are off.” That might be true, but as a leader there’s a better way to help guide your organization towards lasting improvements in performance. How did you know what to look for? How did you know what looked “off”? You inherently knew because you had been studying better examples for years.
Focusing others’ attention only on what’s wrong isn’t the most effective way to help people improve, though it might help results in the short term. People don’t need you to show them what’s wrong. They need you to show them the best—what you want them to aim for. Showing your team how to use images of the best to shape what they have in front of them is a dynamic skillset that will help them time after time.
Highlighting and rewarding the best is all about shifting perspective. You’re still using your problem identification skills, but you’re communicating through an uplifting perspective. This isn’t positivity for the sake of it; it’s about real results. Just imagine what people will learn when they study the best—they’ll learn things that you as the “master” didn’t even notice.
Hire for fit.
It’s hard to develop a team culture that you can get excited about if you haven’t done any filtering for cultural fit. What makes very different people into a team that works well together? Usually it’s shared values. People may have different opinions about a lot of things, but if they all share the same values, and their values align with the business’s vision and purpose, they’re all working together toward the same thing. Strategy can also help align your team.
If your people don’t align on values, vision and purpose, it’s not good for them, for your clients, or for your team culture. You need to know what’s important to the business and then hire for fit instead of thinking you’ll develop the fit later.
Use relationships, not reviews, for fit development.
Make fit development an ongoing relationship tool, not something that’s relegated to reviews. Whether they happen once or twice a year, performance review conversations tend to be formal, and occur so sparsely that they don’t really work for fit development. They’re more like a fit appraisal—an opportunity for the employee to recommit to the company’s vision.
Fit development, on the other hand, should be a process that occurs every single day between managers and their employees. Course correction works better when it’s done through lots of small conversations instead of one big, potentially charged conversation. Managers can help to develop fit by identifying employees’ needs and having ongoing conversations aimed at improving alignment between the employee and the business.
Developing a strong team culture doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an ongoing process. By committing yourself to a shared vision, knowing when to have fun and inspire, and focusing on cultural fit, you can create a team culture that gets everyone excited—and builds a stronger business in the long term.