Five Tenets of Building a Strong Team Culture

One of my career development objectives over the next couple of years is to become a board director. As such, I’ve been working my way through an NACD Directorship Certification. One of the courses described a key responsibility of directors is to understand and potentially influence company culture, from the board on down. The content didn’t dive too much further into what constitutes “good” culture, which got me thinking about my own leadership journey and how I’ve tried to influence culture. After “word-storming” for an hour or so, I believe I’ve landed on five key tenets that represent a formula for not only good leadership, but critical attributes that are woven into the culture of any successful team.


The foundation of a great culture is love – for the people, the mission, and the organizational objectives. Love breeds trust, respect, and accountability. When you love “hard”, your team will have no choice but to love you and each other in a similar way. Set the example and give permission for your team to truly love each other. When you love each other, the divisive and political shenanigans that plague many teams are simply not possible.


I once had a manager explain to me that if you examine nearly any failure of any kind, the root cause was a communication breakdown. That said, I’ve learned that effective communication is paramount to a great culture. Open, honest dialogue allows ideas and information to flow freely while providing team members with a sense of belonging, contribution, value, comfort, and safety. Pay particular attention to how you communicate a unifying vision in a way that creates an emotional connection to that common goal. Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circles” utterly transformed everything about how I communicate to inspire action.

Talent development:

Great leaders recognize that sustainable success can’t be accomplished without a strong team of executors, and instead recognize the need to focus on attracting, retaining, and developing great talent. It’s important to be not only a great talent scout, but a great leader also teaches others to be experts at identifying and managing talent. Set an example and dedicate a significant portion of your time to examining the potential of your teammates, actively investing to help each reach their maximum capacity. Not only will this pay dividends in terms of productivity, but it will significantly build the trust and love quotient on the team. TopGrading was a difficult, but necessary read that not only taught me the perils of ignoring the importance of strong talent management but also offered a series of tools I still use today.

Service Orientation:

True culture warriors commit to providing exceptional service – not only to their customers, vendors, and other stakeholders but as importantly, to their internal teams. It’s essential to recognize the importance of the service you provide to your colleague each and every day. Seek out ways to emphasize a culture of service, not just through words, but through real-life examples that make tangible sense. Accountability is the key. Foster a culture of healthy accountability by creating clear expectations and holding each other – including yourself – mutually accountable for meeting those expectations.


Structure, frameworks, and processes are critical to a culture of discipline. From processes governing decision-making to onboarding new customers, nearly all critical activities benefit from the discipline that comes with thoughtful, consistent, well-documented, and repeatable approaches that lend themselves to easy measurement (think KPIs, OKRs, Smart Goals, etc.) but are also adaptable to changing circumstances.

Building and maintaining a strong team culture is no small feat. From the C-suite down to emerging leaders, building and fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and trust among teams can be both challenging and rewarding. But when prioritized and tended to properly, a healthy team culture can provide invaluable results: increased productivity, improved communication between all levels of staff, and greater job satisfaction for everyone involved.

By focusing on an environment that emphasizes love, communication, talent, service orientation, and discipline, leaders will be paving a solid foundation for organizational success. With these key components in place, any team or organization can be well on its way to cultural greatness.

Good luck.

P.S. As an open challenge, please comment below if you think there’s an attribute that doesn’t fit into one of the five that I’ve listed. I’m happy to add to my list!

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