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Poor Team Culture Is Caused By One Thing And I Know How You Can Find It

Cultural problems within a team can be challenging to resolve. Follow these steps and I guarantee you will find the cause which must be addressed.

Thursday 16 April 2015

It's no secret.  Everyone knows which teams in an organisation have poor cultures.  Everyone complains about their lack of service, how arrogant they are, how they impose their processes and ideas on everyone else and how they have no idea about what goes on in the real world.  They don't answer their phones or respond to emails and they're a pain to work with.  They come across as negative and don't support each other or worse complain about each other.

And people are probably saying similar things about your team!


Sometimes Answers Come To Us In The Strangest Places


With so many assessment tools, profiling instruments and diagnostics processes available it's easy to be confused about how to find the root cause of poor team cultures and importantly how to "fix" such cultures.

Now don't get me wrong, I am a fan of certain tools, processes and instruments, particularly those grounded in psychology which have been well researched, tested and validated but I have developed my own process for problematic cultural root-cause identification.  I'm happy to share it with you but you must follow these steps and it can only be undertaken by the team leader / manager.


Step 1.  Describe the team culture as you would like to see it (short paragraph or bullet points)  

Step 2.  Describe the current team culture both strengths and weaknesses  

Step 3.  Identify the problem behaviours which occur in your team.  You might base this on feedback from stakeholders  

Now you know what you goal is, what you currently have and the major problems.  The next steps are critical in finding the cause.  And that's what needs to be addressed.  

Step 4.  With these points in mind get up from your desk, table, car seat or wherever you are and stretch.

Step 5.  Proceed to the nearest bath room (that's right, now stay with me)  

Step 6.  Upon entering the bathroom walk to a basin and wash your hands.  Keep thinking "what's the cause of these problems?"  

Step 7.  As you finish washing your hands look up and into the nearest mirror.  


Congratulations!  That's it.  You have found the root cause of your team's poor culture - the person looking back at you in the mirror, the team leader . . . You.

As a leader you have a huge impact on a team's culture.  Not just in terms of what you say but particularly what you do. Your team looks to you for the appropriate way to treat others.  They take your lead regarding which policies to follow and ignore.  They follow your opinion of senior leaders and how serious to take directives from above. 

When you joke about the company values your team sees this as permission to be cynical and ignore the values.  When you talk about upper management and say "They have no idea what they are doing", your team also comes to disrespect upper management.  

Your Next Steps

From here you need to firstly leave the bathroom or people will come looking for you and that's just awkward.  Secondly review your lists describing the desired and current culture and develop an action plan of how you can behave your way to a new team culture.   Like Gandhi said . . .

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Cultural change takes time, however if you start behaving as you want your team members to behave they will, in time, follow your lead.

As part of the coaching and team development I conduct I always undertake some self awareness and behavioural assessment activities.  If you would like to discuss further how your behavior and that of others impacts the performance of your team, please do not hesitate to contact me (mark@intelligentperformance.com.au) or use the contact us option.

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