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Understanding the Foundations of a Great Team Culture

Understanding the Foundations of a Great Team Culture

Cultures are not built, they are created.

Reread that quote. A culture, whether it be something as large as your entire organization, or as small as your team, is a complex whole that is created organically through the manifestation and implementation of consistent behaviors, actions, and practices. When a new person joins an already established work culture, they can read the employee manual to get a sense of what the team is about, but what really resonates are the actions of their team members in their daily tasks.

Regardless of the industry you are in, the foundations for creating a great culture within your organization and team are always the same. Through these behaviors and actions, we can set the base for a great culture to emerge.

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Who do we want to be?

In the case of a startup company, the founding members have the best purview of who they want to be and where they want to go. If you are starting a new team or taking over an existing one, you need to first take a step back and determine who you want to be, what will define you and your team, and what you see as the implementation of your guiding principles to achieve that goal. In its simplest form, this can be a set of tenets laid out on everyone’s desk that drive people’s actions, or a few keywords that reinforce those values. Whichever form it takes, remember that it must be clear. If you can’t articulate it in 30 seconds, how do you expect someone to understand it and follow it?

If people are constantly asking for clarification, then you need to clean it up and simplify it.

Trust

In any team, there will always be failures and successes – whether it be for the team itself or an individual who made a mistake. A cornerstone of any great team culture is to ensure that when failures happen, they are treated the same as successes – what did we do wrong, how can we learn from this, what do we do next – those are the approaches to failure that breed trust within a team.

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If every failure is harped upon and made an example of, then you’ll never get to see the benefits of empowerment, determination, and passion that shine through in those toughest moments. It must be emphasized that in these scenarios, trust goes both ways – just as you need to trust those on your team when they fail, you too should be trusted by your team when you fail and make mistakes.

It’s not always easy, but when that commitment to knowing that everyone is working towards the same goal and possibly stumbling along the way to get there, the commitment to achieve is further emboldened.

Empathy

From knowing who we are and trusting one another, a sense of empathy starts to emerge where we know the success of the team is not tied to individual performance, but instead to that of the team. When this is understood, as a team, we work harder to listen more and talk less, understand someone’s weaknesses and identify where we can help, and give respect to those around us. New team members often bear the brunt when a lack of empathy is in place with words such as, “I’ve already explained it enough times, what’s taking so long to understand it?” when really what should be said is, “what can I do to help you wrap your head around this or understand what to do next?”.

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Empathy as a part of culture forges the bonds for our final piece of building a great culture. Empathy really comes into play in our feedback channels to one another. A great team culture needs to have a proper feedback mechanism in place where team members feel open to receiving critical feedback on their performance. Providing it at the same time and knowing the feedback given and received is for the benefit of the team and not hidden agendas.

Capacity for Growth

A good culture works on what you are doing today, grinding through tasks, checking off boxes, while looking like superstars. A great team looks to the future, what is coming down the pipe next, what should be thought about, what factors are going to affect us, and how we hit that challenge coming down the road. When a team is built for the capacity of growth, they are not looking for quick wins and pyrrhic victories, instead, they are focused on long-term growth, development, and sustainability. It’s when all the other elements to a great culture are in place that we can truly consider the capacity for growth. When a project goes badly based on a new approach, the team doesn’t assign blame, they learn from the mistake and move forward, not returning to the status quo, while staying committed to growing and trying something new.

While looking at each piece of a team culture, one might assume that you could have three pieces of a foundation and skip the one that doesn’t affect you today. But this would be a failure as all pieces must work together in unison, bound by an unflinching desire to create something that can withstand the good times as well as the bad without the team feeling the effects one way over the other.

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You can’t build a culture, but you can create one.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on January 27, 2021

How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

Knowledge is essential to become successful in life, your career, and your business. Without learning new concepts and becoming proficient in your craft, it’s difficult to excel in your chosen career or archive knowledge to pass down to the next generation. Visual learning is one way to do this, and it can be incredibly effective in helping you work better.

Content comes in various forms, and because how we learn influences how much we know, we need to talk about learning styles. This article will focus on how to utilize visual learning to boost your career or business.

The Importance of Knowing Your Learning Style

Knowing your learning style enables you to process new information to the best of your ability. Not only does it reduce your learning curve, but you’re able to communicate these same concepts to others effectively.

It all starts when you’re able to first identify the best way you learn.

As a college student, I soon figured out that taking online courses without visual aids or having an instructor in front of me led to poor retention of concepts. Sure, I got good grades and performed excellently in my online exams. However, I discovered that I couldn’t maintain this performance level because I forgot 80 percent of the course content by the end of the semester.

There are several types of learning styles, which exist as part of the VARK model. To give an idea of how visual learning stacks up against other learning styles, here’s a brief mention of some of the different types of learning styles we have.

