27 September 2023

Team building: Sharing values in a global workplace

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Brian de Haaff* explains how the Aha! company builds team spirit when members meet face-to-face just twice a year.

Team spirit in theory refers to a positive organisational culture.

However, many organisations treat it more like recruiting lip service than a value to actively foster.

It has become just another corporate buzzword.

Team spirit should not just be an abstract concept or a lure — it is something that is real and palpable, so what exactly does it look like?

Team spirit is when everyone believes in a shared set of values and supports one another to accomplish a common goal.

I find that folks frequently want to talk to me about team spirit.

This is because Aha! is an entirely remote company.

Being distributed, there is often curiosity about how committed our teammates can be when we only see each other in person twice a year at our onsites.

Today our team is nearly 100 people — but the questions are not that dissimilar from when we were 20, 40, or even 50.

My answer has not changed as we have grown.

Our team at Aha! operates with a shared set of values.

We have clear goals and everyone understands how their work contributes to achieving our company’s vision.

I know that I am excited to work with this group of ambitious, curious and kind individuals.

When folks care deeply about what they are doing and feel invested in the organisation’s success, it is possible to achieve great things together.

To support team spirit as an organisation grows, it is up to leaders to create an environment where people are frequently celebrated for their contributions.

Positive interactions and meaningful connections are especially important when you are all working remotely.

Here are a few ways we do it.

Feel the love: We express gratitude (or as we call it, ‘hatitude’) for our teammates daily, but because we move quickly, those messages can be ephemeral.

So every few weeks, our People Success team will select a few of these notes to highlight during our all-company video meeting.

Folks get on camera to further expand upon how someone helped them and why they are grateful.

This gives us all a moment to pause and really bask in how lovable our team is.

Share the wins: A victory for one is a victory for all.

During that same weekly all-hands meeting, teammates leave comments via chat to cheer each other on.

For example, when an engineer demos functionality, the company chat messages light up with excitement for what is new.

We also celebrate new hires as they graduate from our on-boarding program.

Again, each person joins on camera and shares a special memory from the experience.

Live the values: Although we all volunteer at our onsites every six months, we seek out additional opportunities to serve together.

As part of our Aha! Cares program, teammates located in the same city will meet up for a volunteer day at a local non-profit organisation.

A few folks recently served lunch at a community kitchen in Austin, Texas.

A group of Aha!s in Portland, Oregon volunteered at a shelter for women and children over Christmas.

Wear it proud: Every so often, I get an email asking if there is Aha! swag to purchase.

There is not, although the request is flattering.

We save Aha!-branded shirts, stickers, water bottles, and coffee mugs for the team.

This is just another way we feel connected to one another.

We may be having a video meeting with someone located across the country (or globe), but seeing a co-worker wearing an onsite tee-shirt reminds us that we belong to the same team.

Team spirit does not happen without intent — it must be nurtured and practiced daily to truly flourish.

You might be wondering how you can influence your organisation to have more spirit.

No matter what your title or role is, you can set a positive example.

Express your appreciation for others, celebrate their wins as your own, and encourage everyone else to do the same.

These actions can have a big effect over time.

Rather than a corporate buzzword, team spirit will hopefully become something real that you can experience (and enjoy) every day.

How do you show team spirit?

*Brian de Haaff is the Chief Executive of cloud-based software company Aha! He can be contacted on Twitter @bdehaaff.

This article first appeared on the Aha! company website.

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