Culture is the stuff good businesses are made of. It’s the character and personality of a company, including what makes the organization unique and its values, beliefs, traditions and attitudes.

Culture is the stuff good businesses are made of. It’s the character and personality of a company, including what makes the organization unique and its values, beliefs, traditions and attitudes.

There’s no better place to work than an organization that has a strong sense of identity, with its values displayed in its culture.

But it’s not easy to create, and without clear focus, it can drift. What’s the secret to creating a strong team culture? Here are my top 10 tips.

Determine your values, and write them down

You can’t really have a culture that you value until you know what your values are. Narrow down what you value, and assign a word or phrase to it, such as excellence, integrity, humility, etc.

Whatever you narrow it down to, write the values down, and post them where you can see them and know them.

For me, this value list is somewhat dynamic as I add to it and take away some over time. Once you have determined yours, lean into these values, and drive them deep into your team to ensure you don’t drift.

These values will guide you with every decision you make including new hires and spotting behavior that’s incompatible with to your team values and day-to-day operations.

Your team’s values should move you; they should be something you hold near and dear to who you are at the core of your being.

If you currently don’t like the direction your culture is heading, change it.

Inman Connect NYC 2018 speaker, author and marketing consultant Simon Sinek said, “Leadership is absolutely about inspiring action, but it is also about guarding against mis-action.”

Celebrate what’s right 

Photo by Ryan Wong on Unsplash

Take a moment, and think about your team. Think about your day-to-day operations and especially the things that are going right. Then celebrate that!

Often as team leaders, we tend to talk more about what’s not going well and what we would like to see changed rather than the good.

To improve, try this simple exercise this week: every day for a week, start with a blank screen under your “notes” app on your phone (or just grab a blank piece of paper).

Next, write a list of everything your team did went well today. Think from the beginning of your day until the end. Every little thing.

On that same note, add three bullet points on the bottom. Now, on each day, write three things you can improve to change your team.

The key is things that you can improve. Before you ever give blame, I challenge you to take ownership. It all starts with you.

Intentionally appreciate 

Taking the time to intentionally appreciate those around you will go a long way.

Craig Groeschel teaches, “Make sure to appreciate your team more than you think you need to, and then appreciate them even more.”

For example, I’m constantly telling my our new sign installer how much I appreciate him and how good that sign looked where he installed it. He actually now sends me photos of the sign installed as a response to the appreciation!

A quick intentional text message, a thoughtful email, a handwritten card — they all can go a long way! Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate.

Do you value your team? Of course you do, so show it to them with your feedback and appreciation. Don’t hold it back.

Brag about them more than about yourself

It is so important to boast the wins. Wins can be anything from a completed marketing piece to a hugely successful sale by an agent on your team.

There is always a space in a team meeting to bring up a win and brag about your team member. Never underestimate how motivating being recognized in front of peers can be to a an individual.

I think Andy Stanley said it best, “To make vision stick, a leader needs to pause long enough to celebrate the wins along the way. Celebrating the wins does more to clarify the vision than anything else.”

In my opinion, bragging about your team should be easy and as simple as affirming a behavior or a way the team member does something around the office.

For example, I like it when our front desk support specialist Sam greets clients by their name as they arrive to the office for a meeting. She’ll say, “Good morning Mr. Jones, good to see you, we have been expecting you.”

I will often tell Sam how great she is at remembering clients’ names and being so welcoming with guests to the office. My goal in encouraging her in this is to celebrate this win, and encourage her to continue this behavior in the future.

Take it a step further and brag on your team member when his or her significant other or family visits the office. I will often tell the visitor how fantastic my teammate is at keeping things running smoothly and how we couldn’t do it with out him or her.

Try it. Just watch your team member light up! Do you take the time to celebrate your team beyond the holiday party? You should!

Take the time to communicate clearly

It wouldn’t be bold to say communication breakdown undermines the success of a team.

As a team leader, communicating to your team with clarity is a must. If expectations are not known, how can they be met? Or if you’re pleased with a team member, and think it, but don’t share it, then that team member will never know.

But often, we as team leaders will simply just think about how great a job someone did on a project or a paper, and then move on to our next task and never share that thought of encouragement with the person.

My goal with my team with encouraging them is this: “If I think it, I share it.” A quick text or a short note in passing will do the trick, however, getting the message to recipient in a timely manner is key.

Clear communication with your team is a habit you can start now that will build a positive, healthy and functional team culture within your team — centered around your trust in your team.

Have you taken the time to give clear directions to your team?

