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Building a strong team culture is a continuous process that requires deliberate effort and commitment from leaders and team members alike. As a result, you’ll be able to create a positive and inclusive work environment that drives success and will propel your organization to reach its goals. But how do you build a winning team? In this article, we’ll unveil six proven strategies to make your teams work.
1. Intro: Why Is Team Spirit So Important?
Nobody likes the idea of being a lone traveler in a vast desert – especially at work. We all need support from others, whether it’s during our daily workflow or when facing a challenging situation. That challenging situation could be anything: implementing cost-cutting measures, a complicated monthly report, or setting up a meeting room in a tight timeline. In that sense, it doesn’t really matter if you’re the CEO, the junior PR manager, or the janitor: without a feeling of belonging to a team, people will experience a sense of exclusion that can negatively impact their well-being, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. Worst-case scenario, this can lead to a dysfunctional organization.
But when you focus on building a team culture that includes everyone, where people feel safe and equally valued no matter their job description, and colleagues are willing to lend each other a hand, you’re bound to unveil the secret recipe for organizational success. Before we dive into the ingredients of that recipe, let’s first have a look at what defines a team culture.
2. What is Team Culture?
Put any group of individuals together for a longer time, and before you know it, patterns will naturally start emerging. These patterns manifest in various ways: attitudes and behaviors, social customs, agreements, operational methods, and even the way people talk to each other. To get a better understanding of this process, specifically in organizations, we need to define corporate team culture.
Team culture definition
Corporate team culture is the vibrant heartbeat that pulsates within an organization, uniting various individuals under a shared purpose, values, beliefs, norms, and identity. It encompasses the collective mindset, communication patterns, work ethics, and overall atmosphere that prevails among team members. Corporate team culture influences how employees interact with each other, approach their work, make decisions, collaborate, and pursue organizational goals. It often reflects the company’s mission, vision, and core principles, ideally fostering a sense of belonging and cohesion within the team.
Team culture examples
With such a wide variety of company cultures in the world today, it only makes sense that team cultures differ from one organization to the next. A trendy tech startup is likelier to have an innovative, creative, and fast-paced team spirit than a traditional law firm, where teams probably function in a more hierarchical, structured order. Experts agree that there are several models though – here are some examples:
- Traditional team culture: this is often seen in corporate environments that prioritize a professional image, take pride in their history, and like to stick to established norms. These types of cultures typically rely on analytical and systematic processes and are usually quite hierarchical. Within traditional cultures, there are often explicit or implicit behavioral standards that guide the majority.
- Collaborative team culture: in a team with a collaborative culture, members work together as a united front, valuing cooperation and mutual support to achieve common goals. They actively share ideas, knowledge, and resources, encouraging open communication and a sense of camaraderie. Decision-making is often done democratically, with input from different team members. This fosters a sense of ownership and collective responsibility
- Innovative team culture: emphasizing creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking, an innovative team culture values outside-the-box thinking and unconventional solutions to challenges. This culture also promotes a growth mindset and continuous learning, creating an environment where individuals feel empowered to explore and propose new ideas. Failure is seen as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than a setback. You’ll often find a culture of resilience and adaptability in these types of teams.
- Diverse team culture: this refers to teams that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It places a strong emphasis on welcoming and valuing all team members, championing their ideas equally, and giving every team member access to opportunities for personal and professional development. In a diverse team culture, the goal is to cultivate an environment where every team member feels empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents.
- Transparent team culture: a team with a transparent culture promotes openness, honesty, and trust among its members. Communication flows freely, and information is shared openly, ensuring that everyone is well-informed. Transparent cultures encourage feedback, constructive criticism, and the sharing of diverse perspectives. This openness fosters a sense of psychological safety, where individuals feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment. Trust and accountability are foundational values within such teams, contributing to stronger relationships and effective collaboration.
