Agency leaders, collaborators, and colleagues should all practice teamwork to build team culture in an agency. In fact, 86 percent of employees and executives cite a lack of positive team work as the reason for workplace failures. Learning how to build a positive team culture isn't easy; it takes focus, time, and determination. It's a challenge many agency owners face.
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“You don’t have to be best friends with everyone that you work with, but you do have to contribute to an environment where there’s respect, alignment, and an openness to working together as a team,” says Vendasta Chief Customer Officer George Leith.
By fostering a positive team building culture, likely outcomes include:
- Better performance
- Higher employee retention rates
- Increased profitability
- Improved employee morale and mental health
We examine 14 tips you need for building a positive team culture, both within smaller teams and across your organization.
1. Build an agency culture of success
Every agency owner's definition of success is different. It’s important to discuss the term “success” and explore what it means to members of your team. Collaboratively define what metrics, outcomes, and actions will signal an agency culture win.
You should also ask how it might feel to reach this destination of success. Frequently discuss what success will look like, and examine what everyone will gain once positive team work goals are reached.
Agency leaders should inspire with a clear, compelling, continuous vision. Define outcomes that resonate emotionally with the team. Everyone should be able to see themselves in the future as better, smarter, stronger, more valued, and more confident. And, most importantly, your belief in your vision must be unwavering. You must believe it’s not only possible, but desirable, essential, and inevitable.
2. Set goals for the agency (and for building a positive team culture)
Only 5.9% of companies communicate goals daily. It's no surprise that most employees don't fully understand their company's business goals, then. Try these steps for achieving goal-setting success:
- Work to identify collective goals that the group wants to achieve
- Drill down to individual goal setting that contributes to the larger team goals
- Set deadlines for goals and track progress
- Each team is different, so try various formats of goal setting until you find one that works for you
- Along with agency goals, set goals for building a positive team culture too! How will you change your agency culture for the better? How will you measure results of positive team work and collaboration?
3. Identify values that will help you build a positive team culture
A value like getting back to people on time is such a small little thing, but if your customers believe you are the one that gets back to them it can be a competitive advantage. If you embody those values it becomes a competitive advantage for the entire organization.
Find out from your team members which values they believe are of the utmost importance to your agency and use those insights to draft a values statement. Creating this document in a silo and then mandating the team to follow it is rarely effective.
Instead, ask questions like:
- What do you value?
- What unspoken values have contributed to our agency's success to date?
- What do successful employees share in common?
- What values should govern the way we interact with each other and with our customers?
- Which values will help promote team culture building?
If you're wondering how to build a team that can help your agency scale, then finding values that enable you to build a positive team culture should be at the top of your list.
Once you’ve developed the values statement, posting it in your break room isn’t enough. It’s critical to identify any changes to your agency culture that you’ll make or practices that you’ll adopt as a team to support value integration. Build team culture by teaching out those values again and again to your team. With every action, meeting, campaign, and event, these values should be the foundation, and reward team members who exemplify these values and promote not only the values but positive team work as well.
4. How to build a positive team culture? Respect
It's getting more difficult than ever for agencies to find and retain top digital talent. Once you've figured out how to build a team that fits and enhances your agency culture, you want to keep those valuable employees. That's why mutual respect has time and again been shown to be a key core value for thriving agencies with a team building culture. Examples of how to show respect at work include:
- Treat others with courtesy, politeness, and kindness
- Encourage colleagues to express opinions and ideas
- Listen to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint
- Never insult or belittle people or their ideas
- Do not constantly criticize, judge, demean, or patronize a colleague
- Be aware of your body language, tone of voice, and demeanor
5. Hold yourself responsibility when building a positive team culture
“As leaders, we need to hold ourselves equally as responsible as we hold our teams. We want to make sure we are owning the responsibility that has been given to us,” Leith says.
Gone are the days of "do as I say and not as I do." Leith recommends practicing the see it, own it, solve it, do it principle. By modeling to your team the fundamentals of responsibility, you have a better chance that others will follow suit.
