Updated: Jul 26
Improving Organizational Culture: Embedding Core Values With Questions
Unlocking Psychological Safety and Fostering Open Communication for Hybrid and Remote-first Teams
In the ever-evolving world of work organizations are navigating the transition to hybrid and remote-first teams. As HR and people leaders seek to improve their company culture in this new landscape, building trust and enhancing communication becomes paramount. Studies show that psychological safety, characterized by a culture where team members feel safe to take risks and be open, is vital for high-performing teams. In this article we will share insights on practical ways to build your organizational culture and instill your core values across all teams.
The Impact of Psychological Safety:
Psychological safety is the belief that one can take risks without fear of negative consequences, judgment, or rejection. Research conducted by Google's Project Aristotle highlights the vital role psychological safety plays in enabling high-performing teams. Teams with a strong sense of psychological safety exhibit higher levels of creativity, cooperation, and innovation. By creating an environment that fosters psychological safety, organizations can lay the groundwork for open and honest communication, leading to improved team dynamics and overall performance.
Operational essential: "Team agreements" are essential for every team to develop on their growth journey and improve psychological safety. In essence, "team agreements" are a living document that outlines norms, practices, systems and structures a team "lives by." Team agreements create clarity, enable shared accountability, and empower all members to make adjustments to their teams operating norms, ones that are commonly unspoken or unconscious. We suggest that every team's agreement include a vision statement—that is, what does success look like with respect to how we "be" as a team and the outputs we provide in service of the organizational mission. "What does trust look like to you" and "what are barriers to honesty or being real" are helpful questions teams can explore while developing their vision statement. Foundations like team agreements and a vision statement are foundational elements for improving innovation and team effectiveness. What systems are structures are common across your teams? What's missing?
Did you know: Mosaicli ships physical ToolKits for teams, enabling stronger team bonds and foundational structures that foster trust, open communication and innovation across teams.
Challenges to implementing team growth solutions
How can you give teams the right balance of guidance and autonomy to improve their team dynamics? With too little structure, organizational efforts are inconsistent, fail to instill a "one team ethos" and add little value to your employer brand. With too much structure, teams struggle to fit the mold, they aren't bought in, and solutions don't get implemented well—wasting investment in team building and L&D.
Additionally, unprecedented change over the last few years has bombarded everyone with new technologies and solutions. Managers and teams might be "solution fatigued"—getting them excited about something new takes ingenuity and a unique approach. How are you effectively socializing and getting managers and teams excited about new technologies or solutions? What enables buy-in? Why might folx be resistant?
Effective socialization strategies are one of sixteen factors we use to analyze and compare the value/efficacy of other vendor's culture and team growth solutions against Mosaicli's. We call this "Vendor Value Mapping" and it's an analysis we provide to our clients as we explore operational strategies, together. It's one you can use to show due diligence, effectively communicate the value of varying solutions, and foster dialogue that builds buy-in with key stakeholders.
If you want to receive a free vendor analysis specific for your organizational needs, Schedule a free consultation with Mosaicli's solutions team. After our conversation you'll receive a Vendor Value Map comparing at least five vendor's solutions and sixteen factors of analysis.
Six program design factors that are key to operationalizing culture and values
When it comes to experience design and scalability, the following six factors are proven to improve the impact of team building, growth and learning programs. Effectively incorporate these into employee experiences for increased accessibility, effectiveness and overall team performance.
Story: Does programming enable team members to make personal connections with your learning objectives and with each other? Social connection is key to team learning and sharing personal stories communicates your values, increases understanding and effectively fosters psychological safety.
Creativity: Does programming engage creativity to effectively improve engagement and learning outcomes? Creativity levels the "playing field" and is proven to enhance learning outcomes for all learners, especially those who don't speak English as their first language. Creative engagement also improves mental health and wellness through appropriate risk-taking, improved retrospection and play. Presence, one result of wellbeing, and social connection are key ingredients to better teamwork and safe learning spaces.
Context: Does programming do well to get team members invested in a bigger picture purpose and vision? What is the individual and collective why for following through with their program plan? Do you teams have a vision statement and does their solution align with it?
Questions: Does programming elicit multiple perspectives and, rather than tell, invite team members to make their own meaning and draw their own conclusion, together? Framing the right question is the heart of learning. Unlocking the power of questions on your team's can be an effective strategy to enable autonomous team growth.
Inclusive design: Does programming enable key stakeholders to have a voice or say in the design? People "own" what they create. If leaders are proud of the solution they helped to create, they will be more supportive as active advocates or investors. If managers and teams have input, they will feel respected and empowered. An inclusive design process fosters critical thinking necessary for high performing and adaptive teams.
Iteration: Does your program enable sufficient opportunities for improvement? Can every team's solution or team growth plan adapt as they grow and change? Can team members "be in conversation" with their solution and shape it for the better, over time? And, based on the results they see, or don't, are they excited to progress along the journey trusting that their program will adapt to their needs?
Mosaicli programs include these "scalability keys" and can each be explored in much greater detail. Because questions can be an effective way to contextualize team growth. (context is key!) we're going to dive deeper there.
