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Building a positive team culture

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This page outlines steps that can help you build a positive team culture.

Establish a supportive environment

In an effective team, people support each other by listening, coaching, offering ideas, evaluating, and encouraging experimentation.

To develop a supportive team environment:

  • develop a set of shared team values
  • allow time to discuss different perspectives
  • be open with each other
  • provide opportunities for joint problem-solving, sharing work and learning
  • act the way you’d like to see others act – for example, share your concerns, listen well and give constructive feedback
  • find opportunities for social contact – such as coffee, lunch, or social activities after work
  • encourage team responses to individual problems
  • encourage people to share achievements and show appreciation
  • celebrate team achievements.

Understand team dynamics

Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist, defined ‘team dynamics’ as ‘the positive and negative forces within groups of people.’ Understanding team dynamics will help your team perform at their best and manage crises effectively.

The best way to understand your team’s dynamics is to get to know your team. You can do this by:

  • observing your team: how do they communicate and solve problems?
  • meeting with team members one-to-one: encourage open discussion and let them share their concerns
  • speaking to people your team works with: how effective do they think your team is?

You should also create space for them to get to know each other. Read our section below on building trust.

Tuckman’s model of team development

Team dynamics are not static – they change over time. You can use Tuckman’s model of team development to understand:

  • the four stages teams typically progress through
  • the support you might need to put in place at each stage.

Build trust

Your team needs to trust you to make decisions, while also feeling empowered to deliver their work. To establish this trust:

  • hold a team discussion on your understanding of leadership
  • encourage different team members to take a lead on specific projects or tasks
  • give each other feedback on leadership and other qualities
  • review your leadership style in one-to-ones with your manager and identify ways you can develop.

Team building activities are a really good way to build trust. Mind Tools suggests some team building exercises and activities you might find useful.

Create cooperation

Every member of your team should show an active commitment to your team’s objectives. Your team should recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and understand how to work well together.

To develop this:

  • take time to learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses – use this knowledge to help you plan the team’s work
  • provide opportunities for the whole team to work together and share input – for example, in team planning
  • schedule work in a way that allows different team members to work together
  • clarify each person’s role or input on joint projects
  • encourage experienced people to support or coach less experienced team members.

Encourage development

Ensuring individuals are given opportunities to develop new skills and experiences will also help you build a positive team culture. To achieve this:

  • hold regular one-to-ones and appraisals with each member of your team
  • make sure each team member has a learning and development plan linked to team and individual job objectives
  • recognise and reward achievement
  • make sure training and development is included in team plans
  • use team meetings as an opportunity for learning and development
  • where needed, hold team training days.

Minimise conflict

In an effective team, people will feel comfortable expressing themselves openly and honestly. They’ll want to work through difficult situations or conflict constructively.

To help your team achieve this:

  • develop team values that include being open and giving constructive criticism and praise
  • find a good balance between being supportive and challenging others
  • facilitate some team building exercises
  • evaluate team performance as a group
  • give positive and constructive feedback and make sure it is not aimed at only one or two people
  • openly discuss differences before they develop into major conflict
  • if there are major conflicts invite a third party to facilitate discussion
  • allow people to express frustration or anger openly and respectfully.

Collaborate with others

To create a positive team culture, your team will need to feel valued and respected by other teams, as well as by each other. You can achieve this mutual respect by:

  • holding a team ‘open day’ or ‘lunch and learn session’, where you share your work with other teams
  • develop joint projects and planning where it supports your organisation’s strategic objectives
  • inviting people from across your organisation to your team meetings
  • having a joint social event with other teams
  • asking other teams for feedback on your team’s performance
  • giving feedback to other teams if they ask for it – remember to start with the positives if they do
  • appointing team members to liaise with other teams or agencies
  • providing opportunities to shadow members of another team, and vice versa.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2023

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