People have been asking the question “What is team culture?” for millennia. From the first hunter-gatherers to sports teams and, of course, within the business world, it is a common question with a range of interweaving answers.
We all know that a good team is greater than the sum of its parts, so let’s get straight to it. We’ll cover all the psychological, structural, and tech-based solutions you need to build a strong team.
The definition of team culture comprises the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, but also activities, that a team shares. Team culture is especially determined by how people relate to each other in a group and work together towards a common goal.
To identify areas for improvement in team culture:
Regularly solicit feedback from team members
Observe communication patterns
Monitor team performance
Reflect on successes and failures
Be open to adapting your management style
Remote work means managers have to shape team culture through online tools and strategies to bridge the distance and create a sense of connection among team members, regardless of their location.
To successfully onboard new team members into an existing team culture:
Provide comprehensive, user-friendly orientation
Introduce them to other colleagues in a structured way
Clearly communicate team goals and expectations.
Encourage open dialogue
Pair them with a mentor
Regularly check in to address any concerns or challenges
Creating a healthy team culture requires a foundation of trust, and it all starts with making a space where team members feel comfortable. After all, what is team culture without that essential psychological safety? It's an environment where employees feel hesitant to express their thoughts and ideas, fearing negative consequences for speaking up.
To create a healthy team culture, it's crucial to establish an environment where your team members feel comfortable sharing their opinions, ideas, and even concerns without fear of judgment or backlash.
As a manager, you play a vital role in achieving that psychological safety. Encourage open discussions and ensure that everyone's voice is heard, regardless of their position or tenure. This openness will contribute significantly to building a team culture that thrives on trust and mutual respect.
Research has shown that teams with high levels of psychological safety outperform those with low levels. These team culture characteristics can lead to increased creativity, innovation, and overall productivity.
There are several steps you can take to improve team culture and create a psychologically safe environment:
Set clear expectations and create a culture of transparency.
Be open and honest in your communication, and set an example by admitting when you don't have all the answers.
Recognize team members for their contributions, even when their ideas don't necessarily work out.
Every guide for how to build a team culture starts with a positive psychological environment. Without it, none of the rest of our secrets are possible.
Effective communication plays a pivotal role in building a team culture that flourishes. Open and honest dialogue enhances trust and empowers team members to collaborate more efficiently. When you lead a team, you have the responsibility of creating a culture where transparent communication is valued, and every member feels heard.
Start by holding regular team meetings. These gatherings provide a platform for discussing progress, addressing challenges, and brainstorming innovative solutions. Another vital aspect of establishing open dialogues is actively listening to your team members. When you genuinely listen to their ideas, concerns, and suggestions, you demonstrate that you respect and value their input. This not only boosts morale but also encourages team members to participate more actively in the collective success of the team.
Incorporating diverse communication channels also contributes to creating a healthy team culture. Draw on both formal and informal methods, such as one-on-one meetings, group chats, and email, to offer different formats for people to raise issues. For example, sensitive topics and constructive criticism should be done in private, but praise good work publicly.
By definition, an open and honest dialogue has to be a two-way street. Therefore, as a manager, you need to have the confidence to accept constructive criticism on how you can improve. This means opening channels such as anonymous feedback forms where your team can speak their mind.
Let’s face it, you can only get a team behind you if they feel like they’re also advancing on an individual level. This is where the power of purpose comes into play.
Aligning individual and team goals is vital in spreading a sense of unity and shared vision. When each team member understands how their role contributes to overall success, they become more motivated, engaged, and committed to achieving common objectives.
To align goals effectively, start by clearly defining the team's overarching purpose and objectives. Modern managers often display their key targets in the far-left column of a Kanban board where they organize their projects. This works as a constant reminder of how each task works towards the same goal.
However, it is also a framework where you can set fulfilling individual goals. With one-on-one meetings, you should make sure each team member understands how their personal objectives support the broader goals of the team. This connection is crucial in building a team culture that thrives on purpose-driven motivation.
Next, involve your team in the goal-setting process. By giving them the opportunity to participate, you empower them to take ownership of their objectives and boost their sense of belonging. This collaborative approach encourages a team culture where individuals feel valued and invested in the team's success. As time goes on, you can adjust the tasks you assign so each individual stays motivated to contribute to shared goals.
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We’ve all worked in stale teams that recycle the same ideas over and over again. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that one of the most frequently reported positive team culture characteristics is diversity. By appreciating the unique perspectives that each team member brings, you can create an environment of innovation, creativity, and collaboration. In a diverse team, individual strengths are amplified, weaknesses are minimized, and new avenues are explored.
