An organization’s culture is based on how it functions and expresses itself. It’s a personality that has values expressed in its mission and what it does. Culture is also a collection of attitudes, both conscious and unconscious, formed through company processes and actions that influence what employees think and how they act.
So, what does it mean to have a “great” culture? A great culture is your organization’s brand. It helps your organization attract and retain top talent. It nurtures employees so that they are more interested in their work. And, it helps make the entire organization run smoothly.
How do teams fit in? Great teams are built on personal bonds. And, it’s personal bonds that increase each team member’s engagement in within the organization. A Gallup study found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, while people with friends at work are more likely to be fully engaged with their job. When you cultivate great teams that work together and collaborate with other teams, you have the building blocks you need to create a great company culture.
Here are just a few actions you can take to get your teams to a point where they can have a powerful impact on your company’s culture.
Model the organization’s culture within teams
Back in 2012, Google’s Project Aristotle set out to discover what makes teams effective. Their research found that influencing group norms was the key to improving teams. Essentially, when leaders model aspects of the company’s expressed culture, it spreads that culture among team members.
For instance, one aspect of a company’s stated culture may be that everyone is free to express themselves. This fosters creative thinking and breakthrough ideas. An effective way to build a great team is for the team leader to model that cultural aspiration by creating a zone of “psychological safety” within the group. When it’s safe for group members to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgement-free questions, they can let their guard down and connect with other group members. This modeling of the organization’s culture by the group leader has the impact of infusing the culture within the group, and ultimately throughout the company.
Discover what motivates your team members
You can try to motivate team members based on what you want them to do. Or, you can find out what motivates each person on the team and use that information to motivate them. When you know what your team is passionate about, you can connect with them on a deeply personal level. The effort you spend to get to know your team shows them that you actually care about them.
Pass the leadership baton
The leader is expected to lead. Why not switch things up a bit? Consider spreading leadership responsibilities among group members. Instead of leading a meeting, let someone else in the group lead the meeting. Rotate that responsibility around the group to give everyone the responsibility of leading the team.
Have an email-less day
One of the best ways to get team members, and different teams, to interact with one another is to ban email for a day. Try picking a day out of every month and make it an email-less day. If someone has a question or has to communicate a message, they’ll have to get up and talk to their coworkers face to face. Sure, it will be a chatty day. But it will help build relationships within teams and across teams.
Focus on new hires
Almost by definition, new hires are not well-connected to the company’s culture. They may appreciate the culture, but they aren’t “living” it yet. That’s why it’s so important to surround them with a team that they can bond with. Teams becomes stronger as new hires absorb the team’s culture, and with it, the company’s culture.
Have more fun
Ditch the team-building exercises and have more fun. Get out and play games on a Friday afternoon. There are lots of things that teams can do. Consider softball, flag football, bowling, or even paintball. Think of fun ways that people can compete within a team as well as ways teams can compete with each other. Social events like these help employees create bonds that builds a sense of community within your organization.
Build great teams with food
Eating food is a communal activity. That’s why eating together works to build teams. Instead of having pot-luck lunches and pizza Fridays, invest in providing Lunch as a Benefit (LaaB). When your team members have the opportunity to enjoy a free lunch on a daily basis, they have more occasions to have casual conversations that serve as the glue that bonds teams together.
The Google research mentioned above also found that employees who eat together tend to form larger networks by rotating eating companions. Leverage this research to build stronger teams and cross-team relationships by incentivizing your team members to pick a different group to eat with each week.
Whichever tactic you try—and you should try all of them—keep in mind that your strategy is to build great teams that support and maintain the culture of your organization.