In my work as a consultant to businesses and organizations, I have often found that the true impact of any team or group comes down to the power of the team culture. In this series, we have already looked at some of the ways a positive team culture is beneficial, as well as how to identify when there is a negative team culture. I now want to share my top tips on how to create a positive and powerful team culture.
A powerful and successful company culture is based on honor. I define honor as having two parts: first, the ability to see what is good in others and draw it out, and second, the ability to steward relationships well. But let’s break this down to see what we can do about this, practically.
Here are 9 ways to increase honor in your team, family, or organization:
1.Increase Listening: In a positive company culture, everyone is heard, and their contributions are valued. We strive to look outwards, to the interests and needs of our employees and customers. In order to do this well, we must first listen to what their needs are. Only when we know their needs, can we take steps to meet them.
2. Use Open Communication: In a powerful environment, people feel comfortable to say what they think without fear of punishment or shame. People feel free to disagree without feeling it is a threat to their identity. Disagreements are communicated, and opinions are utilized to create a result that is built by the wisdom of the crowd. Even when someone’s ideas don’t work out, the positive team culture says, “It was a good idea, and we still want to hear the rest of your ideas because even if this one did not work out, one of them will hit and will hit big.”
3. Encourage Trust and Truth: Trust is built through the exchange of truth. When people not only feel that they know us, but actually DO know us, it is easier for them to be truthful, honest and vulnerable themselves. In trusting relationships, fear is cast away and people show up as their true and powerful selves. When trust has been built, we also feel free to delegate. On the other hand, when people are working just to protect themselves or even to get ahead by themselves, they are essentially acting as if they are on their own team. This will never bring out someones greatest and best ideas.
4. Have Accountability: This is a form of truth, but deserves its own category. To refuse to accept the truth of failures and mistakes is to be dishonoring and hide from others. Accountability and healthy confrontation builds trust and helps people continue to enjoy each other. Accountability is not just from the top down, it is also to be accepted from the team to the leader when necessary. When there is trust, people are open to hearing feedback that comes through peers, employees, and customers.
5. Take Breaks Together: We want to see people have fun, and enjoy work. Part of how we do this is that we take breaks together when we are stressed. At my company we have places for people to relax, we have games for people to play together. We want people to have lunch together if they can. Each team will have their own way of doing this, but these breaks can be powerful to build relationship and provide connecting moments that are not stress-filled.
6. Value the Skills of Each Person: A positive company culture leads to people feeling appreciated. They feel that what they are doing matters! They feel empowered and that they are an important contributor to the team. Their greatest strengths are being used in the right way. They feel like they have the ability to be creative.
7. Value Other People: In powerful environments, people think amazing relational thoughts. They do not just care for the productivity of a person, but they care for the heart of a person. When someone’s family is sick, I am the first to tell them to go home and take care of their family. Why? Because I know that is what the person values and part of how I value them is to see what they value and honor that.
8. Create Emotional and Psychological Safety: In 2012 Google came out with “Project Aristotle.” The goal of this study was to see what made the top 10 percent of teams the highest performers. They looked at 180 teams. Their findings surprised them. The number one thing they found that contributed to high performance was psychological safety. Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson says that psychological safety is a “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” She highlights that when people feel psychologically safe, they can be themselves and do not fear being embarrassed, rejected or punished for speaking up. Ultimately, she found that psychological safety and positivity led to higher productivity in teams.
9. Stand Up for Each Other: If customers are mistreating employees, or employees are mistreating employees, it is our job to stand up and be powerful to say no; especially to the customer. It is counterintuitive because we exist to serve the customer. But, it is up to us as leaders to call out what we see. We may lose one customer, but we will gain a more loyal employee. Our employees are our most important assets and it is our job to take care of them.
I have seen that these 9 ways of increasing honor in a team or company lead the team to become more successful. When I think of a team operating in these 9 things, one team that comes to mind is Clemson University’s football team. In 2016, Clemson was playing The University of Alabama in the collegiate championship game. Alabama was considered a “Goliath” at the time, and most people would never believe Clemson had a chance. At half-time Clemson was losing, but they came back and won in the last few seconds. It was one of the greatest upsets in recent college football history. The coach, Dabo Swinney, was asked how his team managed the win. He shared that he told his team at halftime they would win because they loved each other. The athletes said their coach had been like a father figure to them, both on and off the field, so they felt especially connected and loyal to both him and their team.
A team that loves each other has a powerful ability to succeed because love is the greatest motivator known to mankind. Honor is one way to express love. Love makes us do the most amazing, sometimes even superhuman things. Many people have pushed themselves to do something out of love for another person, that they would never have done simply for themselves. This is the ultimate goal when creating a team environment. When people love and honor each other, there is no limit to what can be achieved.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I really hope it helps you on your journey to having a powerful team. Please let me know your thoughts and questions below, or get in touch on Facebook or Instagram!