Diverse perspectives come in myriad ways. One place to start is by creating a pro-diversity hiring strategy. We’re not just talking about demographic diversity here. You can also consider how a sales agent could contribute to a design team, bringing their in-depth knowledge of what makes clients tick into the mix.
However, learning how to build a team culture that truly embraces diversity is a long road that involves a continuous practice of inclusivity. From onboarding to team socials, ensure that every team member feels welcome and valued, regardless of their background or unique attributes.
One way to further promote diversity is by providing opportunities for team members to collaborate on projects or solve problems together. Commonly used by scrum teams to solve a particular business issue, this cross-discipline collaboration encourages individuals to share their unique perspectives and often find innovative solutions.
Finally, invest in diversity training and education to equip your team with the tools and understanding necessary to navigate and thrive in a diverse environment. This will contribute to a positive team culture and enhance the team's overall effectiveness.
Top-down hierarchies have been going out of fashion for a long time; they stifle new ideas, while they’re also too demanding of the manager at the top. But when you empower your team to take ownership of their tasks and responsibilities, they become more engaged, proactive, and committed to the team's success.
Begin by setting clear expectations for each team member. They should understand their roles and responsibilities, and how their contributions impact the overall success of the team. That way, you prevent a culture of people passing the buck and tasks falling behind.
With high-level task management tools, it’s easy to name an owner — the individual responsible for the task’s success. With one go-to person for each task, you can quickly and clearly get updates on their progress, find out the challenges they’re facing, and offer help when needed.
When team members take ownership of their tasks, it's essential to recognize and acknowledge their efforts. Celebrate their achievements and successes, and provide constructive feedback when improvement is needed. This recognition reinforces the importance of individual contributions and encourages further accountability.
Ownership is also a method of promoting continuous learning and improvement. With each team member taking on an appropriate level of responsibility, they can gain skills and experience that they wouldn’t ordinarily — a great way of building loyalty and increasing motivation.
Building on the last point, when you’re figuring out how to improve team culture, always think about the future. Where do you want to be in a month? What about in one year? Once you’ve got your goals, you can make a solid plan for how to get there and set targets to improve each individual and the team as a whole.
Celebrating success and learning from failure are crucial components of this journey. By creating a culture that values progress and growth, you'll empower your team to face challenges head-on, adapt to changing circumstances, and strive for excellence.
Acknowledging successes boosts morale, reinforces the value of individual contributions, and strengthens the bonds within the team. And when delivered constructively, you can use feedback to iron out any common pitfalls that hold you back.
Encourage your team to share their victories with one another, and take the time to express your gratitude for their hard work and dedication. On top of praise in the office, you can use incentives such as celebratory events or a weekend away courtesy of the company credit card.
But continuous improvement means continued check-ins and feedback as a group and on an individual level. These meetings provide a platform for discussing progress, challenges, and areas for development. Be open to receiving feedback from your team as well, demonstrating your commitment to personal and collective growth.
As our final point on how to improve team culture, we’re turning our focus to teamwork. Even if you have a group of outstanding individuals, you can’t have a strong team unless they work well together.
Start on a structural level. Every new recruit gets a specific mentor to guide them through the early days. This helps your team gel together from day one and demonstrates that each individual can turn to their colleagues for help.
More and more companies are turning to team building days to break down the barriers of formality among teams, replacing them with connections where each person wants the others to succeed. Outside the office in a less formal environment, they are a great occasion to learn lessons about the impact of teamwork.
Back in the office, you can create structures that promote a high level of collaboration. Start off with cloud-based storage to stop time wasted sending files back and forth. Then you can move on to collaborative documents, shared workflows and so much more. Once your team is used to the tech, strong team cohesion will come naturally.
It's also essential to provide your team members with the resources and tools they need to collaborate effectively. Equip them with technologies and platforms that facilitate communication, file-sharing, and project management. By streamlining collaboration, you'll enable your team to work more efficiently and cohesively.
Lastly, lead by example. As a manager, your actions speak louder than words. Model supportive behavior by actively participating in team projects, offering help, and sharing your own knowledge and expertise. Your team will follow your lead, creating a team culture that thrives on collaboration and mutual support.
Now you’ve got an idea of some solid strategies that promote a strong team culture, it’s time to put your plans into action.
With Bitrix24, you get a cloud-based headquarters full of features to build a team that thrives. Equipped with everything from in-depth HR solutions and team-based project management software to collaborative documents and all the communication channels you could imagine, you can put all your energy into your personal impact.
So to see how you can implement our seven secrets to build a strong team, sign up for Bitrix24 today.