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Building a Strong Team Culture: What you Need to Know

August 14th, 2020

Every workplace operates with its own culture and its own social ecosystem. This ecosystem can be stronger than the sum of its parts; in some cases, that means that the group maintains values, habits, worldviews, and moods that the individuals within it may not hold at all. In subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways, each person who joins the group begins to change when they enter the workspace or the team space, and these changes may be unrecognized or even involuntary. If the culture of the team is weak, each person becomes a little weaker when they step into the group space. And if the culture is strong, each person becomes a little stronger and their best qualities shine a little brighter when they’re in the company of the team.

A culture of viciousness, pointless competition, brutality, sarcasm, or veniality can infect those who are part of it—even honest and hardworking individuals. And the opposite is also true.

So how can you boost the productivity and overall excellence of your culture, and boost each member of the team by association?

Focus on trust.

People are stronger when they work together. It’s a known fact. Many hands and many minds are almost always better than just one, and solving problems and resolving conflicts are easier when we stand together and commit to the task. But to do that, we have to start with the first building block: trust. If team members are competing against each other instead of an outside force, that’s no good. If team members can’t be open or honest with each other, that’s also a bad sign. To build a culture of trust, start by encouraging (or even requiring) your team to cheer each other on and celebrate each other’s small accomplishments. This may feel fake or forced at the beginning, but in time, it will become as natural as breathing.

Drop the negativity.

While you’re building each other up, work to stop tearing each other down. Distribute resources and attention fairly, give credit where its due, and ask your employees to speak OF and TO each other respectfully, even when they can’t be overheard. praise those who move away from gossip and backstabbing and those who decline rewards that have been handed to them unfairly.

Encourage listening.

Most problems can be solved easily when we seek to understand, not to be understood. This is harder to do than it seems, of course, but with constant encouragement and a little training, you can make progress as a group.

Fun can be more than just fun.

Small celebrations like happy hours and breaks for birthday cake can seem inconsequential, but these unscripted moments are the times when real relationships begin to take root and grow. Make space for them; don’t consider them wasteful. Over time, they can boost productivity far more than any expensive seminar. For more on how to actively change your company or team culture, consult with the experts at Merritt.

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