Building a team culture where everyone feels they belong is just as important as meeting targets and delivering projects. You don’t have to be a big team to create an environment where your team are engaged, cooperative, and can speak up and take risks.
As a leader, you are responsible for setting a strategy for your team, product, or platform. This shouldn’t be done around a boardroom table with no input from your team.
You may think you have open and honest communication. But if management is always behind closed doors, and meetings look like they are top secret you will give the impression that feedback isn’t welcome.
- Have regular updates with the team on what the management team is thinking about, how the strategy is shaping up, and explain how the team’s voices have been heard.
- When you do present the strategy give plenty of opportunity for questions and feedback. The team are more likely to care when they have had input in the future of the team and what they will be working towards.
Creating a community
Your team are more than ‘resources’. They will feel much more like they belong if they can bring their whole selves to work without switching on a persona. Once everyone on your team feels they can be themselves they will be more likely to take risks and speak up with ideas and opinions.
- Being cold and distant sends the message that you are unapproachable and stifles teamwork. You don’t need to share everything that is going on in your personal life but be authentic and honest.
- Be generous with feedback and celebrate success. Tell your team what it is you appreciate about their work and don’t wait until a project is over to do so.
- Reward every success, no matter how big or small.
Creativity and innovation
With trust and the opportunity to be creative, teams can do great things. Innovation comes from an environment where your team is comfortable presenting their own ideas, rather than following exactly what has been prescribed.
- Give teams the autonomy to work out how they should tackle a problem, set their own deadlines, and manage any issues which come up.
- Instead of running back-to-back sprints, throw in a jog week occasionally. This is time to revisit documentation, professional development, or work on an experiment or idea that won’t ever make a sprint week.
- Look out for processes which may be stifling innovation. The team will never try to challenge the status quo if ideas to need to go through ‘red tape’.
Invest in your team
This isn’t just about on-the-job training for the roles your teammates are in. Giving your team the tools to succeed, education in what interests them, and support sends the signal they are valued.
- Ask your team what they are interested in learning about and the role they aspire to be in.
- Don’t let professional development take a back seat. Prioritise education that your team want to pursue and commit to blocking out time so it can happen during the workday.
- Becoming a people manager is a career change. Build up your new managers as they change roles with support and formal training so they have a positive impact on their new reports.
- Invest in benefits such as flexible working, wellness programmes, and team events that a diverse group will enjoy.
Share your success
Shaping team culture is no easy feat. But by committing to building a flexible, creative environment the team will feel included, motivated, and engaged. Make share you share your strategy with other teams to build up the whole organisation.
- Xero’s Inside Out Team Culture
- In good company: How to create a culture of collaboration at work
- ThoughtWorks beyond the tech: Embedding a culture of effective remote working