Creating a Positive Team Culture

teamOne of the most common mistakes leaders can make is in allowing too much negativity in teams. This can happen inadvertently when teams critique activities, but also when individuals within them become increasingly opinionated. Of course, this does not mean that criticism should not happen and it doesn’t mean offering false positives or offering only positives, either. Quite simply, a desire for realism needs to be positively focused. Here’s a few vital characteristics of teams that display this trait.

1. They say ‘yes’ to the right things more often.

A team’s response to their leader’s initiatives should be a ‘starting-yes.’ This may need to be qualified and further considered and the response may even end up being a ‘no’; blind loyalty is not the goal. However, it becomes easy for teams to be stultified by a can’t-do attitude, suffering from so-called ‘analysis paralysis’. Mistrust of leaders can exacerbate this problem.

In effect, some teams over-collaborate rather than being vision-driven. Whilst teams that cannot legitimately question or clarify may tend to be dysfunctionally authoritarian, leaders also need to be supported by a can-do attitude.

2. They celebrate together.

Team members are encouraged to report stories, not just statistics. Other team members listen empathetically and help to inspire and resource each other by creating an energetic environment. Team meetings are not mere ideas exchanges or talkfests, but centres of synergy that mobilise action for change.

Teams that genuinely celebrate have each other’s backs. A win for a member is a win for the team. People may not do life together but they don’t do strife together, either. The ability to celebrate transcends mere joke-cracking fun, so that real depth is connected to knowing and understanding each other and then pursuing each other’s best interests; some teams are surprisingly and sadly too superficial in their connections.

A celebration atmosphere shows lots of spill-over camaraderie; not just in meetings but beyond them. This involves sharing good-natured fun in the working environment, not surreptitious after-meeting meetings! Whether this is in an office scenario or not, an old truism remains that: “Teams who play together stay together.”

3. They have an objective objective!

Teams can get stuck in a negative feedback loop in which once-requested evaluations now focus on known problems or limited criteria that give false assessments, reduced passion, and typically weaker team performance. The ‘what’ of feedback can sometimes assume the ‘why’ when supposed expertise is based on limited insights. Sometimes, the solution can be to avoid such discussions altogether, since objectivity must be the leader’s objective!

Leaders need to intervene where discussions reviewing team or individual performance, for example, are not constructively positive and well-balanced. Overly strong or simplistic comments can betray emotional naivety or self-righteousness, but both may lead to unhealthy reactions if challenged, whereas a more positively-shaped team culture would actually prevent them from manifesting in the first place.

4. They have equivalent voices and use them.

Not all team players will be equals in authority or in function. Different gifts, responsibilities, positions and capacities may all affect output, even though leaders need to take responsibility for ensuring healthy cooperation and performance. The right to speak and be heard, though, must also be foundational to team health; team members are equivalent, even if they are not equal.

Healthy team members also exercise the right to be spoken to in cases where blind spots or differences negatively impact the team! Teams with healthy emotional intelligence will show candour and speak with relationally-mature forthrightness. This often needs to happen outside meetings, too, where the focus on addressing such behaviours are motivated by enhancing relationship and optimising areas of mutual interest.

Team members can ‘lead up’ by helping their team leaders to preserve a healthy culture. This needs a commitment to eliminating toxic attitudes and foreign values that ultimately threaten everyone, anyway.

Objectively and intentionally appealing to agreed standards of conduct is not about tattling or triangulation, but ‘speaking the truth in love’ directly to each other where matters of concern are raised that are directly, but with humility.

Finally, this doesn’t defer to a leader to have to address every problem, then. Of course, team members approach concerns that they do have to raise with leaders in a spirit of protection, respectfulness and seeking of each other’s best interests.


2 thoughts on “Creating a Positive Team Culture

  1. What is the best strategy to deal with people you believe that shouldn’t be on a team without causing major offense?

    Whilst as Christians we are encouraged to have the Eph 4:15 conversations with people I still find it personally somewhat perplexing, and sometimes even frustrating that people cannot receive constructive feedback.

    Relationship is the essential key in all aspects of life to convey your thoughts to others. But the tendency of a lot of people today to be more “reactive prone” as opposed to “provactive prone” is a worrying trend that I believe needs to be addressed.

    Happy to hear your thoughts Rob.

    Pete A

    Interested to hear your thoughts?

    • In separate posts I’ve looked at techniques such as using the Johari window which assesses where people are at in relation to groups. Those with blind spots need feedback from the group. Some people can deflect or rebuff loving criticism from one, but healthy community pressure nudges people toward change. This is usually a delicate matter if feedback is resisted, or if there are hidden issues, but the process is not owned by one or by a minority. True love is shown by respecting the individual’s value and strengths and by sometimes showing patience, as long as a team (or community) doesn’t avoid or procrastinate. Some people’s weaknesses are papering over issues about which they can be vulnerable, even easily bruised. However, the greater good (or the lesser evil) ultimately needs priority in most cases. This is reflected in situations where a team bring pressure to bear for change, effectively implementing stage two and three of Jesus’ conflict resolution strategy of Matthew 18:15-20. A person who fails to listen to loving counsel of several people where the issue at hand cannot be overlooked needs to then own their response. If they won’t, and if they become reactionary, the damage that could result will usually need them to preferentially submit to the majority in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 6:1-7, but with every effort being made to redeem relationship wherever possible.

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