Organization Culture that Fosters High Performing Teams

A recent article in highlighted work by Jen Fisher and Anh Phillips (Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines. McGraw Hill, June 2021). The authors note that well-being and healthy relationships are defining characteristics of strong, long-lasting teams, and yet they are too often thrown into that bucket of qualities we think of as nice-to-haves. 

They found that the typical company culture places qualities like excellence, innovation, knowledge, financial performance, or industry leadership at the top, while losing sight of the fact that these are the result of strong and healthy people working well together. Perhaps the team will perform well for a while, but it won’t reach its full potential or remain on top for long. 

The authors summarize 4 types of cultures to consider:

The Doom Loop Culture – A culture where neither relationships nor well-being are fostered or viewed as not important for business.

School of Sharks – In this group, relationships matter but not well-being. It’s a hard driven culture of winners and losers, pitting colleagues against each other for a competitive advantage. Both turnover and burnout are high, well-being and morale are low, and in the end productivity suffers.

Lone Leopards – Individualism is valued over collaboration and high performing teams. Individuals take care of themselves but not work relationships.  Yet, social well-being and camaraderie are essential for individual wellness.

Trusted Teams – Both well-being and strong relationships are valued. Everyone has each other’s backs and maintain a cooperative, respectful mindset. The authors’ note that Trusted Teams are like the Blue Zones of living, where material, emotional, intellectual, and social needs are in balance.

We’ve written about the importance of trust as well as about Blue Zones and are happy to send you the links.  Our research on work interactions that detract from or enhance well-being, and situational learning, also demonstrate the importance of trust for team performance, psychological safety, and well-being. 

Summaries are available on our website, but in essence, the characteristics of interactions that enhanced well-being are when participants perceived 

  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Their contributions mattered
  • They felt valued
  • A positive culture
  • A collaborative work environment
  • High levels of trust

When these were lacking or the opposite culture existed – think Doom Loop and Lone Leopards – not just productivity suffered, but also well-being was drastically impacted. Participants reported:

  • Careers Were Impacted 
  • Lack of Energy
  • Disturbed Sleep
  • Exercise Disruption
  • Nutritional Changes
  • Mental Health Anguish
  • Negativity ‘Contagion’
  • Social & Family Relationships Impacted

The culture is difficult to recognize since it’s the ‘norm’. Having a mirror for special insight is invaluable. 360 evaluations, employee satisfaction surveys, safety culture surveys, and frequent pulse checks can all help provide a glimpse. However, having a mirror held before you to provide a clear summary of the cultural description reported is essential. 

Which Culture Describes Yours?

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