Joshua Burke / Culture Noodles & Doodles / July 10th, 2014

Creating Team Cultures That Stick – 352 Noodles & Doodles

Company culture is a tricky thing. Just like the melting pot of the US, your company culture is actually made up of many micro-cultures, built by teams, departments, cliques or whatever sort of groups your business naturally divides into. As a business owner or manager, it’s your job to help those teams develop healthy cultures and to ensure that they support the company culture you’re trying to instill in your employees.

Creating healthy team cultures requires trust – both between team members and between you and your employees – and some hard work. In this week’s 352 Noodles & Doodles, I want to help you understand the elements of a strong culture.

Transcript below.

Image credit: nikoretro

[Josh Burke:] Hi, my name’s Josh. I’m a front-end developer here at 352 and today, I want to talk about creating team culture. But, what does culture mean? Well, we often think of culture as a series of practices, beliefs passed down from groups in regions and areas around the world. It’s a way of us describing something to others that may not have experienced their way of life before. But, I want to dig a little deeper. What is culture comprised of? What is it made of? Well, culture is made of individuals, individuals who come together with certain beliefs, and practices, and ways of thinking. 
 
Now, at 352, we work on teams and it’s great. But, one of the most difficult things working on a team is dealing with all those individual personalities and cultures. We all come together and form in a team, a sort of micro culture. The micro culture of our team then combines with other cultures to create the overall culture of an organization. And, the health of those individual teams will dictate the health of the overall organization. So, it’s really important that we understand what the health is of our own team. So, to do that, we’re going to look at a culture describing behavior. Now, there are certain terms we’ve all heard before, culture of greed, culture of corruption. We’ve also heard the terms culture of peace and a culture of prosperity. But, what do these mean? What they mean is it’s a description of the way a group behaves, a way a team would behave. How would you describe your team? How would you describe your team’s culture? Would you be a culture of generosity, teamwork? Would you be a culture of uplifting each other and support? Or, would you be a culture of argumentativeness and aggression or defensiveness? Now, in order to define that, what we need to do is we need to look at the individuals that comprise the team as a whole. We need to look at those individual’s attitudes, their values, and their goals. Well, why do we need to do this? Well, because each person has their own way of interpreting situations. They have their own way of reacting to things. By doing that, each person coming together forms a way of reacting as a group. Now, if we are to analyze the health of a team, we need to know these attitudes, values, and goals of each individual team member, which brings me into going beyond the surface.

Now, in order to communicate properly with our fellow teammates, in order to lift them up and create a strong union and bond, it requires trust. So, often in life, we come across people who we develop very quick surface-level opinions of. It’s a natural response, everyone does it. It has been a practice we’ve done for thousands of years in order to assure that we do not put ourselves in harms way.

These quick decisions about people however rarely are the full story. To understand that and to understand the individuals on a team, we really need to go beyond the surface. We need to understand our fellow teammates deeper. We need to know how they feel about things, how they react to things. We need to know most importantly how they think because their thought process is the combined experiences of their life, and the way that they have developed thinking to pretty much, I don’t know what’s the word, to relate to others. 

So, by knowing that, we can do a few things. We can first understand what best way to communicate with another person. It’s quite an arrogant way to think that everyone should communicate with you how you communicate naturally. We’re all different. Every single person is different. And, if we don’t understand those differences, or we don’t understand what another person needs to hear, or a manner in which they need to hear it, we’re going to end up creating conflicts because we’ll present something that might offend, or might confuse, or it might just be plain wrong. Misunderstanding comes from those, and misunderstanding is what breaks trust. 

Now, it’s important to note that behavior influences behavior. If we don’t know the person deeper and know how to interact with them, then our behaviors towards another person could be way off base. We could walk into a situation and we could say, “Why didn’t you do this, why didn’t you do that? You ruined my code, you ruined my this, and you ruined this.” That’s a horrible thing to say to somebody but if you’re angry, you might not understand how best to put it through to someone. 

What that does, that behavior causes them to become defensive. It causes them to lash back, which is a dangerous thing. Now, on the other hand, what if you walked up to someone and said, “Thank you so much for the hard work you’ve been doing. I really appreciate it. I know this burn has been tough and I know that this time has been tough, and you’ve really powered through.” What would that do to this person’s behavior? It would amplify them, it would lift their spirits. It could bring them out of a funk. A team could be riding on the bottom and it could only take one team member’s behavior to influence the rest of the team’s behavior, to lift them up and allow them to power through and eventually, achieve the success that we all want to achieve.

Before any of this though can happen, we really need to do this. We need to see yourself first, then others. What I mean by this is we need to analyze ourselves. We need to look in the mirror. We need to understand who we are as a person, how we react to situations, what our life experiences have sort of created, and the way that we communicate with others. By understanding that, we can understand areas of improvement that we would have in ourselves. By doing that, for example, if let’s say I were horrible at checking emails. Now, my actions by not checking emails would negatively influence the rest of the team. I could go through a whole day and not read anything. The next day, I start asking questions, and the first thing they respond with is, “Have you read your emails? Have you done this?” I’m taking time out of the team’s productivity to ask things that could have been known already. That would be a great example of an area of improvement. 

Now, by us knowing those, we can tackle those areas of improvement prior to them ever becoming an issue that the team then has to take time to address. So, it’s really important that we just analyze ourselves, and we know ourselves before we approach someone else. After we’ve done that and after we understand someone’s behaviors, because we’ve gone beyond the surface, then at that point, we can speak to them in a manner that is conducive to a team and create positivity for everyone. Thank you very much for listening. My name is Josh. Thanks for watching and please subscribe. Until next time, see you later.