Culture: How Does Your Team Work Together?

Developing a Team Culture is the third in the three steps necessary to create a compelling vision statement for your team or organization. In the first two steps you answered two fundamental questions for your team: Why do we exist and what are we trying to accomplish? The next most important question is “How are we going to do this.” or "How do we want to work together?"

Now the “how” question can immediately translate into the development of a plan but hold on a second – we are not quite there yet.

This “how” section is all about conduct. How is your team going to work together? In many respects, I think this is the most difficult part of the process because everyone will quickly come up with values like “Fairness” and "Integrity". Great. What is fairness? Well that’s where things get interesting because people’s definitions will be very different and there will be a lot of passion around what fairness means to each individual.

But don’t give up – this dialog is a fundamental and critical part of the process of both creating and understanding your culture! So rather than settle on “fairness” and all its various interpretations, let’s understand how it might be used to separate acceptable behaviour from unacceptable behaviour.

Culture: Team Values and Norms

Here are some other approaches to consider:

  • We will make decisions by putting the interests of the team ahead of the individual.
  • We will treat all team members with respect and demonstrate this by listening without interrupting, asking clarifying questions, avoiding the use of sarcasm directed at a team member or speaking about that individual when he or she is not present.
  • We will not make other people wrong.
  • We will see our teammates as capable, competent and committed.

Culture: The Decision Making Process

There are of course many different things that are possible in setting these team norms but some key ones that should be at least discussed include:

  • Who gets to decide?
  • How are decisions made, e.g. democratically, consensus, directive?
  • Financial accountability level.
  • How much can team members spend or commit of the teams money without approval?
  • What approvals are required?
  • How are conflicts to be dealt with?

Keep in mind that the list of team norms should be no more than a page otherwise, it will take forever to develop and secondly, it will be very cumbersome to administer. The idea here is not to resolve every issue before it happens but rather to create an environment of trust, respect and due process.

Once these three elements are in place (Purpose, Mission, Values), you (as the leader) will be able to facilitate discussions and decisions that are aligned with these elements without having to spend very much credibility.

In many cases, your facilitation and administration will actually grow your credibility with your team and its various stakeholders. So instead of saying: “Well I am the President and so we should do it my way”, which is withdrawal of credibility – you can say instead: “Which of these options aligns the best with our purpose and mission and why?” or “I want to call our attention to our values and norms again and make sure our behaviours are aligned with what we agreed with. What do people think?”

Using a framework that your team has already agreed to demonstrates great wisdom and organizational prowess.

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