Team Identity

Drawing of four people in a rowing skull, pulling togetherDescription: As a team matures and succeeds, members should begin to feel a sense of belonging and loyalty to the team as a whole. This is a necessary step on the way to high performance. Hesitation by some members to share information, make decisions jointly, or submit to reviews of their work by other members are some symptoms of a lack of team identity. The quickest and most effective method is to create a team charter, which provides other benefits as well. If identity problems occur after that, try the following.


  • Make sure the team is being praised for its successes (see the “Appreciation” page).
  • Have the team come up with a motto or slogan. One fun example comes from the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Dairy Store” in Connecticut: “If you wouldn’t take it home to your mother, don’t put it out for your customers.” Put the slogan on tee-shirts, mugs, banners, mouse pads, and anything else you can think of.
  • Look for competitions the team can enter, such as:
    • Formal sports leagues.
    • Competitions related to their work (there are events for hotel housekeepers and hazardous waste disposal workers, to name a couple).
    • Charity events like mud volleyball tournaments or walk-a-thons.
  • Look for other charity work the team can do (such as helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity, or staffing the phones at a public television fund-raiser while wearing team tee-shirts).
  • If a suitable charity event or work-related competition does not exist already, have the team create one.
  • Develop a team ritual. Possibilities include:
    • Have a stand-up meeting first thing each morning in which each person tells something good that happened the previous workday, or that they are going to make happen today.
    • Buy a stress-reliever of some sort, such as a toy or one of those rubbery dolls that invites you to hit them. When someone is under stress, give that person the item. The next day, that person is responsible for passing the item to someone else.
    • Create a “Negativity Kitty.” This is a box, jar, or piggy bank to which a member must donate a quarter every time they say something in a negative way in a team meeting or the workplace (an overly pessimistic assessment, a sarcastic remark, a put-down, etc.). Bad facts still need to be expressed, but that can be done in a positive way. When the kitty is filled, use it to buy some food for a team meeting. Make sure the team gets the point: it is eating its negativity!
  • Have the team spend part of a meeting coming up with nicknames for everyone on the team. The particular team member has no voice in the matter. Caution the team to avoid names that could be hurtful—this will work because everyone on the team knows they have to go through the same thing. Names should focus on an event in the person’s work life, unique traits the person openly acknowledges, and so on. Be sure each is a name the person and non-team members would feel comfortable using outside the workplace. Existing nicknames are fine.

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