Fostering positive team culture

Fostering positive team culture

Phoebe Vaughan
December 22, 2016

It is widely known that employees with a positive mind-set are more creative, productive, and engaged. Positivity is nurtured within cultures that encourage the sharing of praise and support between all employees, not just between managers and their direct reports. This can be accomplished in both structured and unstructured ways.

Structured Ways to Encourage Positivity in the Workplace:

  • Internal feedback tools: Rather than limiting peer-to-peer feedback to annual 360 reviews, providing tools to share praise on a regular basis helps ensure that both small and large contributions are immediately visible to the employee and his or her manager (for example through an intranet-based feedback tool).
  • Peer to peer bonuses: For more significant contributions, setting aside an optional bonus budget for employees to award one another is another way to foster positivity and incentivize teamwork. For example, each employee might receive two $200 peer bonuses to optionally award to two different peers per quarter.
  • Team Player Awards: Managers can kick off a virtuous cycle by awarding an MVTP (most valuable team player — emphasis on team) and then letting that person select the next recipient either monthly or quarterly. A team trophy could be passed from one MVTP to the next along with a certificate describing the rationale for each award.
  • Customer feedback tools: Some employees will readily share rave reviews from customers with their managers. But for those who are less inclined to broadcast their big wins, customer feedback tools help ensure that both employees and managers have visibility to praise from delighted customers.

Other Ways to Nurture Positivity:

  • Thoughtfully acknowledge extraordinary effort: All praise is not created equal. People feel more seen and valued when praise is specific. Saying “great work” is better than saying nothing, but it is far more powerful to describe the behaviors and unique talent that helped create the successful outcome. Metaphors are especially powerful. A meaningful acknowledgement might sound like, “John, you are a warrior. Everyone thought this partnership was a lost cause but you saw something we missed and persevered.”
  • Award high performance with increased scope of responsibility or visibility: Role enhancement does not need to be tied to promotion cycles or tenure. If a junior employee demonstrates the ability to lead, try letting her lead an important team initiative. If a senior team member is not interested in people management but is a respected thought leader, provide opportunities for him to shine like having him deliver an important presentation to senior management or draft a business plan.
  • Find positive feedback opportunities with every person on the team: Intelligence multipliers recognize the genius of each person and exhibit a high tolerance for mistakes. As a result, team members feel safe to experiment with big ideas. Intelligence diminishers deify top performers to the detriment of the rest of the team. Help each person identify and celebrate their innate strengths, which may occasionally mean encouraging someone to explore new roles outside the team.
  • Nip negativity in the bud: Nothing diminishes positivity like unchecked toxic behavior. Even the highest performing teams may be challenged by negativity from time to time but it is crucial for managers to identify it and snuff it out quickly. Whether it takes the form of arrogance or passive aggression, letting individual offenders and everyone else know that the behavior won’t be tolerated helps promote the health of the team.

When businesses facilitate the sharing of praise between individuals within and across teams, it relieves managers from being the only source of positive feedback and fosters strong bonds between employees. Promoting positivity does not boil down to being nice all the time or pleasing everyone. Fiercely defending the health and values of a team means balancing efforts to promote positivity while identifying and addressing processes and people that undermine it.

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