• Mark Topley

Three steps to improving your team culture

Do you want to work somewhere that just feels good the minute you walk in? Somewhere that the team love to come into each morning, and where your patients feel welcome and at ease? This kind of workplace only comes with a great culture.

I’ve written recently about your workplace culture and why it’s so important.

The truth is you already have a culture. If you’ve not created yours intentionally, the first step to building one that you actually want is to work out where you’re starting from. Only then can you start to build something that is more like the place you really want.

There’s a huge amount of information available on evaluating your culture. But for a small business like yours, my view is that there are three just steps you need to take.

I recommend you do this over a period of a month. Firstly, because you have your day-to-day to take care of, and secondly because the process of looking at these areas will attune your mind to look for evidence of your culture. This takes time to assimilate. You’ll likely find answers to some of the questions you ask near the beginning of the process towards the end.

1. Observe through a Culture Walk

A very simple way to asses your culture, and a good place to start is to take a walk around your business and observe carefully what you see.

  1. Physical space – what is on the walls of the staff areas, the public areas and so on?

  2. What is written communication like? What’s the tone of messages – is it formal/informal, friendly, playful etc?

  3. How do your staff interact? What kinds of emotion are expressed when they interact with one another?

  4. Do your team respect one another’s ideas and opinions?

  5. Are they working together as a team?

  6. In meetings, is the atmosphere positive, and does it encourage a free exchange of opinions?

2. Your business as a whole

These questions are worth asking yourself as the leader:

  1. Is there a memorable sense of purpose and mission?

  2. Are the values we believe are important explicit?

  3. How are you rewarding success (both in theory and in reality)?

  4. How are you addressing failure?

  5. Do you and your managers consistently behave in a way that is in line with the values?

  6. What one thing could you do to improve your culture?

3. Ask your team

This set of questions are a great way to get your team chatting about the good things in the culture they currently experience, identify things that could make it better, and crucially, get their ideas and buy-in to the culture development process.

  1. What would you tell a friend who was about to start working here?

  2. What is the one thing you would most like to change about this business?

  3. Who is a hero around here? Why?

  4. What is your favourite characteristic of the business?

  5. What kind of people don’t get on well here?

After you’ve been through these exercises, spend some time looking at the themes that emerge about the culture you currently have. What motivates your team? What do they care about? What do they see as the business’s strengths and weaknesses? What can YOU do about them?

When you get to this point, you’ll have a good idea of what you need to reward and encourage, and the things that you need to address which will be either threatening or damaging your culture.

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