One of the realities of the last 12-24 months is the challenge of creating a healthy team culture during a pandemic season. I’ve had countless conversations with leaders who have reflected on the ways they have helped their teams navigate this season–some went to more frequent meetings with their teams (even daily) so that team members felt cared for and supported. Two years later, these teams are thriving.

A leader I was speaking to asked how he could more effectively empower his team. His vision is to create a supportive environment while maximizing the potential of each individual as well as the collective group. After wrestling with several potential approaches, he discovered some missing pieces in the culture he had established. Out of this conversation (and others I have navigated with leaders) emerged five ways to build a healthy team culture.

5 Ways to Build a Healthy Team Culture

#1 Clear expectations

#2 Regular communication

#3 Compelling rewards

#4 Real consequences

#5 High Trust

Each of these are significant in themselves, but when implemented together there is a synergistic relationship.

Let’s unpack each one:

#1 Clear expectations

When your team is initially organized, discuss the expectations you have as the leader. Just as important, discuss the expectations members of the team have of you and of one another.  A simple list of “team norms” or operating principles can go a long way in removing ambiguity in the team you are leading.

Clarifying expectations on the front end will help you avoid the conflict and ambiguity that sometimes can erode trust over time. Here are questions to consider in determining team norms:

  • What are the most important ways we can demonstrate respect for each other?
  • What are the non-negotiable commitments we are making to each other?
  • How can we assess the health of our team?

#2 Regular communication

Frequency of communication is a common challenge teams face. Communication often translates into “meetings” which in some organizations suggests a waste of time. Consider also how communication needs to take place: in person, virtually, via e-mail or text, or “as needed”. These are all considerations that should be discussed before problems emerge. I have not come across a one-size fits all approach to communication, but here are some questions to consider in evaluating and implementing regular communication:

  • What issues do we need to stay current on in our team?
  • What is the minimum amount of time we can allow between communication (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly)?
  • What is the best forum for this type of communication (e.g. in person, virtual, e-mail or text)?

#3 Compelling rewards

Rewards can range from fun and simple to more significant. Discussing ways you can reward team members for their achievements can be a motivator for team members. One team leader I worked with rewarded team members by highlighting some outstanding behavior, achievement, or quality in front of their peers. A kind word or personal note goes a long way to affirm the contributions team members make.  Here are questions to ask to identify compelling rewards for your team:

  • What are some meaningful ways you have shown appreciation for your team members?
  • What do you want to reward in your team?
  • How will you reward qualities or achievements?

#4 Real consequences

This might sound like a parenting trait, but setting clear boundaries with felt consequences when a boundary has been ignored or broken is critical to building a high-trust team culture.  Just as important is following through on a consequence when a team member fails to observe the commitment they have made to their teammates. For example, if a person is habitually late and one of the “team norms” is punctuality, the leader needs to enforce a consequence for the impact the tardiness has on the team. The action you take (or fail to take) communicates your commitment to upholding your team norms. Use these reflection questions to help you and your team agree to real consequences:

  • What behaviors will your team not tolerate?
  • What will the consequences be?
  • Are you willing to enforce those?

#5 High trust

Each of the previous 4 aspects of building a healthy team culture relates to trust. The speed at which you can develop trust within a team will determine how fast you are able to move toward your goals. The higher the level of trust, the more you can accelerate your progress as a team toward the vision. Conversely, the lower the trust…well, you get the idea.  Here are a couple of reflection questions to help you reinforce trust with your team:

  • What is the most effective way you have built trust within your team?
  • What has eroded trust?
  • What can you do to increase trust within your team?

In the last 12-24 months, leaders have had to be more intentional in building healthy team cultures. Ignoring these five aspects of a healthy team–or failing to give attention to them–has exposed the cracks in many organizations and churches. The healthier the culture, the stronger the organization.

If you need help or are seeking a guide to help you work through the nuances of leading your team, InFocus is here to help.  To book a free consultation with Gary Reinecke, find a time that works with your schedule – CLICK HERE.



Photo by Headway on Unsplash


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