On 20th August I attended a workshop held as part of my organisation’s internal training program. The topic was “Team Culture”, which is defined as how are things done around here.
What do you mean by team culture?
Culture can be divided into three components the behaviours exhibited (as a result of the values held), the symbols which are identifiable aspects of the workplace, and the systems which enable the organisation to achieve its goals.
Why is leadership behaviour so important?
Leadership behaviour shapes two thirds of team culture. Therefore because team culture has such an impact on our work, leaders just by their behaviour alone can help to drive productivity, team effectiveness and cohesion, achievement of organisational outcomes, staff well being and satisfaction, staff perception of their employer and workplace.
What is the role of team leaders in their team culture?
While our organisation’s leaders do determine a range of factors in relation to our working environment, team leaders have a significant impact on our team culture. When we consider our team culture, we should try to understand what it is like to work in our team at the moment, and what it would look like if it were a better place to work. We need to know what positive benefits our team culture could achieve for our team, and how team culture can help our team achieve its goals. Then we can consider how the team culture could be changed to achieve this.
What does my team culture look like now?
Are you approachable, welcoming, connected, communicating, believable, trustworthy, in-touch? How about your staff behaviours?
Do you provide opportunities for staff development and engagement, ways for staff to learn and keep up to date, do you offer equal and appropriate physical facilities, are arrangements fair and appropriate for each staff member?
Do you offer systems that function well and focus on the objectives that your team is trying to achieve? Do your systems save time and enable your team to get on with the job? Do your systems work well with and support your stated objectives?
Are there aspects of team culture which are hidden, especially negative aspects such as personal agendas, hidden judgements and prejudice, lack of long term planning, lack of commitment to professional standards, lack of commitment to consultation and engagement?
Analyse your team in each of the above areas for strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.
What should my team culture look like?
Let’s consider our ideal team; in that ideal team we know that factors such as behaviours, symbols, systems will enhance the productivity, experience and achievements of the team. This will look different for different teams. For example, everyone will have common goals, information will be equally shared, team engagement will be positive, the team will work together well, and work will be achieved to high standards. A positive team culture enables the team to achieve its objectives despite any negative external factors, and benefits the team through providing resilience through times of adversity. The ideal team will also avoid behaviours which are negative. The following lists show some example behaviours to avoid in contrast with those behaviours which contribute to a positive team.
How can we achieve a positive team culture?
We need three elements in place to develop team culture: structure, behaviour, and support.
A structure ensures that personal differences can be accounted for, without a structure, dominant or pervasive personalities can take over and eliminate the ability for others to participate. Structures provides the environment that promotes team culture growth. This includes rules and procedures.
Behaviours particularly demonstrated by our leaders will drive and provide the basis for team culture development. Behaviour modelling encourages and drives improvement in team culture.
Support is necessary for team culture growth, for example mechanisms for recognition and appreciation of staff achievement, resources for staff to access, skills they need to achieve their work.
What is Team Structure?
Team structure is the operational framework in which we operate (not the org chart!).
First define your team purpose and role.
- What purpose do we exist for (what is the service we provide?)?
- Who are our stakeholders, and who benefits from our services?
- What does the organisation expect of us?
- What’s so important about our work, what makes it valuable and relevant?
Talk about who your team works with, who is in your supply chain, and how does your team fit in?
Understand the balance between reactive and proactive activity, ensure that proactive work is a major part of your team’s effort.
Provide an environment that is supportive for your team, establish the ground rules and a core set of behaviours that feel important for the team. On the matter of personal responsibility, be aware of the triggers that may provoke negative behaviours, and know the means for us to make the choice to reduce or avoid those behaviours. What behaviours can we demonstrate that help us to work together well? e.g. rules at meetings, respectful listening, utilising skills and capabilities, complete tasks as promised.
Use meetings as a time to discuss ways to improve team culture.
What are effective team behaviours?
Our behaviours are often determined by our values, so we need to be aware of those values. To understand each other better we need to build trust.
Build trust through
- finding out more about each other.
- doing what you say you will do.
- helping and supporting each other when things don’t go to plan.
A team that trusts each other will achieve more, and also be more willing to take the risks necessary to achieve objectives.
There are a range of behaviours which if consistently demonstrated will serve to build trust. Appreciating and supporting individual differences, approaches and personalities will help to build trust.
Here are a few examples of trust building advice …
Respecting individual differences, and preventing situations where individual expectations are disappointed is a valuable behaviour to achieve. Try to understand how others might think differently about a problem, e.g. those that like to work on few tasks at a time before moving on to the next one, compared to those that like to work on many things at once to keep their options open.
Support is critical to team motivation
Motivation is enhanced by the following
- Enabling a sense of achievement and that your work makes a worthwhile contribution
- A sense of challenge to bring out the best in us.
- Being recognised, respected and appreciated for what we have done.
- Having a sense of control over our own work.
- Developing, growing and enhancing ourselves as we work.
- Feeling team spirit through social engagement, having a common purpose, working as a team, and being part of a worthwhile organisation.
Where de-motivators are encountered, there are often potential resolutions available to defuse the effect of the de-motivating factor.
Steps for Action
Compile a list of techniques that you can use in meetings and when engaging with your team.
Create a strategy with actions that build team culture, the actions should address your weaknesses, and take advantage of the opportunities available to you.