The four most popular types of learning styles are:

  • Visual learning style (learning by seeing)
  • Aural or auditory learning style (learning by listening to information spoken or presented)
  • Read/Write learning style (learning that involves reading and writing texts)
  • Tactile/Kinesthetic learning style (learning by touching and doing)

For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on using visual learning.

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Are You a Visual Learner?

When it comes to boosting your career, business (or education), a visual learner is one who would most definitely choose shapes, images, symbols, or reading over auditory messages.

This may mean you prefer to read an actual map when navigating to a new place over listening to verbal directions. It may also mean that you have trouble remembering what your manager said at the meeting because there were no graphs or illustrations to support the points raised.

Visual Learner Infographic

    Most people who struggle with learning probably aren’t leveraging their best learning styles[1]. The earlier you identify how your learning style can boost your success, the less struggle you will encounter with processing new information throughout your career.

    However, visual learning in particular can really boost your career or business whether it is your preferred learning style or not, and here’s why:

    Several studies have arrived at the conclusion that the brain retains more information with the help of visual aids. In other words, images are directly processed by our long-term memory, which helps us store information for longer periods of time.[2]

    While some lessons can be performed orally, several concepts can only make sense if you have an image with an explanation of sequences (i.e. learning about human DNA).

    Visual learning does use a different part of the brain, and visual cues are processed by the part of the brain known as the occipital lobe.

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    By engaging more parts of the brain during learning, you’re able to have a fuller understanding of concepts and facilitate better interaction with your immediate environment.

    How to Use Visual Learning for Success

    Here are 4 ways to use visual learning to boost your career or business:

    1. Bring Back the To-Do List

    We live in an age where computers have taken over virtually every aspect of productivity and most human functions. However, written lists are making a comeback, and with an endless number of important tasks to complete, having a to-do list of tasks in order of importance can improve your productivity.

    While coming up with a list is initially challenging, adding colors and shapes to written lists that you personally write and manage gives you an extra layer of assurance and aids recall so that you actually get stuff done.

    I have tried this technique in my work as a registered nurse and discovered that adding shapes and colors to to-do lists helps me delegate tasks, recognize where more work is needed, and makes it easy to cross off completed tasks at the end of the day.

    2. Add Graphs, Charts, and Symbols to Reports

    Yes, it seems like more work for you, but graphs enable you to monitor the heartbeat of your business.

    Graphs and charts help you find trends in your finances, make a budget, and analyze data overtime. With the help of free and premium software available on the market, it has become easier to take plain data and convert it to relevant information displayed in different shapes and images in a matter of minutes.

    As an entrepreneur, you can make predictions and allocate funds wisely when you’re able to see whether your efforts are rewarded. You can use colors and charts to delegate actions to members of your team and track performance at the same time.

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    When broken down into monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual goals, graphs and charts communicate what ordinary text cannot.

    3. Effectively Brainstorm With Mind-Mapping

    With mind-mapping, you’re organizing information accurately and drawing relationships between concepts and pieces from a whole, which is a great way to tap into visual learning.

    Think of a mind map as a tree with several branches. For example, the tree can symbolize healthcare, while each branch stands for nursing, medicine, laboratory science, and so on. When you look at nursing, you can further branch out into types of nursing; pediatric, women’s health, critical care, and so on.

    It’s an interesting relationship; the more ideas you’re able to come up with for your chosen subject, the deeper you get and the stronger the association.

    Mind maps really show you relationships between subjects and topics, and simplifies processes that might seem complicated at first glance. In a way, it is like a graphical representation of facts presented in a simple, visual format.

    Mind mapping isn’t only limited to career professionals; business owners can benefit from mind mapping by organizing their online learning activities and breaking down complex tasks into simple actions so that you can accurately measure productivity.

    4. Add Video Streaming to Meetings

    What if you could double the productivity of your team members by video streaming your meetings or adding flash animation to your presentation?

    When you offer video as an alternative method of processing information to colleagues, there is a greater chance of retaining information because we recreate these stories as images in our minds.

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    For organizations that hold virtual meetings, it can also be an effective way to enhance performance as people can see their colleagues in addition to whatever form of video is provided during the meeting.

    Final Thoughts

    The question is not whether visual learning is better than the other learning styles. Each has their merits and situations where they will be most useful.

    The goal here is to supplement your existing dominant learning style with visual learning so that you can experience a significant boost in how you process and use everyday information.

    You might discover that understanding scientific concepts is much easier after incorporating visual learning or that you’re able to understand your organization’s value when projected on a visual screen with charts and graphs.

    The overall goal is to always be learning and to continue to leverage visual learning style in your career and business.

    More About Learning Styles

    Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

    Reference

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