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4 Actions to Shift Team Culture

Every time I see a SeaGull something strangely comes over me and compels me to repeatedly say out loud, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” My daughters laugh at first, but then they quickly become annoyed as I continue with my monotone cadence of “Mine!”

If you are a Disney fanatic like me, you have quickly identified the movie. Not because the seagulls are the main characters or even the supporting characters, because they clearly are not. They never say anything other than that one, migraine inducing, word: MINE! But their small and insignificant part lodges into your mind like a nail being driven into a 2 x 4. The epic story arc is surging past them while they focus on one thing: Their immediate desires. They could have become the hero of the story. They could have elevated their purpose. They could have saved the day. But their self-centeredness clouded the opportunity that presented itself right in front of them.

If you have watched the movie Finding Nemo, you know that the character development and storyline is what makes this movie a cult classic and #1 grossing Pixar Movies of all time. Maybe you identify yourself with Nemo, the idealistic fish who is not going to let a defect keep him from accomplishing his dreams. Or maybe you identify with Nemo’s dad, the loving father who wants to protect the one thing that is most precious to him. Or it could be with Dory, the overly optimistic dreamer?

No matter what main character you identify with, I think we can all identify with the SeaGulls. It is so easy to focus on ourselves in life. My needs. My desires. My issues. My problems. My fears.My goals. My preferences. My plans. My! My! My! Mine! Mine! Mine!

As a leader, no matter the context, it is easy to focus on the pressures that are resting squarely on your shoulders.  It is easy to be consumed with your action list and the weight that comes with it.  It is is easy to be blinded by the stress that no one else around you grasps or cares about.  It is easy to spend your 60 hours every week, surrounded by your team and clients, but not focused on them.  If we are not intentional, it is easy to start to process our entire leadership experience through the “Mine! Mine! Mine!” set of lenses.

How can I encourage, serve, and add value to my team today?

This is one of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself as a leader.  The question, by itself, has extreme power to shift your eyes off of you and onto the team surrounding you. And putting the answer to this question into action has the power to change your team culture. Here are four action items that will have immediate and positive impact on the culture you are desperately trying to create.

  1. SCRIPT A TEXT:   Right as you walk out of a meeting, grab your phone and send a quick text to one of the team members.  Highlight a specific moment, idea, or comment that the team member shared during a meeting. This real-time feedback not only encourages the team member, but it also reinforces the team culture that your are actively building.

  2. SCHEDULE A LUNCH: Open up your calendar app and block out 90 minutes for a weekly lunch. The purpose of the lunch isn’t to discuss a project, an idea, or a performance issue. Avoid all things work related.  The sole purpose is to prioritize time to connect at a deeper relational level.

  3. SEND A GIFT: Send a $5, $10, or $50 Starbucks gift card to someone who is doing a great job. Write a short note highlighting the specifics of what they are doing right and why you appreciate them.  The gift isn’t the important component of this action.  It is the intentionality that will loudly communicate that you appreciate and value the team member as a person.

  4. SIT AND LISTEN: One skill set that is difficult for most A-type, driven, leaders is listening. Pull up a chair to one of your team members and ask a question. Then sit there and listen. I mean, really listen. Don’t pick up your phone or look at your Apple Watch. Don’t grab someone walking by and say, “Just one minute”. Focus all of your attention on the team member, with a goal to ask questions and listen.

If you calendar all four of these actions every week, you are only adding 2 hours. That is all. But the value being added within the work culture and team member production will be a multiplier of 100x.

Try it for a month and see what happens.


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