Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.
Teamwork is a practice that as leaders, collaborators, and colleagues, we all need to focus our time and energy on. 86 percent of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration as the reason for workplace failures.
“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 environment, likely outcomes include:
- Better performance
- Higher employee retention rates
- Increased profitability
- Improved employee morale and mental health
We examine 14 tips you need to achieve a positive culture within teams and across your organization.
1. Build a Culture of Success
Every individual’s definition of success is different. It’s important to discuss the term “success” and explore what it means to members on your team. Collaboratively define what metrics, outcomes, and actions will signal a 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 goals are reached.
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
Amazingly only 7 percent of employees say they fully understand their company's business goals. 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
3. Identify Values
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 the values they believe are of the utmost importance 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.
Ask questions like:
- What do you value?
- What unspoken values have contributed to our 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?
Once you’ve developed the values statement, posting it in your break room isn’t enough. It’s critical to identify any changes you’ll make or practices you’ll adopt to support value integration. Teach 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.
Having a culture of mutual respect has time and again been shown to be a key core value for thriving organizations. 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
“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. Continuous Development
Building a positive team culture 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
Recognition goes a long way to boost morale and keep the 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. Teams will, in turn, have a greater tendency to repeat this behavior, forming a culture of collaboration and acknowledgment.
“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.
You don’t win every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, or year. Eventually, things get hard, or you enter a slump. The tough times are a good test of the strength of your team. As you analyze your team culture, try asking yourself and your leadership this question: Will they come together and conquer the challenge or will they fold?
Everything is easy when you are winning, but what defines a truly positive team culture is how the team copes with inevitable struggles.
9. Working Together
By fostering a positive work environment you enable your team to self-manage, coach, heal, and grow. It is one of the amazing bi-products of building a great 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. More Than Just Work
Embrace team-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 collaboration.
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. 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. 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 on the team’s performance with key metrics and look to the team for input on how to improve performance.
“Take the big thing, break it down into bite-sized pieces and help the team get there. Support them,” Leith says.
13. Over Communicate
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.
Being repetitive in your communication, leads to clarity for every member of the group.
14. Be Patient
“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.
Keeping the focus on the wellbeing of your team, and one day you will look back and see an amazing culture of success.
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 success. Not only will you have a high performing team, you’ll gain lifelong colleagues and friends.