Last week, one of our Support Driven community members asked a question in the #leadership channel that many support leaders cope with at one time or another:

“Would love some opinions and personal experience here. We have recently extended our support hours to 8a-8pm est. This has thrown off our tight group feel since the team is now working different shifts. We are searching for creative ways to have offsites/team bonding that includes everyone and also trying to have our old team mentality back.”

Ultimately, this is a question about the implications of scale on culture – when you scale your support team’s scope, hours or people, how do you hold onto the culture you’ve worked so hard to build?

There’s no easy answer to this question, because to some extent you can’t. A team that does support for 24 hours per day is going to operate in a fundamentally different way from a team that only does support for eight. Similarly, a team of fifty is going to have different relationships with each other than a team of five does.

But that doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and forget about trying to create and maintain a strong team culture, just because it might not stay exactly the same over time. As we all know by now, culture will develop on your team no matter what, so you should be deliberate about creating a culture you want. The key is to make sure that, while some elements stay stable, it also evolves and adapts with the needs of your team.

Here’s my advice about how to do this – 

Get very clear on your team’s values, and publicly recognize team members who demonstrate them. I periodically send an “our values in action” email to my team, where I recognize a team member who has done a particularly good job of living one of our team values. The rest of the team joins in on the email thread to thank or congratulate the team member, usually with kind words and creative gifs. It’s a small, cost-free strategy for consistently reinforcing our values, and, by extension, culture.

Hire carefully. This might seem like obvious advice, but it really can’t be overstated. Every person you bring onto the team is an opportunity to grow your culture – don’t miss it.

Rely on rituals, not events, to build and maintain relationships. Getting your whole team together for an event is great if you can swing it, but it can also be costly, unwieldy and unreliable. A better long-term strategy is incorporating rituals into your team’s workdays that allow them to build and maintain strong relationships, even if they’re far away from each other or working different schedules.

One of our Support Driven community members shared this ritual from a team she worked on: “When I used to work in a 24 hour environment, we used to write ‘thank you notes’ to the other shifts.  If we noticed they did something awesome, we’d leave little notes to surprise them. It made everyone realize their work was getting noticed even if we weren’t there in person to tell them.”

What do you think? If you’re not in the community and would like to join in the conversations, please join us!