The power (and simplicity) of questions to effectively reinforce core values
Learning, social connection, innovation and the health of your organizational culture is directly related to the questions/topics your teams feel free to explore, together, and the lived experiences (and stories) team members feel safe to share with one another.
Core values lack strategic impact when they live on paper and not in the hearts and minds of your people. Questions enable reflection and introspection and are essential to team's to develop their own understanding of your core values. With the right frame, manager's can unlock team growth and reinforce core values by posing key questions.
Here's the most straightforward framework for leveraging questions to reinforce core values:
Pose a question to discuss + invite (or share) an example or story + ask: "how does this reflect our core values (or not) + what's something we want to carry forward as a team (action or practice oriented).
The power of sequenced questioning to enable continuous team growth
Across most teams and relationships, social isolation, feelings of disconnection and stagnant growth occurs because key questions and stories aren’t being addressed and shared. As it often goes, people need prompting to move “stuck” energy and well timed questions and stories can continuously improve relationships at work and home.
In essence, can team members be open and honest with one another? How about with leadership? What topics are "off limits?" Which conversations, if engaged with constructively, would contribute to a healthier team and motivate people to stay longer.
Sequenced questioning is a powerful technique that enables teams to gradually build trust and foster more honest and open communication over time. By asking a series of purposeful questions in a specific order, leaders can create an environment where team members feel heard, valued, and safe to share their thoughts and ideas.
This approach to incremental trust-building starts with less sensitive questions and gradually progresses to more vulnerable topics. The sequencing of questions allows teams to develop a sense of trust over time, enhancing psychological safety and fostering deeper connections.
Hot tip: Teams can create their own "growth plan" by working together to create a sequence of questions and topics with aspirations to improve trust and engage with more "risky" topics over time. Having teams create their team agreements and explore the connection between trust and innovation while creating their vision statement helps to provide a clear activity context that's personally meaningful to each team member. Question sequencing is a key component to how Mosaicli enables team's to be co-creators of their own Learning Journeys.
Sequencing Questions for Trust-Building:
The following five question categories and conversation topics can effectively help managers build trust and improve team dynamics. This sequence can be enacted over one longer meeting, throughout the week or longer. The overall objective is to provide a framework, or way of understanding incremental trust building, so that managers can foster a longer view of team growth, learning and development in straighforward, simple terms.
Ice-Breaking Questions: Begin with light, ice-breaking questions that help team members become comfortable with each other. These questions can be non-work-related, such as hobbies, interests, or favorite books. Ice-breakers set a positive tone, promote bonding, and serve as an initial step in building rapport among team members.
Recognition and Appreciation Questions: Acknowledge and appreciate individual and team contributions through recognition questions. These questions focus on celebrating successes and highlighting the strengths and skills of team members. By showcasing gratitude and acknowledging accomplishments, teams can cultivate a culture of appreciation and recognition, further strengthening trust and psychological safety.
Professional Growth Questions: Shift the focus to professional growth and development by asking questions that encourage team members to reflect on their own skills, strengths, and areas for improvement. This encourages self-awareness and promotes open discussions on personal growth, fostering a culture of continuous development within the team.
Feedback and Improvement Questions: Create a safe space for constructive feedback by asking questions that allow team members to provide their insights on areas of improvement. Emphasize the idea of feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than criticism. By creating an environment that embraces honest feedback, teams can learn from each other, drive innovation, and build a collective mindset of constant improvement.
Brave Vulnerability Questions: As trust and psychological safety grow within the team, introduce more vulnerable questions. These questions can delve into personal challenges, fears, or aspirations. By providing opportunities for team members to share more deeply, teams deepen their connections, foster empathy, and strengthen trust.
Impact on Team Dynamics:
Implementing sequenced questioning within hybrid and remote-first teams can have a transformative impact on team dynamics. By gradually building trust and creating an environment of psychological safety, teams are more likely to engage in honest and open communication. This leads to improved collaboration, increased employee engagement, and enhanced problem-solving abilities. Teams that feel empowered to share ideas and concerns contribute to a culture of continuous improvement, creating a pathway for success in the evolving work landscape.
Psychological Safety and Open Communication:
The relationship between psychological safety and open communication is undeniable. When team members feel safe to express their thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution, it paves the way for open and honest dialogue. The ability to openly communicate reduces misunderstandings, aligns expectations, and strengthens interpersonal connections. Organizations that prioritize psychological safety and foster open communication often experience higher employee satisfaction, improved retention rates, and increased innovation.
In the era of hybrid and remote-first teams, empowering employees, building trust, and enhancing communication have become more critical than ever. By implementing the practice of sequenced questioning, leaders can gradually build psychological safety within their teams, fostering a culture of honesty and open communication. As team members feel increasingly comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, collaboration and productivity thrive. By prioritizing psychological safety and embracing sequenced questioning, organizations can adapt to the evolving work landscape and establish themselves as leaders in creating high-performing teams.
Mosaicli helps leaders operationalize their culture and values with events based activations, manager and team training, and plug-and-play solutions that catalyze ongoing team learning and engagement. Schedule a call with our team to explore an affordable solution for your organization.