What has a greater impact on the success of your team – talent or culture?

Team Defined: A group of people working together (typically interdependently) for a common goal/outcome.
Culture Defined: The manner in which a team goes about it’s work. Includes the team’s environment, ethos, values, processes, procedures, physical spaces, formality, acceptable teammate and stakeholder interactions, etc. 

Naturally, team leaders want both talent and a healthy culture. My observation from working with many team leaders is that there will be occasions when a leader must navigate through a situation that will ultimately result in a decision that indicates which has greater value, talent or culture, in that specific situation. Why? There are times when a very talented team member is negatively impacting the team’s culture. There are also times when a team member who has a positive impact on the team’s culture is not performing at the necessary level and it is determined that the team member cannot be developed to reach the necessary level of performance, they simply are not talented/skilled enough. 

Talent Observations:

  • In competitive, high performing environments, teams can’t “win”, (be successful, accomplish its objectives, etc.) without talent, but a team can “lose” (be unsuccessful, not accomplish its objectives, etc.) with talent. Talent alone is not a guarantee for a team’s success. A lack of talent typically limits the team’s level of performance and accomplishment. 
  • When adding team members, talent (skill, technical competency) is weighted above team culture or the prospective team members “fit” on the team.
  • Performance/skill can be developed/improved through coaching and training. 

Culture Observations:

  • A healthy team culture, like team performance, is the result of intentionality and effective leadership. Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky, says “Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing.”
  • Culture impacts team member engagement and retention. Teams risk losing top performers if the culture becomes unhealthy or toxic. 
  • Culture can be improved/developed through coaching and training if the leader(s) are committed to having a healthy culture. 

Teams must have talent. Talent alone is not enough. Teams also need a healthy culture to achieve the full potential. Vern Dosch, author of “WIRED DIFFERENTLY” wrote, “I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.”

Does your team have the needed talent as well as a healthy culture?

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