The Three Pillars of Understanding Team Culture
Jan 17, 2017 · 4 min read

From Culture to Team Culture

In order to know what team culture is, it is important to understand the general, more universal definition of culture. We hear the term everywhere and yet when it comes to defining it, more often than not, we get tongue-tied. Culture, broadly speaking, is a lot like personality — it is something you are born with, you bring it with you wherever you go, it is innate to your being and without it, you lack a sense of belonging. To have culture means to have traditions and beliefs, ones that you share with others. Or to give a slightly more academic view —

Culture is a way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time (Cambridge English Dictionary).

So how does culture translate into a professional team setting?

The Culture of Groups

We are used to talking about culture while referring to countries, nations, regions, or even some broad aspects of arts and sciences. Company culture is becoming a hot topic in literature and media, however, team culture — perhaps not so much. It goes without saying, that the strength of a wolf lies in the pack. The strength of each person lies in their upbringing, family, friends, community or in their nationality. So, why is there a perception that individuals can be happy, productive and engaged in a professional environment when surrounded by people they are simply not compatible with or with whom they don’t share any common aspirations or values? This is where team culture comes into play. Team culture isn’t built just in order to print awesome unifying slogans on company T-shirts or coffee mugs, but to make sure all team members are satisfied and performing to the highest level. No team can work together successfully, when the team members’ uniqueness, as well as their individual needs and motivations, aren’t taken into account.

Individuals doing different parts of the same job, solving the same problem, is bluntly put a group. All groups are not necessarily teams. Teams and team culture are built by bringing together people who work for a common goal, with a unified purpose, and while supporting each other in achieving that goal.

Team Culture and the Individual

Imagine 10 different desserts you absolutely adore and mix them all up in a bowl. I bet it wouldn’t look or taste all that appetizing, or anything close to what the ingredients looked like separately. Same goes for team culture and individuals. For example, if you gather a team of people who are all extroverts, high-achieving individuals who respect traditions and prefer self-direction over any kind of micromanagement — none of these words would describe the actual culture of the team you have built. The team as an entity will behave, respond to change, and deal with challenges completely differently than the individuals would separately.

The best-performing teams are always built up with individuals who are not exact replicas of each other when it comes to personality and values but rather are different and with characteristics that complement each other.

Building Great Team Culture

Teams and individuals within them have the power to create a good working culture and a productive a professional atmosphere — based on how they communicate, collaborate, get their work done etc. Great teams, however, don’t necessarily have the ability to build great team culture , but great team culture, on the other hand, can build an exceptional team. Outstanding team culture requires an understanding of the personality of the team as a whole. In the context of the team, this is the sum total of the things the team members collaborate value, what motivates them, what puts then down, what engages them and makes them jump over their shadow if needed.

Therefore, the three pillars of understanding team culture are actually quite a simple concepts. Firstly, one should start making sense of the team’s collaborative personality and potential, secondly, recognizes and supports each team member team member’s individuality, and last but not least, actually prioritize developing team culture in order to shape the team into an even better one.

No person alone can achieve what a collective can, and hence, great team culture is the very basis of achieving growth, productivity and success in any endeavor you take upon.

Written by

Teamscope is a management insights tool that lets you explore and understand the science behind high-performing teams and make smarter hiring decisions.

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