Pro tip: Alway assume positive intent with communication. Presuming negative connotations opens the door for unnecessary problems.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Extend trust and clarity to new members on your team

Adding new members to your team is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Careful and thoughtful hiring will make all the difference with each new person you add to your team.

One of the mistakes I have seen teams make is hiring the right person, but for the wrong task.

Taking the time to learn about someone’s strengths before hiring them is critical. Once you have full confidence that you have found the right person, give him or her ownership over an area of responsibility.

Next, extend trust and clarity to your new hire, and empower him or her. If time passes, and it begins to look like this possibly wasn’t the right hire for your team, really ask yourself if you have given clarity and trust to your new hire.

Ask yourself if maybe your standards are too high? Do you think you’re the only one who can do it right? Work toward empowering and releasing the team to do the work.

Don’t be that dreaded micro-manager. You’re better than that.

Develop leaders, empower them, and let them lead

We have all heard the cliche: “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.”

To take this a step further, hire people to your team who are smarter than you. Hiring smarter people truly equates to a smarter team.

Once you have hired, empowered, provided clarity and trusted them (see a theme here?) to do what you have hired them to do — allow them to “color wildly within these lines” or give them the freedom to create within the culture of the team values.

In other words, hire to perform the assigned tasks, but also allow creativity to occur.

I have seen my team grow and innovate to perform tasks more efficiently than they were originally taught and better than I ever had done prior.

This freedom, coupled with trust, develops leaders. In my own day-to-day, I often have my team members asking me my thoughts on an idea or a final media piece going in for print.

As much as I share my thoughts, I like to ask the team member: “What do you think?” This lets them know you value their opinion and will ultimately lead to empowering them within their lane. Are you the limiting factor on your team?

Problems will arise on your team; deal with them

Problems will occur, and how you deal with them is what matters most because it affects everyone on your team.

Recently, I had to resolve a situation with a team member who would talk over others in team meetings. I felt I let this go on too long and finally needed to deal with it. The issue was resolved and all is well now.

What I learned from this is that by not talking about this with the person, and not disciplining, I was actually insulting the other team members.

The great business leader and author Jim Rohn said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

Don’t let the lack of discipline get in the way of your team progressing. Not having the conversation and correcting the problem would have led to a much larger issue.

Tolerating such issues shows that you aren’t guarding your culture and that you don’t cherish the team values. Remember, what you allow and tolerate will become a part of your culture.

Can you think of anything you’re currently allowing or tolerating on your team that is not in alignment with your values or the culture of your team?

Learn from your hurdles

Jne Valokuvaus / Shutterstock

Hurdles you experience in business can be one of the best ways to learn a valuable lesson for your team.

I know personally some of my best “ah-ha moments” has been after a mistake. College basketball’s legendary 10-time National Championship winner Coach John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

Hard to argue with that, isn’t it! I couldn’t agree more.

I would much rather have a members my team come to me with problems they are experiencing because they tried a new system or a new way of doing something rather than being stagnant.

My goal is to have a culture where mistakes or hurdles incurred when trying are OK. This is true in my personal life with raising my children.

My wife and I strive to create a culture of learning and an atmosphere that is safe to fail in with a net of underlying trust.

I often tell my 13-year-old, “I trust you.” This reinforces not only my trust in him but also elevates him to succeed as much as he may fail.

The same goes for any group of people working together for a common goal. Elevate them to succeed, work through and walk with them when the hurdles come because they most certainly will.

Be the culture

There is no other way around it, you have to be the culture. The old adage of “do as I say, not as I do” has no place on your real estate team or in the culture of your organization.

You truly can’t teach culture to your team until you become the culture. Nothing breeds culture like being the culture. This isn’t the best way to teach and train others on your team — it’s the only way.

Here is how: first off, determine your values. What do you value as a team? For example, one of your values may be promptness, but if you’re always late to team meetings, that shows that you like the idea of being on time, but don’t truly value it.

The no. 1 force that shapes your culture is your values. What you value determines what you do, and what you believe determines how you behave.

Arriving early to the office (I challenge you to be the first one to the office everyday) shows that promptness is something you value.

You can shape your culture.

Another way I emulate my culture is in the way I choose to speak to others — on and off my team. Believe me, your team is watching and learning what you value, especially away from the office setting.

I always strive to look for the best in others and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Our actions speak louder than words and show what we value. Nothing attracts the right people to your organization better than a strong culture. Do your actions reflect what you value?

Brian Hopper is a managing broker with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty in the Greater Seattle Area. Connect with him on Instagram or Twitter.

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