Steps for Building Team Identity

Businesses have begun to realize that when employees feel like they're a part of something bigger, something that matters, they're more likely to take the initiative to do whatever it takes to achieve the team's goals.

That's one of the reasons why it's so important for you to help your team establish an identity. A team identity, like a personal identity, answers questions of belonging and self. Human beings have asked "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" types of questions for thousands of years. These questions never disappear. Even when you think you know the answers, you enter into a new relationship or your current relationship dynamics change.

There are three steps to follow for formalizing a team's understanding of its identity—and consequently, for answering these time-honored questions. Sometimes a team can have an identity but its members aren't consciously aware of it. Formalizing your team's understanding of its identity can boost morale, energize team members, and go a long way toward creating the synergistic team you're hoping for.

Three steps for formalizing a team's identity

You can formalize the realization of a team identity by following three steps: Asking each person on the team to give at least one reason why the team is unique

  1. Asking each person on the team to give at least one reason why the team is unique
    Every member of your team is a team owner. And as such, each person has the right to air his thoughts and ideas about how he perceives the team. Make sure everyone on the team has the opportunity to provide defining team characteristics.
  2. Asking each team member to offer an example that demonstrates each identifying characteristic
    This step reinforces the belief that your team is unique. The stories energize the team members and give them a sense of pride. This step also provides justification for why a particular characteristic was mentioned.
  3. Asking for team-member agreement on the team's identifying characteristics
    By now, everyone on the team should have a clear understanding of the team's defining characteristics. Before adjourning the meeting, make sure everyone agrees that the list is accurate and complete. Everyone should leave feeling satisfied with the list.

Allowing some preparation time

Before you begin the formalized discussion of establishing a team identity, you might want to give your teammates a homework assignment. In other words, allow them time to prepare for the discussion by telling them in the preceding team meeting to think about the attributes that make your team unique.

Recording and posting the results

A final note: It's a good idea to record your team's identity-creating discussion. If possible, record what's said so everyone can see what's being noted—use a white board, a flip chart on an easel, or an overhead projector. But an audio cassette recorder or a notepad will work, too.

Several teams have spruced up their final lists of defining characteristics and posted them in the team's meeting room or copied and framed them to give to the individual team members.

A formal team identity not only provides a sense of ownership and belonging, it can also help a team remain focused, energetic, and positive during rough times.

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Philip Irwin
Online Business Marketing Coach


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