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Shaping Team Culture: A Practical Approach for New Leaders

Joining a new team as a leader brings a unique set of challenges, particularly when the envisioned culture set by your boss does not align with the culture your team is currently exhibiting. You don’t want to break the trust on your first week of the job, but you know some things need to change. 

Navigating this situation requires tact, empathy, and strategic action to shape the team culture toward the right path while fostering trust and maintaining a positive work environment. This article will explore practical steps and actions that new leaders can take to lead effectively, build trust, and constructively shape their team’s culture in their first weeks.

Be Curious

Before making any changes, observing and understanding the existing team is essential. Engage in active listening, ask questions, hold one-on-one conversations with team members, and encourage open dialogue to gain insights into their perspectives and experiences. Before making any changes, understand the why behind the current methods and structure.  

Align on Values and Purpose

Once you have gained a deeper understanding of the team and culture, take the opportunity to clarify and align on the mission and shared values. What is your team working towards?  What do you want to become?  What impact will you have on the business?  Then go through the values you will all adhere to to achieve those results.   Seek input from team members on their personal values and how they see them aligning with the team's objectives. Establishing a common value system and purpose lays the foundation for shaping a cohesive culture.

Lead by Example

As a leader, your actions and behaviors set the tone for the team. Consistently demonstrate the desired culture through your own conduct. Be mindful of how you communicate, collaborate, and make decisions. Act with integrity, transparency, and respect. By consistently modeling the desired behaviors, you inspire your team to follow suit and create a culture of trust and accountability.

Empower and Involve


To activate the team culture, involve team members in decision-making processes and empower them to contribute their ideas and perspectives. Encourage collaboration and teamwork, ensuring that everyone feels valued and included. Create opportunities for growth and development, allowing team members to take ownership of their work and contribute meaningfully to the team's success. This sense of ownership fosters a positive culture where individuals feel motivated and invested in the team's goals.


Communicate and Provide Feedback

Open and transparent communication is crucial for shaping and changing team culture. Regularly calibrate to the team's vision, values, and goals, emphasizing the desired culture you are working toward and any variances. Provide constructive feedback and recognition to individuals and the team as a whole, celebrating achievements and addressing areas for improvement. Encourage others to give feedback as well, creating a culture of continuous learning and improvement at all levels.

Encourage Experimentation and Learning


Creating a culture of experimentation allows for innovation and growth. Encourage your team to explore new ideas, take calculated risks, and learn from both successes and failures. Emphasize that mistakes are growth opportunities and encourage a supportive environment where team members can learn from their experiences without fear of judgment or retribution.


Monitor Progress and Adapt

As you implement changes and shape the team culture, regularly monitor progress and assess the impact of your actions. Solicit feedback from team members to understand their perception of the evolving culture and make adjustments as necessary. Adaptability and flexibility are key to ensuring that the culture continues to align with the team's goals and the organization's vision.

Leverage the Power of AI to Become a Better Leader

Empathy, curiosity, and intentional action are all crucial when shaping a team's culture toward a new vision. This is even more so when you’re stepping in as a new face to lead an existing team or organization. By assessing, aligning, leading by example, empowering, communicating, encouraging experimentation, and monitoring progress, new leaders can successfully shape and change the team culture while building trust and fostering a positive work environment. 

It's important to note that advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) can augment and accelerate your efforts in achieving these goals. AI tools can provide valuable insights, data-driven feedback, and assistance in measuring and monitoring team dynamics, enabling you to make informed decisions and drive culture transformation effectively while removing the manual time it has historically taken to deeply understand your culture and people.  It’s why Instill created our ground-breaking Culture Operating System™. We know how valuable real-team, comprehensive data can be for crafting personalized nudges and action steps. Cultural transformation takes time, and by leveraging the power of AI alongside practical actions, you can accelerate the process and create a culture that drives success and employee satisfaction. If you’re interested in more practical tools for leading cultural change or want to learn more about how our AI system can help your teams thrive, we would love to set up a discovery call today.

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