Born to Succeed Insights

What Culture Lurks Under Your Team Hood?

Leaders have you checked under your team hood lately?

 The workplace of today is forcing leaders and teams to take look under the team hood. It’s not just outstanding individual capabilities, aspirational goals, strategy, and structure that will take your team to great heights. In our new normal of flexible workplaces – full remote, hybrid, occasional in person on sites – it is collaboration optimization, team character, interpersonal dynamics and clarity of purpose which lead to intentional culture development that allow teams to soar! People don’t leave companies; they leave the broken culture that lurks below the surface.

More than ever, what is under the hood must be built off trust. Without it, you have no team. The great news is that while there are a lot of business dynamics that are out of your control, trust and team culture is fully in your control.

Winning teams are intentionally revisiting the following 4 components of their team so they can retain and attract the best talent in a culture that thrives.


Team trust happens when individuals feel safe, heard, understood, and valued. According to recent research by Spencer Stuart, the number one leadership lesson from the pandemic was trust. Without trust you have no team, so it behooves you to intentionally discuss the current state of your team’s trust, what the ideal state would feel and look like, and build or deepen it through one-to-one practice and behavior modeling.

Ask yourself if your team can openly and respectfully discuss the following. If you can’t, you need to examine your team’s trust.

  • Is leadership willing to listen if the vision is unclear or there is a better way forward but it’s not their way?
  • Your top performer frequently has toxic behavior, will leadership address it?
  • The scope and schedule are not realistic, can you speak up?
  • The truth was stretched to an uncomfortable place with customers, will it be addressed?


When your team is clear on their purpose it is the source of meaning and motivation. Working remote can be lonely and team members can get busy and singularly focused, sometimes forgetting why they are doing the work they are doing. However, when you have a clear sense of team purpose you feel part of something bigger which creates a sense of belonging and safety for team members.

Is your team clear on the following questions?

  • What is our role as a team?
  • Who are our key stakeholders?
  • What is our end impact for our function, organization or beyond?


Team values are beliefs about what is fundamentally important, and they help to guide your team’s decision making.  When teams have clear expectations around values and the accompanying behaviors, it creates trust and improves collaboration.  There is a great quote from authors Steve Gruenet and Todd Whitaker that says, “the culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior you are willing to tolerate.” High performing teams don’t’ allow toxic behavior to define them. Instead, they define and align on the values they know are important which creates buy in and an expectation around how they will treat each other and how others will experience the team.

Does your team live by its values?

  • Would you confront a colleague if they were not demonstrating team values?
  • Would you spend money or leave it on the table to uphold a value?
  • Would you be willing to remove someone for violating a value, even if they were a top performer?

Group Norms

Norms are working routines based on agreed to values.  A recent survey conducted by OnePoll found 63% of respondents feel their stress levels are currently at an all-time high. An effective way to ease team stress is by revisiting or more clearly defining your working norms. When team members know what to expect around interactions it removes doubt and uncertainty, offering normalcy and stability in our ever-changing environment.  Clear working norms ae the foundation for your culture.

I recently worked with a client who shared they wanted to respect their remote team’s ability to get their work done on their own terms. However, upon interviewing the team, while they appreciated the flexibility, it created a lot of stress and uncertainty because they didn’t understand expectations.

  • When did they need to be available for the rest of the team?
  • How would they hand off customer situations across time zones?
  • How are we a team if we just functional as individuals?


Take a moment and think about the state of your team. Leaders and their team control what’s under your team’s hood so make sure you are intentional about the culture that forms there. If the answer to some of these questions make you flinch, you have work to do.


Jill Bornstein is the Founder of Upnext Leadership Coaching and an ICF ACC Executive Coach. She helps forward thinking leaders and teams who having exciting, important, or daunting goals achieve them so they can soar.

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