6. Use continuous development as a way to build a positive team culture
Building a positive team culture in your agency takes time and constant iteration. Stay on top of development opportunities because teams that learn together succeed together. Try these ideas for professional development:
- Create an in-house library with materials from past training sessions, industry books, and other literature
- Share relevant webinars with colleagues
- Contribute ideas for workshops or events that you find interesting and worthwhile
7. Praise and kudos go a long way to building a positive agency culture
Recognition goes a long way to boost morale and keep the positive team work and positive vibes flowing. Coaches and leaders should appropriately offer praise and kudos when goals and improvements are accomplished. Recognizing quality work and achievements of workgroups increases profits by 29 percent. Leaders should set the best example and dole out praise regularly as a mainstay of their agency culture. Teams will, in turn, have a greater tendency to repeat this behavior, forming a culture of collaboration and acknowledgment. Soon enough, you'll have figured out how to build a team that is happy and generates results.
“For true contributors, if you pile on the praise and miss on opportunities for constructive criticism they may view it as disingenuous. So be sure to balance the scale. There’s nothing wrong with recognition, but be sure you’re also sharing those hard truths,” Leith says.
8. How to build a positive team culture: Offer support
You don’t win every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, or year. Eventually, things get hard, or you enter a slump. It's part of agency life. The tough times are a good test of the strength of your team. As you analyze your agency culture, try asking yourself and your leadership this question: Will they come together and conquer the challenge or will they fold? When it comes down to how to build a team that conquers the challenge, the solution can often ben found in positive team work and support.
Everything is easy when you are winning, but building a positive team culture can change the way your team copes with inevitable struggles. Build team culture around resilience and support, and your agency will be able to weather the storm when it needs to.
9. Working together to build team culture
By fostering positive team work, you can learn how to build a team that can successfully self-manage, coach, heal, and grow. It is one of the amazing by-products of building a positive agency culture. Leaders don’t need to be in every conversation; the team follows the core values and heals itself, grows itself, and manages itself.
10. Team culture building is about more than just work
Embrace team culture-building workshops, offsites, and group meetings. Colleagues should see, learn and experience the human side of each contributor. Getting to know the person behind the role will lead to greater positive team work.
At Vendasta we use a communication and messaging platform called Slack. On Slack we have a channel called ‘#petdasta’ where team members can post pictures and inside tidbits about their pets. It’s a small measure, but elements like that are what really give color and humanity to the workplace.
11. How to build a team that succeeds: Lead by example
“I wouldn’t ask someone to do something I wasn’t prepared to do myself,” Leith says.
Leith says he was taught that lesson in leadership a long time ago and has always embraced this core value. According to Leith, he ensures the first boot on the ground is always his own.
“How do you know how long it takes to do a job if you haven’t done it yourself? A team member might say ‘that job takes me two hours’ and then you do it and it takes eight minutes. There’s obviously an efficiency problem. You can also watch the way the job is being performed and figure out a way to do it faster, or do it better” Leith says.
12. Build team culture with clear expectations
Establish a scorecard that is reviewed in a regular cadence with every team member and have a weekly one-on-one with each team member you lead, as well as weekly or monthly team meetings.
You should be transparent about the team’s performance with key metrics and look to the team for input on how to improve both agency culture and performance.
“Take the big thing, break it down into bite-sized pieces, and help the team get there. Support them,” Leith says.
13. Build a positive team culture by over-communicating
Organizations that communicate effectively are 4.5x more likely to retain the best employees.
Always over-communicate your vision and goals. Leith recommends having your leadership group and teams develop mental models and talk tracks, and keep those on repeat until they are so ingrained in your vernacular you can recite them in your sleep.
“You can never over-communicate a key message to the team. The moment you are absolutely sick of mentioning something to the team is the moment they are just starting to understand it," Leith says. Everyone will feel like a more valued part of the team if they're made aware of what is happening, what the goals are, and where you expect the agency to go in the future. That's how you build a team that sticks with you.
Being repetitive in your communication leads to clarity for every member of the group.
14. Be patient when you try to build a positive team culture
“One day you wake up and there may be 100, 1000, or even 10,000 people that are counting on your concepts or your leaderships and in order to build that positive team culture. We have to realize that it doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen in a month, and probably doesn’t even happen in a year. So be patient, trust the process, and constantly be evolving,” Leith says.
Keep the focus on the well-being of your team. One day, you will look back and see an amazing agency culture of success.
Build a positive team culture and grow your agency
There’s a reason why we always hear the tried-and-true phrases in business:
- Teamwork makes the dreamwork
- There’s no "I’"in team
- Chains are only as strong as their weakest link
They might be corny, but they ring true. Invest time in the relationships, collaboration, and shared visions to find positive team work, positive agency culture, and success. Not only will you have a high-performing team, but you’ll also gain lifelong colleagues and friends when you build a positive team culture in your agency.