February 3, 2020

The Power of Team Culture

by Joseph Cook

A thriving Team Culture has the power to positively affect how you and everyone else on your team show up.

Does your team make you want to show up well?

I have learned that what impacts my desire to show up well for my team is based less on the task ahead of us and more on the actual team I am showing up with. I have been on teams that inspire and teams that simply exist; what separates the two is found in the culture of each team.

Team Culture has the power to affect how everyone on that team shows up. It either inspires desire or births apathy.

This desire is not a superficial seeking of comfort. This desire is a motivation deeply embedded within each team member’s character to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

 

What is Team Culture?

Team culture is not reliant on or created by mere personalities of team members, but rather built on how the team collectively functions.

While the definition of team culture is fairly simplistic – the consistent behaviors of team members – an extraordinary team culture takes a lot of work to create.


“A team’s culture is nothing more than the consistent behaviors of the team’s members.

Mark Miller
International Best-selling Author
and VP of High-Performing Leadership at Chick-Fil-A

Team Avaya’s Perspective on Team Culture

When Fleur Pawsey was invited to join the New Zealand Adventure Racing Team (Team Avaya) for the 2018 Adventure Racing World Championships, she had already retired from racing.

She claims that the biggest motivator for jumping back into the sport was knowing the team she would be racing for.

Fleur would not have come out of retirement for any ordinary team. However, Team Avaya is not ordinary; they are extraordinary.

Team Avaya is the most successful adventure racing team in the world, winning six (6) of the last seven (7) world championships.

This extraordinary status did not happen by accident or simply because team members hoped for it.

There were behaviors and intentional effort from each team member to create a sustainable culture that endured even when new members, like Fleur, joined the team.

When describing his team’s culture, Team Avaya captain, Nathan Fa’avae, mentions three overarching attributes that contribute to a thriving team culture:

01 Have Fun
02 Put the Team First
03 Stay Engaged

01

Have Fun

Nathan describes his ideal teammates as people he would want have coffee with; he goes so far as to attach culture with friendship.

Great teams are able to enjoy the process of their work because they enjoy each other and have fun.

A team that builds community lays the foundation for higher motivation. Community fosters the appealing reminder for each team member that they are not alone.

02

Put the Team First

Team Avaya is a team where individual egos must be set aside.

Instead, team members put their ego in the team where taking care of the team literally becomes each person’s goal.

When done consistently, this develops trust that what you give for your teammates is what they will give for you.

Former New Zealand team member, Sophie Hart, explains that if you want to go faster, you do not simply run on ahead of the group because a team is only as fast as its slowest member.

Being grateful that you are not the one struggling brings no value to the team. At the end of the day, it is in the best interest of the team to focus less on your individual task and more on doing whatever you can do to make the team better.

03

Stay Engaged

A role that is critical for the success of the team is that of the encourager.

Fa’avae shares that this role is picked up by each team member at different times.

When a teammate does something extraordinary, they should be celebrated. When a teammate is struggling, they need to be lifted up and reminded of the value they bring to the team.

Each member knowing the significance of this role forces them into engagement because each person needs to be constantly aware of the needs of the team.

There is a big difference in performance between team members who do what is asked and those who anticipate the needs of others and initiate action to meet those needs before they are even noticed by others.

It is not arrogant to know where you can add value to your team. However, it is selfish to know where you can add value, but choose to save it for yourself.

For Team Avaya, every member is engaged in the common goal of putting the team first.

Make Your Team the Goal

It’s tempting to make the overall outcome the ultimate goal of a team, but this could come at a cost.

If a team finishes in first place, but destroys its members in the process, continued future success becomes impossible.

A high-performing team pours into each member along the way, knowing that if each member is thriving, the team thrives, making success imminent and replicable.

How to Contribute to Your Team Culture

Does your team’s current culture make you want to show up well? If not, you may want to start with introspection.

You are a member of your team, which makes you a key contributor in creating the culture. Examine your existing team culture, define what you want it to look like in the future, and make your team the goal.

If you want to add value to your team culture, start by:

Understanding yourself.

Understanding yourself and communicating your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences to your team provides the opportunity to make your strengths team strengths, helps teammates anticipate your needs, and gives them overall insight into how you function best. This is also known as building self-awareness.

Understanding your team.

Understanding your team better provides the same reciprocal results for you to know who to tap into, who may need courage, and who thrives (and struggles) in certain settings. Think others first, find opportunities to add value, and help your teammates thrive.

Putting your ego in the team rather than yourself.

Putting your ego into the team rather than yourself is simple to understand. In the words of Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 United States Olympic championship hockey team, “The name on the front of your jersey is significantly more important than the name on the back of it.” Putting your pride into something bigger than yourself creates a culture of selflessness and service that helps extraordinary teams thrive.


Free Resources on Team Culture

Discussion Guide: Building a Championship Culture

In order to help you create a culture of care, we developed a step-by-step resource that provides the opportunity to facilitate valuable discussion around the story of Team Avaya and how your team can be inspired to become stronger, healthier, and more fulfilled.

Download the Guide

Craving More Team Culture Examples?

Watch For The Team, a documentary revealing the underlying mechanics of New Zealand’s most successful adventure racing team.

Watch the Documentary

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