By Jeff Backal
Defining Your Teams Culture

Having a great team culture is the foundation of any high performance team. This goes beyond just having smart and talented team members, nor is it about what the team produces. Team Culture is about how the team works together as a cohesive unit.

There are several step to creating a desired team culture, including; having the right team member, creating rituals, creating accountability… but for the purpose of this blog we are going to focus on the first step of the process, defining your teams culture.

It is the responsibility of the manager or team leader to define the culture of their team, as opposed to being a collaborative process. Without a leader defining the desired culture, the team members will take control of the culture which can lead to unwanted drama. Once this is defined and communicated, the other steps can follow.

Prior to defining your team’s culture, it is important to understand your organization’s mission (statement of purpose), vision (destination), values (set of operating principles) as well as the organizational culture. Once you truly understand these aspects of your organization, you can start aligning your team’s culture to that of the organization.

The initial part of the process of defining the team culture is creating a list of specific “behaviors” for the team to live by. While creating this list, be sure to avoid generic items that may sound good, for example “exceed expectations”. What does this item really mean; expectations of team members, expectations of leadership, expectations of customers… Also, these behaviors should be written for the team members as opposed to for customers. Since this list is for internal purposes and not for the eyes of external customers, it is encourages to us company language and lingo.

Here are a few examples of behaviors that can be included in such a list:
– Be candid
– Take ownership
– Dramaless culture
– Be responsive
– Proof everything

Once this list of 12-24 behaviors is created, they now must be defined in a clear concise manner. The following are examples of behaviors along with their definitions:

– Be Responsive – Honor the 24 hour rule for all client requests, such as information, proposals, return calls and e-mails

– Proof all material – Have all written material proofed by others prior to sending them to client, prospects or vendors

-Do what is best for the client – In all situations, act in the best interest of our client. Our reputation for integrity is one of our greatest assets.

-Check the ego at the door – Our own egos and personal agendas must never take precedence over doing what is best for the team. Being concerned with who gets credit, who looks good, and who looks bad, is counter-productive. Making the best decision for the good of team and company must always be paramount.

-Practice A+ness as a way of life – Take pride in the quality of everything you do.

-Take the extra time to do things right the first time – Don’t take short-cuts. The goal is to get things “right” not simply to get things “done”

-Seek to create win/win solutions – Learn to think from others’ perspectives. Discover what others needs and find a solution that meets their needs while still fulfilling our own.

-Practice blameless problem solving – Treat mistakes as learning opportunities. Focus on the following questions: What are the best options to solve the problem? What have we learned that can help us from repeating the mistake? How will we integrate that learning into new behaviors or practices?

– Make data driven decisions – Review the data and facts to help make the best decisions for the team as well as for internal and external clients

The list of behaviors is just the start. Now it is the team leader’s responsibility to communicate the defined team culture and behaviors to the team members and to ensure that the team members always live by these guiding principles. Continual reinforcement will help turn the new behaviors into habits which will create the desired culture.