What makes a great team?

Have you ever worked in a team that just works, or one that simply does not?
Great teams are built on shared values, clear rules and communication – or more simply put – a healthy culture.

What makes up a healthy culture?

Team culture consists of values and norms.
Values are beliefs, philosophies and principles that drive the team members.
Norms are the formal and informal ground rules that dictate how people interact with each other.
These rules help members of the group figure out how to behave by clarifying roles and providing a sense of predictability.
Both values and norms lay the foundation for a great team.

Benefits of a healthy culture

So what are the benefits of good norms? Well, some benefits includes:

  • Constructive meetings and communication
  • A shared value system makes working together easier
  • Everyone knows what is expected of them, so they can meet  – and exceed – expectations
  • Conflicts can be resolved more easily
  • New teammates can get up to speed quickly

Strength in numbers

A single person can initiate a discussion on team culture and expectations — but to establish a culture the entire team needs to be engaged.
After all, one person can’t control the behaviour of an entire team.

That is why creating norms requires buy-in from a majority of teammates — including leadership.
A team leader’s blessing is paramount for a successful change of conventions.

Reflect and re-evaluate

Once the team culture is in place, the next step is figuring out what is working and what is not.
One way is scheduling a retrospective. Let team members reflect individually on their own positive and negative experiences.
Sharing the highs and lows during the retrospective can help uncover some collective truths.
Focus on solutions and steer clear of blame.

Norms are living agreements, not set in stone. It’s important to continue to revisit them and amend them as the team grows and changes.
Some groups revisit these each time they start a meeting, begin a project, or once a quarter – this will keep the positive momentum going.


Group norms are most effective when everyone follows them — and for that, you need consensus.
If everyone on the team agrees from the beginning to adhere to the norms that you’ve laid out together, holding each other accountable will be much easier.

Be specific

Another key to success is being very specific when writing down the group’s shared expectations.
Success comes from straightforward objectives and guidelines – that are both measurable and achievable.

For example:

  • All documentation should be written in Confluence for one month.
  • All communication that needs response the same day should be done in Slack.
  • We do not expect team members to respond to Slack messages immediately.
  • Urgent matters that require immediate attention will be handled initiated over the phone.
  • We will begin and end our meeting on time.
  • We will only hold meetings with a clear agenda that has been distributed at least 24 hours in advance.
  • We will be result and solutions oriented – not seeking blame or dwelling over mistakes.
  • We will provide a safe space for all to express ideas and thoughts.

Remember to share lists and keep your team mates updated with comments so that they know what is expected of them!