Want Great Cultures? First, Build Great Teams!

great teams build great cultures

People sometimes tell me that The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization (Harvard Business School Press, 1993) helped them understand the difference between great team experiences and terrible team experiences. These readers recognized the value of what my co-author, Doug Smith, and I called a “real team” — a team composed of people committed to common purposes, goals, and working approaches accepting of the diversity in others’ skills and perspectives. In real teams, members hold themselves and their teammates mutually accountable, because of their emotional commitment to the work and to one another. That’s how they get things done rapidly and effectively.

Is the “Soft Stuff” Really Soft?

soft on leadership?

“We don’t have time for the soft stuff” was recently heard in a senior leadership meeting. “Let’s get back to the real work—our budget and strategy for next year.” This team had just been through a training workshop that focused on leadership styles, their impact on the workforce, and the need to shift their behaviors toward more openness and collaboration. Comments on the “soft stuff” have been around for some time. It’s amazing in this time of work complexity, ambiguity, vulnerability, and interdependence, that some leadership still undervalue the importance of the human side of enterprise.

WE WIN, Unite Your Team to Make an Impact

Jordan - No I in Team

A popular post I wrote for TLNT.com last year on organizational culture change is still on the first page of google search results for that topic.

I approached a training video company with course content based on that post and they felt culture is a topic best suited for top leaders. They explained that training video sales are higher if the content fits first line managers and individual contributors.

I explained the culture fundamentals that apply to top leaders also apply to work teams of any size since they are sub-cultures with behavior that’s also driven by cultural rules.

From that insight, the culture content was simplified and the WE WIN framework was born!

Cultural transformation only comes with personal transformation

People Resist Being Changed

In a survey of top leaders by Booz and Company last year 84% said culture was critical to success and yet the majority admitted their culture was in need of a major overhaul. So, how do you transform a culture to meet your company’s needs today? How can you get employees or teams to behave the way you need them to execute your strategies and enhance your performance as well as your employee engagement and the customer experience? How do you get the innovation and agility you need in fast-changing markets? How do you get the cross-organizational collaboration that makes one plus one equal three?

You can do that only by improving the behaviors of people. That’s because culture is nothing more than the collective beliefs and habits of the people in an organization. So in the end, you can only transform cultures by facilitating personal transformation in people.

Success in Organizational Change: Work with Culture Instead of Against It

Hot Air Balloon

Photo Credit: David Cosand, Flickr – altered with quote

Organizational change programs often don’t deliver as promised; and that’s not only because they don’t align with the current culture. Many programs still have an industrial-age mindset. The ingredients: a linear view (reality can be planned for and big change requires big efforts), designed by an executive team (who order the others what to change), and rolled out top-down, creating resistance as expected – because it deviates from “the way people are used to do things around here.” Old-style change initiatives don’t make abstract values operational nor do they translate simple slogans into personal behavioral change. They don’t include and engage people to share their information and energy to co-create meaningful, practical change.

What if you let go of this old approach and mindset?