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Secrets for Creating a Positive, Engaged Work Culture

August 17th 2015

Uh oh, sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays. Remember that line from the iconic movie Office Space? This should jog your memory or maybe even introduce you to one of the greatest movies ever created. Okay, enough of my gushing.

If you have seen that movie and empathized (even just a little bit), you know how soul crushing it is to work in an office environment where you feel like nobody really listens to you or values your time. You know what it’s like to feel as if your work doesn’t matter at all. You’re familiar with the endless bureaucracy of paperwork and meetings that never seem to accomplish anything. It’s all just one bleak Monday after another.

Here’s the good news: the days of broken printers and missing staplers are quickly fading into black. In this brave new world that we live in, cubicles aren’t even guaranteed. More and more people are working remotely-- not just across town, but across continents.


A typical cubicle farm. Kind of depressing, isn’t it?

So, whether you’re working face to face or Skype to Skype, one thing remains the same: you still need to work with other human beings. But that’s good news because you, team leader, are going to create a positive work culture where everyone feels involved, engaged, and nurtured.

Are you ready to learn the secrets of a positive work culture? Let’s get cracking!

Listen to Your Team

Be honest: when you ask a question, do you always wait for an answer? A lot of team leaders ask a question as a way of advancing their own course of action, not to really listen to the answer. Be sure that you’re not just listening to your team, you’re also asking the right questions.

Ask questions that measure their ongoing work experience. The best way to get feedback about your team is from your team. Here’s a few questions to ask:

  • Are you struggling with any challenges this week?
  • What do you consider your top achievement this week?
  • How can I better assist you/ be a better team leader?
  • What are your goals after this project?
  • Do you have any suggestions for better workflow for this project?

Help Your Team

Actively look for ways to help your team succeed. As the saying goes, there’s no “I” in team, and it’s important to keep in mind that the success or failure of your project is due in large part to your team’s ability to work together.

While there are some members of your team who will actively seek out your help and guidance, there will always be those who suffer in silence. Make it a weekly, or even daily effort to gauge each team member. If you see a potential problem arising, instead of waiting for it to get larger, offer your immediate assistance (when possible) or facilitate a solution-based conversation with another member of the team.

Avoid (the appearance of) Micromanaging

While you should always seek to help others, this is not to suggest that you should be a micromanager. Most teams respond poorly to a despotic type of management.

The last thing your team wants to experience is you breathing down their necks about deadlines and TPS reports. On the other hand, I can guarantee that they’ll welcome a precise plan where each team member’s role is clearly defined.

Here’s a little advice that may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true: the best way to avoid appearing like you’re micromanaging your team is by creating a highly detailed road map in the very beginning. You know better than anyone what your team’s strengths and weaknesses are, so be sure that you account for potential problems. That way, if and when a problem occurs, you’ll have a go-to solution already decided.


Don’t be that annoying micromanager who constantly “checks in” on your team

Work Towards a Cause

There’s nothing that brings out positivity and teamwork in others quite like working for a charitable cause. Do you have a charity that your team can rally around? Whether you’re working together to build a primary school in Ecuador or donating to big cat rescue in South Africa, choose a charity that your whole team can bond over.

On the other end of the spectrum, your charity can be a lot closer to home. In fact, it could even be for your own home. Consider starting a lottery pool at work. (Definitely check with your human resources department to make sure it’s permissible first) A lottery pool is a great way to build a sense of community and maybe even win a couple of bucks every now and then. Before you do decide to start a pool, check out this article for 5 rules to abide by if you play office lottery and also remember that if gambling is illegal in your state, so is a lottery pool.

rules for lottery pools

Courtesy of 5 Rules If You Play An Office Lottery Pool

Be the Top Cheerleader

Here’s something that your team members will rarely, if ever, tell you: they often feel insecure about their jobs.

The absolute best way to create a positive culture is by making sure that everyone feels valued and utilized. As a team leader, you’re not just responsible for meeting deadlines, you’re also chief cheerleader for your team. Make it a habit to let each and every member of your team know that you appreciate their contributions.

Don’t spout out platitudes like, “Good job, Jim.” Get specific with your praise, for example, “Your graphics on XYZ report added the perfect amount of personality to the project.”

One thing can undermine your praise is gossip. Avoid gossip like the plague. Anytime you say something negative about one team member to another team member, you chip away at your professionalism. Not only that, you lose trust with the team member that you’re confiding in because they may be wondering if you’re talking behind their back, too.

Admit When You’re Wrong

Have you ever met someone who can never admit when they are wrong? They elevate dodging blame into an artform. They are always a victim of circumstance.

We’re all humans, and we all make mistakes. No one’s expecting you to be infallible. So if you make a mistake, own up to it. Your team will respect you for recognizing your own failure and taking the necessary steps to correct it.

Along these lines, if you need help, even as a team leader, don’t be afraid to ask. If you’ve already established a culture of help (see the section on Helping Your Team), then your team members will be eager to help you meet a deadline.

Final Thoughts

The secret to creating a positive work culture is by embracing your own humanity. It’s not just about work, it’s about working with other humans. When you create an open, honest environment where you ask questions and wait for the answer. You’ll find that every day feels like Friday, or at least not Monday.

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