Many people have paraphrased Marvin Bower and defined “culture” as “the way we do things around here.” Culture is your team’s unwritten rules and core values. Here are four vitally important truths about team culture.
Every team has a culture
You don’t have a choice in the matter. The only choice you have is whether you will be intentional about shaping the culture. It won’t be easy, but it’s important.
Neither great teams nor great team cultures happen by accident
You could let your team culture just happen. Lots of leaders do that very thing. They leave it up to the group or divine intervention or luck. But you won’t get a great team culture, and therefore a great team, without thoughtful, diligent effort.
You have to decide what kind of culture you want
Before you can tell others what kind of culture you want, you have to know for yourself. How do you want people to act? What kind of behavior will you reward? You can’t create a culture you can’t imagine.
If you’re the leader, everything you do matters
If you’re the leader, the person responsible for the team’s performance, culture is your job. People are paying attention to everything you say and everything you do. With every encounter and every communication, you have an opportunity to move closer to the culture you want. Or not.
You can’t let the fire die
I owe my friend, Mark Deterding, for this analogy. It comes from the manuscript for his forthcoming book on Servant Leadership.
“It’s just like feeding a campfire. If you’re not feeding it constantly, it’s going to die down. If you’re not feeding the culture that you want, it’s going to die down.”
You are never done creating the culture you want.