Building Team First Work Culture blog

We Before Me: 4 Ways to Build a Team-First Work Culture

As a manager, when you think of your workforce, there are two primary entities involved: the individual person and the collective team. But it’s the relationship between those two that is the most important.

Similar to personal relationships, both individuals must make compromises to work together as a team. If one person is only focused on getting their own needs met, the relationship suffers. For the relationship to flourish, both parties must work together for the greater good.

So, how can team managers build a team-first work culture that focuses on a “we before me” mentality? Learning how to build a team culture that makes the company better in key areas is imperative. Here are four ways to get started:

Be Purposeful

To build a solid organizational foundation, company leadership can take a proactive approach to building team culture. By doing so, they can improve the overall experience for team members, foster open communication, and encourage collaboration. With these elements in place, the team is better positioned to achieve goal-oriented productivity.

To fully embrace a team-first culture, make sure your team purpose and priorities are clear. As you define your company's team-oriented culture, here are a few questions to help you get started:

  1. What is your overall team-first mission?
  2. What is your game plan to achieve this mission?
  3. What is expected of each team member?
  4. What are your strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a team?
  5. How can the team capitalize on their strengths?
  6. How can the team strengthen each other’s weaknesses?
  7. How can each member contribute most effectively?

Company culture isn’t just what’s stated in the employee handbook; it’s an ecosystem that impacts behaviors, rules, attitudes, work settings, customers, and everything else that affects the bottom line. Building a positive team culture involves working diligently to hone skills and set standards that become an integral part of the day-to-day operations and interactions within the workplace.

Align Hiring Talent With Company Goals

Having a good understanding of what type of employees will help your company meet business objectives is important when it comes to building a team culture.

For example, if you are the founder of an early-stage startup that is quickly scaling, you might be looking to hire employees that can put in long hours. Someone looking to punch in and out will most likely not be a good cultural fit, and might end up costing more time and resources to retain. However, if you own a florist shop known for its unique displays, you might be looking to hire based on creativity rather than availability. Knowing how to best achieve company goals will help you attract, hire, and retain the right employees that can be developed into one high-performing team.

Empower Your Workforce

Empowered employees create confident teams. And confident teams meet (and surpass) goals. As a manager, it is your responsibility to give your team the tools they need to feel empowered to make a difference at your company, building a team culture that puts people in a position to succeed.

According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, “Great managers care about their people's success. They seek to understand each person's strengths and provide employees with every opportunity to use their strengths in their role. Great managers empower their employees, recognize and value their contributions, and actively seek their ideas and opinions.”

Engage Teams, Not Just Employees

Effective teams also understand the importance of establishing collaborative processes, structures, incentives, and rewards. A team-first culture thrives on high employee engagement and cooperation, which directly correlates with high retention rates and overall employee happiness. In fact, a Columbia University study shows that organizations with high company culture have just 13.9% turnover while others with low company cultures have 48.4%.

What does this mean in practice? Do you have team job descriptions, team performance reviews and team reward systems? Do you recognize people by pitting them against standards of excellence, or one another? Can you give high-performing teams visibility across the organization? What are you doing to cultivate a team-first, cooperative environment outside of the hiring process? Building a team culture requires you to find the answers to these pertinent questions.

Managing is every bit as much about psychology and motivation as it is about employee performance. Spending time to develop a team-first mentality in your work culture can pay off two-fold when it comes to meeting business objectives while retaining talent. When all your employees are in a team-first mindset, the team is greater than the sum of its parts.

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