If you have your Business Buzzword Bingo card handy, get ready to put another phrase on it. The hottest topic in remote and hybrid work is “culture.” Specifically, creating a “one-team” culture as we move to more hybrid work.

The idea of “one team” is important. The phrase recognizes that hybrid work contains the seeds of disruption, that a hybrid team can easily splinter into cliques (most usually the people in the office vs everyone else). It also allows for people to go into their own silos or rabbit holes and find themselves working at cross purposes with their teammates.

The thing is, your team will have a culture whether you put any time and conscious thought into it at all. Culture is really just a ten-dollar word for “how we do things here.” Successful teams decide what they want their team’s working world to look like and plan accordingly. The rest of us just deal with whatever arises, and it is seldom a dream scenario.

When we recognize this reality, the real work begins. You can’t figure out the guidelines for achieving your team’s culture unless you recognize what it is.

You can get what you want…you just have to know what that is.

Start by creating a list of qualities your ideal team would exhibit. Words like innovative, fun, trusting, and collegial might be on that list. Come up with as many words as you can for a great place where you’d like to work. That’s the easy part.

Now take that list and identify the three factors that are most important to you. How do you want people to think about the team? What will it be like to work there day in and day out? What are the make-or-break factors that make this a great place to work? This is far more difficult, because you begin to see an inherent section.

Good, fast or cheap?

If you’re old enough, your local mechanic probably had a sign at the desk that said, “Do you want it good, fast, or cheap? Pick two.” There is an element of truth in that piece of humor. Quality takes time and money. The fastest answer might not be the cheapest. You get the idea. The same principle applies to team culture.

For example, if “innovation,” and “creative thinking,” are important to you, then “collegial,” and “harmonious” are going to be difficult to achieve at the same time. Creation and innovation contain natural sources of conflict that can ruffle feathers on occasion, and create friction between even the most well-intentioned team members. If the goal is to always think outside the box, or get the absolute best answer no matter what, someone is going to feel slighted.

It’s not that the two competing ideas of harmony and innovation can’t co-exist, but it will take a lot of effort and explicit rules of engagement. Creating one team when people don’t see each other or some see each other every day will require adjustments to workflow, assigning tasks, and soliciting input.

Creating culture isn’t a top-down process

Recognizing the inherent challenges is part of the next step: figuring out the ground rules, processes, and activities that will support the culture you want. These can’t be imposed by management. If the team is going to truly understand, internalize, buy in and behave in ways that create this one-team culture, they need to be part of the process.

Culture isn’t built overnight, and it is constantly changing and evolving as team members come and go and time goes by.

While things are in a state of flux, as people are taking this moment to make decisions about where they want to work, and the work they do, is the perfect time to ask yourself—and them—what is the culture you want to have?

What are you going to do about it?

Good remote leadership is about taking the initiative. Take the lead with your own professional development with these courses.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammateoffers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.

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Wayne Turmel has been writing about how to develop communication and leadership skills for almost 26 years. He has taught and consulted at Fortune 500 companies and startups around the world. For the last 18 years, he’s focused on the growing need to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments.

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