4 Key Components to a Successful Team Culture

Gregg Gregory

Some people ask, “Why invest in teamwork? There’s no ROI in that.” Well, we know that the culture of an organization has a dramatic impact on the bottom line. Moreover, every team within the organization has a dramatic impact on the culture and thus an impact on the bottom line. So, how do you know if your team’s culture is in need of an overhaul—a makeover?

A great culture commonly leads to healthy results over the long run. Although challenging to define, you can actually feel it. Powerful winning cultures have three markers of equal value.

  1. A sense of purpose: The culture is clear and compelling. The team and the organization as a whole have a sense of purpose, so everyone knows why they and the team are there and why others care that they are.
  2. A mindset of continual knowledge development and personal growth: When this mindset is in place, evident from the top of the organization through to the employees, workers are willing to take calculated risks to achieve desired results.
  3. An attitude of optimism: Recognizing that the glass is half full is essential to a successful culture. Optimism means not that everyone lives in a fairy-tale world but rather that they understand that connections as well as winning cultures are made through possibilities.

When all three of these indicators are strong, you have a winning and highly effective culture.

How do you know when a culture shift is needed? Much like car racing in the desert  when the wheels are spinning yet the car doesn’t really seem to be getting anywhere, it’s time to consider a change when the team seems to be going and going but isn’t really accomplishing anything. Once they recognize that a culture shift is necessary, most organizations and teams believe that they are going to make a rapid 180-degree change. This is simply impractical, not to mention unrealistic.

The makeover or reshaping process of a team or organization where the culture is broken or working poorly must begin at the top: If an organization shift is necessary, then it begins with the CEO; if the team’s culture is struggling, then it is the division or department manager.

Four components are essential to increase the likelihood of successfully remoulding the team’s culture.

  1. Strong Leadership: It all begins at the top. Leadership must be purposeful. If you are a leader whose skills are perceived as ineffective, you must learn to be more effective before beginning this facelift. If you are unsure of your effectiveness, numerous tools are available to help you measure it, including The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, a truly 360-degree leadership feedback report. When the leader is present and heavily involved in the culture shift process, the likelihood of success increases dramatically.
  2. Individual Change: Another essential leadership element is adaptability. Leaders must be willing to do things differently based on the situation and the current goals for the team. Getting stuck doing things the same way year after year is guaranteed to set the team up for failure. When leaders can create effective changes, others will follow naturally.
  3. Rocket-Launch Momentum: In a NASA rocket launch, significantly more energy is burned in the first few minutes of the flight than at any other time during the mission due to the pull of earth’s gravity. Thinking “that’s the way things have always been done” often acts like a gravitational pull. In the beginning of the change process, a significant amount of focus and energy is necessary to move the process through this inertia before it begins to take hold and move on its own.
  4. Concentrated Viability: Tangible and efficient processes must be in place to ensure that changes in team culture are effective and strong. Leaders must be sure that systems in place can support the new culture. Set up a culture leadership team with key personnel to manage the transformation project. This team can address issues like communication, team chemistry, project assignments, and compensation quickly and efficiently so that team members can focus on team goals.


Think about it as if you were building a new organization from the ground up. What would you do first to create the winning culture you need to produce the results you want? Top organizations like Southwest Airlines constantly look at their team culture. Southwest has a culture of fun and job enjoyment. They also have been known to say, “The customer is not our number one customer. Our number one customer is our employee; if we take care of our employees our employees will take care of our customers.” At the end of the day, culture is core.

Gregg Gregory, CSP, of Teams Rock, works with organizations to help them create a winning culture through teamwork. His interactive workshops and consulting help clients achieve greater productivity, team morale, and a positive organizational culture. He has over two decades of experience in human resources, real estate, mortgage banking, and radio and television broadcasting. To learn more, contact Gregg via www.TeamsRock.com.


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