How to create the basis for a great team culture

These are two of the biggest illusions we have about teams: Great teams just happen; and when they get there, they stay there.

Great teams, like great relationships require energy and effort to maintain. High-performing teams don’t just happen and keep on happening!

Even the most effective high-performing team will stumble, especially when faced with both internal and external forces such as: organisational restructures; market decline; team members leaving and projects failing.

Creating a solid foundation will help your team weather the storms and obstacles that come your way. A way to help your team to achieve this is by:

Having the conversations that matter

Strong effective communication is a cornerstone of good relationships, both personal and professional. Often teams can struggle to have the conversations that they need to have.

There may be a culture of ‘niceness’ that exists where people avoid the more difficult conversations due to not wanting to upset anyone, or maybe it’s just too hard/confronting and therefore avoided.

If this is a culture that exists on your team, it’s time to ask the question: How’s this working for the team? My guess is that it isn’t!


Clarity and alignment around the team’s purpose, vision and goals is essential and an ingredient of high-performing teams. Are you all on the same page? Check in with what you believe is on that page.

We have all been in conversations, sometimes heated, when the sudden realisation pops that everyone is not talking about the same issue, or has inferred a different meaning to the issue. Check it out and ask the question that will help ascertain if you are on the same page.


Often the assumption is that team leadership is focused on the team leader/manager and how willing and able they are to lead effectively. Is this an assumption you hold?

Strong leadership is an essential ingredient of team success and strong leadership from team members is also critical to team success. High-performing teams have team members who are consistently willing to step up and lead and have the capacity to do so.

There may be times when individuals in the team will step up due to possessing a particular expertise or technical skill, on other occasions someone in the team may notice something that it needs to alert the team to.

You may lead or be a voice in your team for calling out poor behaviours, ineffective meeting practices or for seeing more of the behaviours that demonstrate the values of the team/ organisation. What are you willing to step up for and be a champion for in your team?

In high-performing teams, leadership comes from each person in the team. It’s not just about waiting for your team leader to lead.

Teams that reach and maintain high performance have team members who are willing to step into leading itself from within the team. There is risk here, a higher level of accountability, exposure and the need at times to back yourself for decisions made, which team members who are in high-performing teams take on. This is where team agreements need to be strongly set, understanding of what the hard lines/soft lines are and what can they not afford to fail on.
As a team member two questions to ask yourself are:

  • Are you willing to step up and stand in your own personal leadership?
  • Where will you achieve most growth? Waiting to be led or stepping into your leadership?

If you have answered yes to the questions above, what action do you need to take?

Respect diversity

In high-performing teams all voices are heard and expressed – the popular and unpopular. At times this can create challenges and conflict; however, the benefits far outweigh the negatives in improved communication, processes, innovation, risk management, results and the company’s bottom line.

Teams come together with people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and styles (extroverts and introverts). The team benefits from the combined experience of the team and from all members contributing. When team members are shut down or choose to step back the team is missing an important resource.

Reflect and assess

High-performing teams take time to reflect on what is working for the team and what is not. They make time to work on the team as well as in the team.

Take a moment to reflect on your team, on how you operate. Now, think about your best team experience (work, volunteer, sport, etc). Maybe it’s the team you are on now, or one from your past.

What made it a great team to be on? What were the characteristics that were present on this team that made it great? How can you bring some of these characteristics to your current team?

Remember to also apply high-performance team principles to the most important teams you belong to, your family and loved ones.

Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian-based coaching and training company.


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