Building a culture is complex, but this simple approach is so much more powerful and accessible for team leaders

For many companies, developing a high-performance culture is both a quest and a challenge. There are many books and articles about both the importance and process of how executives deliberately creating culture. But what about individual teams? How do individual team leaders go about enhancing their team culture while the C-suite is still struggling with the organization level?


Fortunately, the answer is encouraging. While the concept of culture is fuzzy and complex, individual team leaders will reap many of the same rewards by focusing on creating a distinct team identity. The concept of team identity is significantly less intricate than the overall issue of culture but encompasses many of the same elements.

Elements of Team Identity

Rather than worrying about an academic definition of ‘team identity’ here are some of the concrete elements that can be used to create team identity. Note that many of them are both immediately actionable and have a rapid impact.

  • Team Name. Though it might seem superficial, a catchy team name can provide a quick win for establishing a stronger team identity. Generally speaking, your actual org-chart department name probably won’t be terribly inspiring, so think more in terms of a cool nickname that your team can rally behind.
  • Team Motto. A team motto can be much more than a simple rallying cry. Effective team mottoes include an element of what drives the team and how the team defines success.
  • Team Celebrations. How a team celebrates says a lot about how cohesive a team really is. The best celebrations are planned, but not overly contrived, and serve to spotlight team and individual wins. Celebrations also have a powerful impact on new team members, communicating ‘what is important around here’.
  • Team Rituals and Traditions. The power of repetition should not be underestimated and team rituals and traditions can have a strong anchoring effect for team members. Even rituals as simple as a daily stand-up or non-varying agenda items in a weekly team meeting can be used to send messages, such as how team success trumps individual success.
  • Onboarding Process. A thoughtful and well-executed way to introduce new team members is a great way to communicate both team personality and the idea that ‘this is how we do things around here’. Even something as simple as a clean desk with a notepad, pen, team t-shirt, etc. sends an instant message to new members that they have joined a defined (and thoughtful) team.
  • Team Mission Statement. A clear and compelling team mission statement can serve to keep a team focused on what winning looks like. An effective mission statement will encapsulate and define team values, style, and effectiveness and will serve as a powerful reminder of the why, what, and how for the team.

This list is by no means perfect or complete. Hopefully, it serves to trigger some ideas about what you might use to build your team’s unique identity. This is an area where style counts and unexpected is an advantage. Get creative and get your team involved in identifying and implementing ideas.

I’d love for you to share any ideas or experiences you’ve had in building a strong team identity in the comments!