Conversations about team and organizational culture can easily go off track, veering into a messy mixture of behaviors, culture, values, strategy, and attitudes.
To cut through it all, I’ve had success with the following: ask each member of the team to imagine they are interviewing a candidate they would like to hire. Have them describe to this candidate what it feels like to be part of this team: how do we behave, what does it feel like, what are the words that jump to mind?
The answers you’re looking for are tangible, simple:
“We move fast.”
“We are collaborative.”
“We talk a lot.”
“We have fun.”
“We are always thinking three steps ahead.”
“We have a plan.”
“We are disciplined.”
“We listen to everyone’s voice.”
And then you also want people to think about and tell you: what are one or two things that are missing from our culture that would help us be more effective?
To avoid anchoring (having the first, loudest, or most senior person’s voice determine the direction of the conversation), have each person write down their answers first. Then read them out, one at a time, and see where there are similarities and differences.
I’ve found that this is a nice way to cut through the noise, helping teams to zero in on who we are today and who we’d like to be tomorrow.