People & Culture

Inspire a Winning Team Culture Through Action, Not Just Words 

July 12, 2023

Are you a leader looking to I.G.N.I.T.E. the fire within your team to ensure your employees are thriving in our ever changing and evolving work environment? It starts with defining your culture in words and then putting those words into practice to drive the behaviors you want to see for a winning team culture.

Culture is the Heartbeat of an Organization 

Culture is often referred to as the heartbeat of an organization because it represents the collective beliefs, values, behaviors, and attitudes that permeate every aspect of a company’s underlying fabric.  It shapes the organization’s identity, guides decision-making, and influences employee behaviors for better or for worse.  A strong and positive culture fosters unity, engagement, talent attraction and retention, innovation, and organizational success.  Building a winning team culture starts with intentional words and ends with committal actions.  The following action steps will I.G.N.I.T.E. the flame within your company and ultimately set your culture on fire.  Ask me, how do I know?   Keep reading! 

I.G.N.I.T.E. the Culture Fire 

I:  Identify the culture you have today and your north star for tomorrow. 

What characteristics make up your company today?  This is the fundamental question to ask yourself as the first step on this transformation journey.  Assessing the existing culture and knowing the culture you want to have in the future are both equally important.  Once you define the core values, purpose, vision, strengths, and opportunities for your culture, you can begin to build out the journey in between to get you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future – your culture north star.    

G:  Gather internal and external feedback. 

Insights from inside and outside your organization are essential inputs into your culture roadmap so gather feedback to help you gain an understanding of the current state and to help you shape the culture you envision for the future.  This includes getting not only your leadership involved in the process to generate ideas but seeking feedback broadly from your employees, customers, and business stakeholders, alike.  Be sure to share this out and communicate the good, the bad, and the not-so-good openly along the journey to gain buy-in for where you are headed.  Focus groups, voice surveys, and office hours are a few mechanisms that have worked well to gather these insights.  You may be surprised how similar and/or different others may perceive your culture based on their experiences and interactions.   

N:  Nominate and recognize culture champions. 

Many companies recognize and reward high performers for their impact and contributions to the organization.  Wouldn’t it be great, if those same companies nominated and recognized culture champions for exhibiting positive behaviors aligned to their organization’s values?  At Splunk, peers nominate people and teams who are fun, disruptive, innovative, open and passionate on a quarterly basis to acknowledge and encourage the actions we want to see show up each and every day within our organization.  What values are important to your company’s fabric and worth recognizing for your employees? 

I:  Implement and develop a talent strategy. 

Similar to having a cyber strategy, implementing and developing a talent strategy that matches the workforce you need will help deliver the business outcomes you want for the future.  Who and how you attract and hire to your organization will shape your culture intentionally or unintentionally.  Having a workforce strategy and roadmap that is inclusive of diverse perspectives and partnerships that align with your company’s values will only add to the culture you are aiming to create, so reach out to universities, colleges, apprenticeship, and industry organizations to get them plugged into your journey. 

T:  Think and obsess about what a successful culture looks like. 

This is a tough one.  It’s not enough to only think and obsess about your north star culture but you also have to measure the alignment of values between leaders, managers, and employees and I would also add customers in there as well.  This starts with one fundamental action that we often forget to do which is listen; the final and probably most important aspect of building a high-performing team culture.  Keep reading! 

E:  Empathize, listen, and listen again. 

Building a high-performing team culture is an iterative process that requires companies to empathize, listen and listen again to their employees, customers, and partners in order to thrive in a very competitive market where individuals have the option to choose where they want to work and choose who they want to spend their money with for products and services.  As needs and demands change throughout these listening tours, be prepared to pivot, adjust and change directions throughout this culture transformation journey as many have experienced over the last three years. 

Keep the Culture Flame Burning 

Inspiring a winning team culture requires more than mere words; it necessitates deliberate actions and consistent follow-through. To foster a culture of success and excellence within a team, leaders must embody the values they espouse, lead by example, and actively engage in actions that reinforce the desired culture.    

Best practices to follow for a winning team culture: 

Sustain Cultural Values.  Leaders should align their behaviors with the team’s values and expectations. They must consistently demonstrate the behaviors they wish to see in their team members, whether it’s accountability, open communication, or a growth mindset. By embodying these values, leaders create a strong foundation for a winning team culture. 

Encourage Collaboration and Communication.  Actions that promote collaboration and teamwork are crucial. Encouraging cross-functional collaboration, promoting knowledge-sharing, and creating opportunities for collective problem-solving all contribute to a sense of unity and cooperation within the team. Actively fostering an environment where every team member feels heard, respected, and valued cultivates a culture of inclusivity and collaboration. 

Foster Employee Engagement & Belonging.  Recognizing and rewarding achievements is essential for inspiring a winning team culture. Celebrating individual and team successes reinforces the desired behaviors and motivates team members to continue striving for excellence. Recognitions can take various forms, including public praise, rewards, or career development opportunities. By acknowledging and appreciating outstanding performance, leaders create a culture that values and rewards success. 

Promote Continuous Learning & Development.  Providing regular feedback and coaching is vital. Leaders should actively engage with their team members, offering guidance, constructive criticism, and support for their professional growth. By investing in their development and helping them overcome challenges, leaders foster a culture of continuous improvement and create an atmosphere where everyone can thrive. 

Lead by Example.  Leaders must follow through on their commitments and promises. Actions must align with words to maintain credibility and trust. Team members need to see that the leader’s words are backed by tangible actions and that their concerns and feedback are taken seriously. Consistency between words and actions builds trust, reinforcing the team’s belief in the desired winning culture. 

In summary, inspiring a winning team culture goes beyond mere rhetoric. It requires leaders to exemplify the desired behaviors, foster collaboration, recognize achievements, provide feedback and coaching, and consistently follow through on commitments. By taking these actions, leaders create an environment where team members are motivated, engaged, and empowered to give their best, resulting in a winning team culture that drives success, creates a fulfilling work experience for all, and keeps the culture flame burning indefinitely. 

LaLisha Hurt Headsot
LaLisha Hurt - Splunk

LaLisha Hurt is responsible for providing thought leadership, business strategy and industry advisory support to the federal government. Prior to Splunk, she served in various CISO roles building, enabling and growing technology shared services and winning team cultures for public and private companies. LaLisha has a B.S. in Systems Engineering from University of Virginia, M.S. in Information Assurance from UMUC and a MBA from the University of Baltimore with several ISACA industry certifications. She is a Carnegie Mellon University Alum and Adjunct Professor for the CISO Executive Program, STEM advocate and has a strong passion for creating a diverse talent pipeline for the future.