Team Culture 101
What are the components of team culture?
Clarity of Goals and Purpose - When teams members understand the why behind what they do and the direction they are going.
Strong team culture constantly puts an effort to make sure the purpose of a team is crystal clear. Often times teams can have a general vision, “Create a better app to influence the world” or they can have clarity, “Use our technology and people's love of education to build community across racial lines”.
Clarity not only tells a team what to do, it also identifies what not to do giving the team a stronger focus which leads to faster results.
Lack of clarity leads teams to focus on different tasks, creating different priorities which often leads team members in different directions and is counter productive to the purpose.
Conflict Resolution - Working to make sure all team member conflicts are fully resolved.
Teams quickly become derailed when personality issues clash and tough/awkward moments arise. Strong culture understands how to navigate challenging moments by helping people feel truly cared for and make progress towards a resolution.
They deal with conflict openly, with full transparency so everyone feels heard and understood, making sure no stone goes un-turned.
Teams with a weak culture focus on the symptom not the real problem. Leaving conflicts unresolved leads people feeling misunderstood, unheard or underappreciated.
Effective Communication - Making sure the senders and receivers of communication work toward understanding one another.
Teams are in constant communication with one another through in person meetings, phone calls, messages, emails, video chats and so on. It can be difficult to understand the original purpose of a conversation. Teams with strong conversational skills work to deliver messages and receive messages with clarity.
Often team members will assume what is being said to help “save” time which leads to miscommunication and frustration. In the long run this behavior cost money, resources, and most importantly time. Effective communication can feel like more work up front but there is a larger ROI in the long run.
Trust - When I can rely on the other person.
The foundations of any good relationship. Trust is giving an individual the benefit of the doubt they will be supportive and have your best interest in mind. It brings in more engagement with each others ideas and work.
Strong team culture works diligently to build foundations of trust.
Sadly trust issues are a big challenge facing teams. Many members feel they can’t rely on one another which cause people to hold back. This prevents issues from being resolved or even identified.
Team Engagement - The amount of collaboration between team members.
The more collaboration, the greater the possibility of achieving an outcome. Strong team culture works to understand how all members can fit together to create a team that achieves much more than any individual could.
When there is a disconnected team, people will want to work individually which limits possibilities and hurts progress in the long run. This mindset defeats the purpose of being on a team.
Leadership - The captain of the crew who make sure the boat is headed in the right direction and keeps the vision strong.
Leaders have many different elements and conflicts to figure out. Strong leaders get what's most important done first, delegate effectively, leverage the members to support the mission, keep everyone performing optimally and make sure all are taken care of.
Leaders can easily feel overwhelmed and end up using an iron fist leaving little room for team members to contribute, provide different perspectives or even show up in their own way.
Decision Making - The process by which decisions are made.
As projects move forward, there are small, medium, and large decisions constantly being made. Teams with strong culture are purposeful when it comes to decision making. Often leaving the decision to a couple of people while making sure everyone feels heard.
Tensions arise because of the lack of clarity of who makes what decision. This murky process can leave people feeling unheard and resentful.
Psychological Safety - The belief that one will not be put down or humiliated for sharing their thoughts, questions, concerns or mistakes.
This ties into Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, after the physiological need (food, water, air) the next is safety. Teams are no different. Strong team culture creates an environment where members feel like the group has their back.
Safety has a profound and positive effect on the team's communication, connection, creativity, innovation, decision making, productivity and overall happiness.
Without safety, members feel hindered by potential ridicule and negative consequences. They will keep quiet, stunting the growth of the team and organization.