IN MY CAREER leading teams, I have worked with large
organizations (more than 1,000 people) and super-small teams (a startup with just two people). I have
seen that the best teams have one thing in common:
a strong team culture.
We all know what it is like to be a part of a great
team—when you enjoy coming together and the
energy is electric. There is something special that
happens when the team becomes greater than the
sum of the individuals.
I was really inspired by this topic recently when
I read Daniel Coyle’s book The Culture Code.
author shares a lot of research (and I do love data)
about what makes a great team. He boils it down to
a few key elements:
• Build safety. Create an environment
where people feel safe and secure.
• Share vulnerability. When people
are willing to take risks, it can drive cooperation and build trust.
• Establish purpose. The team should
align around common goals and values, with a clear path forward.
The book is filled with many examples and ideas, but in my experience,
I have seen that what works for one
team will not work for another. That is
one of the reasons leadership is complex and difficult.
You are always working with different variables—different teams, different companies, different goals. And
yet team culture is one part of the job
that great leaders never ignore. So, how
do the best leaders create team culture
wherever they go?
See the Role You Play
in Team Culture
As a leader, it is your responsibility to
set the culture for the team. I am sure
you have heard the phrase “lead by ex-
ample,” and that is because when peo-
ple aren’t sure what is acceptable, they
look to their leaders for guidance.
You have surely been in the situa-
tion where you have seen your man-
ager staying late at the office, and as
a result, you might have stayed just a
little longer. On the other hand, if you
frequently saw your boss taking two-
hour lunches, you might not be in such
a hurry to get back to the office when
your friend stops by to go to lunch.
Every day, people are looking for
signals in their environment about
what is the norm. As a leader, it is part
of your job to set the example for those
You want to create a culture where
people are engaged, cooperative, and
excited. To do this, you need to be deliberate in your actions. For example, if
you want to create a culture of psychological safety, where people can speak
up and take risks, it is important that
you do not accept or participate in negativity. Research has shown that one
bad apple or toxic employee can bring
How to Create
a Great Team
Article development led by
Build safety, share vulnerability,
and establish purpose.
BY KATE MATSUDAIRA