By fostering a culture of trust, transparency, and collaboration, where employees feel valued and heard, managers can increase employee loyalty and retention. Feedback, in particular, is crucial, and managers should provide regular, actionable feedback while also actively requesting feedback on their own performance. Investing in effective management and leadership is key to building a loyal, high-performing team that drives business success.
3. How to Build a Team Culture
So how to ignite the spark of team spirit? How to create a winning team? Building a high-performance team doesn’t happen overnight: it requires deliberate effort and a focus on key aspects of team dynamics. Here are some strategies for creating and improving team culture, whether you are building a team from the ground up or want to strengthen an existing one.
1. Foster open communication
Effective communication is the foundation of a strong team culture. So if you want to know how to build a successful team, you need to understand the importance of transparent communication. Encourage your team members to share their ideas, give them constructive feedback, and don’t be afraid to address challenges openly. Create a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions and is motivated to work together towards shared goals. By fostering transparent communication, trust and strong relationships can be built, leading to enhanced team performance and a cohesive culture. A great way to facilitate this type of communication is to implement project management systems and platforms like Slack, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, which will help people to connect, share information, and collaborate effortlessly – especially when working in a virtual team.
You might also like: Leadership and Communication in Global Cross-cultural Teams
2. Promote Learning and Development
Invest in the learning and development of your team members to improve team culture. Offer training programs, workshops, and mentorship opportunities that support their skills in collaboration, (first-time) leadership, and creative thinking. Encourage your employees to pursue professional growth and provide them with the right resources to facilitate their learning journeys, like a buddy at work, AI technology, or partnering up with a professional training provider. When you demonstrate that you’re committed to your teams’ development and genuinely want to unlock their true potential, you’ll immediately create a positive and engaged team culture.
3. Encourage team-building activities
One of the best ways to strengthen team culture is through team-building activities. Organize regular team-building exercises, both within and outside the office – or in the virtual space. These activities will help your people to build valuable connections, improve mutual understanding, and create a sense of unity. Next to fun and engaging workshops or games, you could also consider cross-functional projects that require collaboration across different teams or departments. By working together towards common objectives, your team members will develop stronger relationships and a shared sense of purpose, positively impacting the overall team culture.
You might also like: 7 Best Ideas for Virtual Team-Building Activities
4. Recognize and celebrate achievements
Recognizing and celebrating team and individual achievements is essential to build a team that works together like clockwork. Regularly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and contributions of team members. Celebrating successes, milestones, and victories will contribute to a positive and supportive team environment where people feel valued and respected.
5. Lead by example
Team spirit trickles down from the top. In other words: leaders play a critical role in shaping team culture. Lead by example and embody the values and behaviors you expect from your team: demonstrate integrity, transparency, and accountability in all your actions. Be accessible to your team, actively listen to their concerns, and provide guidance and support. Prioritize diversity and inclusion in your leadership approach, ensuring that your decision-making processes are unbiased and inclusive. Also: appreciate individual differences. Some people are natural team players, while others need coaching to flourish – so keep an eye on that. A positive and driven leader that exudes confidence and is easy to approach is imperative for a positive team culture.
6. Implement DEI initiatives
Implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative is a proven strategy for building a strong team culture. There are a number of studies proving that inclusive teams in high-diversity environments outperform their peers. That’s because DEI practices cultivate a culture of empathy and understanding. And when team members feel valued and included, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to your organization’s goals. Another interesting fact is that diverse teams are better at making decisions: they are more open to dialogue and the sharing of diverse viewpoints, leading to richer discussions and enhanced decision-making processes.
Lepaya is Europe’s leading L&D Technology and Power Skill training provider with a vision to connect people’s potential to business impact. We’re designed to offer learning content, methodology, and technology in one platform as part of your learner’s flow.
Lepaya is a provider of Power Skills training that combines online and offline learning. Founded by René Janssen and Peter Kuperus in 2018 with the perspective that the right training, at the right time, focused on the right skill, makes organizations more productive. Lepaya has trained thousands of employees.Read more