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Discovering Team Culture: Take Your First Steps

leadership transition Mar 30, 2021
Team Huddle Leadership Transition

 -By Sophie Pinkoski

Every organization has its own unique team culture naturally built out of its members’ shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours in their aim to achieve a common goal. As you arrive in your role, you and your team will experience an adjustment period. You might wonder who should adapt to whom.

"Should you adapt to the existing team culture, or will the culture adapt to you?"

What tends to get overlooked, however, is that team culture will evolve over time as people come and go from the organization. Every leadership change will impact the organization’s culture. You must first understand your organization’s unique existing culture in order to put yourself in an informed position to make your own purposeful impact.

In HBR’s article Onboarding Isn’t Enough, the authors note that “misfit with organizational culture” is the second highest stumbling block for a new leader. That won’t happen to you, if you are purposeful in your actions.

In a world where most professional work is being done online, the lack of in-person office interaction makes team culture particularly challenging to identify, define, or fully understand. Here are some tips on how to navigate this new environment:

Take STOCK – The C in our Take STOCK model stands for Culture. Now’s the time to schedule conversations with a wide variety of individuals to explore their perspectives on its team culture. Talk to your board, stakeholders, and team members. Ask long-serving members to describe scenes or situations that best exemplify the team culture in practice. Your newest team members may have a fresh perspective on the culture they expected compared to the one they now experience from inside the organization. Even your clients can give you insights into your team culture. Review past recorded client calls or schedule client meetings to get a sense of your team’s behaviour patterns that uphold your organization’s values.

Do your background reading – The great thing about entering into an existing organization is having plenty of materials to work with. Take advantage of the written records collected over the years. Get a sense of your organization’s core values from its communications and promotional materials targeted toward its stakeholders. Previous staff engagement surveys will also help you identify how individual team members view the organization. Pay close attention to those open-ended comments for genuine insights into the team culture and how it has evolved over the years.

Take advantage of virtual meetings – Because of the lack of office culture due to the pandemic, your virtual connections will likely be your only opportunity to observe the organization’s culture in action. To encourage engagement in these conversations, utilize the chat function so people can express their thoughts and brainstorm words to define your team’s culture.

Over your tenure, you and your team will build a partnership integral to effectively running your organization. Discovering your team’s culture and how you want to impact it going forward is just one aspect of a productive leadership transition. Understanding your team culture and your team understanding you goes hand in hand. For tips on how to identify your personal brand to communicate it to your team, check out our Personal Branding post.

Further Reading:

5 Ways to Build Team Culture in a Remote World, Entrepreneur

3 Ways You Can Build a Strong Team Culture Over Zoom, Business Insider

Understanding and Adapting to New Organizational Culture, American Management Association

What is Team Culture in the Workplace? (Five Ways to Build Company Culture), Open Sourced Workplace

What the Hell is ‘Team Culture’ and Why is it so Important?, Prototypr




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