One of the most common questions my clients ask me is how I keep my teams so positive. Culture is unique to each organization, and culture is people. Within each company is a unique culture defined by the people within it. At the same time, several important qualities span all of our organizations’ cultures—and many of our clients’ cultures—that contribute to their upbeat natures.
There are seven essential elements of positive team culture that bring balance and support to teams. With each of the seven underlying qualities, teams find more motivation to work together and utilize their advantages.
To ensure a positive team culture in your organization, focus on integrating these seven essential qualities:
1. Build a foundation of trust. Many studies show that trust is the foundational element of a positive culture. From onboarding new team members to leading established teams, organizational leaders can find opportunities to build trust with every interaction. A foundation of trust aides in communication and collaboration. By remaining transparent with new and current employees, leaders and their teams aren’t afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I was wrong.” They are authentic and vulnerable, creating a foundation of trust.
2. Create stability. An environment of stability allows teams to feel safe. Because culture is people, strive to create an environment that’s supportive, inclusive, and encouraging of individual members’ contributions. Stability means teams experience consistent and fair treatment. They have abundant opportunities to take chances and make leaps in their learning, and as change occurs, culture remains intact. Culture is at an organization’s core, just as people are at its cultural core.
3. Instill kindness. Work can often be stressful, but that doesn’t mean leaders or team members should sacrifice kindness and human decency. Instill an attitude of kindness and consideration even when a situation is less than ideal. Treating people with kindness shows them respect and preserves the positive influence across the organization. Kindness keeps the door open for opportunities.
4. Provide structure. Many small business owners or those who work in small departments discount structure as invasive. However, with structure in place, people know what’s expected of them and where the boundaries of organizational protocol lie. Structure provides a sense of belonging to a team, as all members know how to perform while striving for organizational goals.
5. Hold people (including yourself) accountable. Accountability comes from upholding the parameters surrounding structure and stability. When team members are accountable for consistently maintaining organizational structure, they aide in its stability. Accountability is not about disciplining team members but about providing feedback in an effort to positively influence the team’s reliability.
6. Cultivate a spirit of reliability. Reliability is borne of the first five qualities of a positive team culture. When a team faces hardships, whether personal or professional, having a culture of trust, stability, kindness, structure, and accountability will help its members feel supported. They can rely on their leaders and the organization to see them through while reciprocating when leaders must rely on their teams to push through unforeseen challenges.
7. Foster respect. Respect is a valuable part of positive culture and typically must be earned. Even if an organization has all six of the previous qualities, without respect, positivity will falter. Respect comes from consistently displaying the above six qualities. Additionally, to gain respect, a person must show respect to others.
Many of these essential qualities of a positive organizational culture are intertwined. Should leaders or team members ignore or take any for granted, the positive culture will erode. It takes a long time to build a positive organizational culture and only a day to destroy it. A positive culture will only grow and strengthen by giving attention to these seven essential elements with every interaction.
Brian Smith, PhD, is founder and senior managing partner of IA Business Advisors, a management consulting firm that has worked with more than 18,000 CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers and employees worldwide. Together with his daughter, Mary Smith, he has authored his latest book, Individual Advantages: Be the “I” in Team. Learn more at iabusinessadvisors.com.