Team development in medium-sized businesses - netzwerk managementberatung | coaching
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Team development | Criteria for a good team culture

Team development in small and medium-sized enterprises

From Sabine Walter, Head of network management consulting | coaching

Employees who appreciate each other. Teams that harmonise with each other. A culture of trust and emotional security is a key success factor for medium-sized companies with up to 150 employees. If these factors are not in place and mistrust and insecurity prevail, demotivation, loss of performance, inner resignation, high absenteeism and ultimately also outer resignation are almost inevitable consequences. Due to the lower staffing levels, these circumstances also have a negative economic impact much faster than in larger companies.

In the course of our consulting work, we often experience that the quality of the team culture is given little attention in everyday life in medium-sized companies. The focus is on the product, the project or the service to be provided - precisely because these companies have a tight staffing level. If resources are also lacking, the boss in particular tries to close this gap through increased operational commitment. Time that is lacking for leadership.

No matter how great the operational commitment of the management, a neglected team culture cannot be compensated for by involvement in day-to-day business and leads to economic damage in the long run. In this article we describe perceptible signals that reveal the quality of the team or company culture. Furthermore, we show ways to improve it.

Aspects of a healthy team culture

What are the characteristics of a healthy team culture?

A healthy team culture is characterised by five key factors:

Heart and soul of the team members

Sufficient Room for growth and development of each

Sense of equivalence in the team

Self-confidence of the team members

Emotional security

Aspects of a healthy team culture

How can these characteristics be recognised?

Gut feeling is often a good indicator of the quality of team culture. The five factors become perceptible in the following behaviour:

Aspects of a healthy team culture

Heart and soul

It is generally quite easy to tell whether team members are passionate about their work. In concrete terms, this means that they take on 100% responsibility for the common cause and defined goals. Sentences like "That's not my responsibility" or "That's not my job" are a thing of the past.

Aspects of a healthy team culture

Growth and development

Most people want to develop themselves further. Further development can take place on different levels: professional, personal, interpersonal ...

A team must offer room for growth and development so that people feel permanently comfortable in it. If people feel that the cooperation with their environment is not or not very enriching, they will not put their heart and soul into this cooperation. The inner retreat begins and initiates the outer retreat.

This can be seen, for example, in the fact that team members do a 9-to-5 job, who diligence suffers, additional tasks are done with reluctance and may also not be completed on time, interest in joint team activities dwindles, nothing is said in meetings or everything said is contradicted. It may be that defined processes or standards are not adhered to, and instead one's own path or workaround is developed and pursued.

Aspects of a healthy team culture


I have discussed the issue of equality in the article "Value in Teams and Companies" extensively. Therefore, I will only deal with the core elements here. Whether we as human beings feel equal is very much related to our family background and socialisation in early childhood. The feeling of being worth nothing or less than others can be recognised in various aspects:

  • the posture is rather crouched
  • it is difficult to maintain eye contact with the conversation partner
  • criticism is perceived as rejection, so people sulk and retreat
  • one's own opinion is hardly ever expressed

In contrast to these introverted behaviours, the feeling of not being seen or of being worth nothing or less than others can manifest itself through prevalent behaviour. This includes, for example:

  • excessive helpfulness
  • permanently exceeding one's own stress limits
  • frequent criticism
  • the urge to have to comment on everything

Aspects of a healthy team culture


Self-confidence, i.e. confidence in one's personal abilities, is differently pronounced in each person and is also strongly influenced by our early childhood and childhood experience.

It is particularly evident in the extent to which people trust themselves with new tasks, whether change for them is rather something positive is or whether change primarily causes fear. Low self-confidence can also manifest itself in a very quiet voice and introverted behaviour.

Aspects of a healthy team culture

Emotional security

Emotional security is both a basic prerequisite and the supreme discipline. For only when the members of an organisation feel secure in it will they engage in unfamiliar territory, be willing to experiment, dare to do new things, make mistakes, argue for the best solution and accept change.

The emotional need for security of each individual depends strongly on the individual's self-confidence. Emotional security becomes visible in the following behaviours:

  • Feedback is accepted openly and without justification
  • Ideas are discussed openly from different perspectives and with a focus on a solution
  • It can be well accepted if ideas brought in are not implemented or not implemented immediately
  • Successes of others are celebrated without creating a feeling of envy
  • New colleagues are welcomed openly and quickly integrated into the team
  • New colleagues are not instrumentalised for personal interests

Conversely, this means that this emotional security is not felt when, for example:

  • Criticism is equated with rejection
  • It is not perceived as appreciative when suggestions and ideas that have been put forward are not implemented.
  • Envy shows when others are praised
  • Success is not granted to others
  • Badmouthing good performance or results achieved by others
  • Getting one's way by being overbearing
  • Information is withheld
  • New colleagues are viewed with prejudice
  • New colleagues are quickly provided with gossip and instrumentalised for personal interests (clique formation)
  • Hardly any ideas are brought in
  • Ideas are not openly discussed
  • All changes are met critically and with resistance

Starting points for team development in SMEs

Improve team culture: What can you do?

After we have described how you can recognise the quality of your team culture, we outline below what you can do to achieve a more trusting interaction in your team.

This is how you can foster heart and soul among team members

When filling roles, pay more attention to ensuring that they match the strengths and talents of the team members. Only if someone can bring his or her strengths and talents to bear in the day-to-day tasks and is also valued for it, will that person carry out the tasks with heart and soul.

This is how you can consciously provide space for growth and development

Space for growth and development can be created for SMEs on the one hand through specific further training opportunities. On the other hand, it should also be possible outside of day-to-day business to give time and space for team building As a leader, pay more attention to the fact that the people you hire and who work together get along personally. The chemistry must be right.

And it is precisely at this point that we experience time and again that companies make compromises and, in times of a shortage of skilled workers, place significant emphasis on the professional suitability of applicants and strongly neglect the question of team fit, i.e. the question: "Does the applicant fit in with us?

That is a mistake. Because: if someone comes into the company and does not fit into the team, the whole team suffers in perspective. There is not only the risk of a drop in performance, but it can also lead to the dismissal of top performers who have also had a positive influence on the team culture up to now.

Therefore, in the event of a resource bottleneck, we recommend adjusting growth targets and only taking on projects that can be mastered with the existing team.

This is how you can strengthen the feeling of equality in the team or company

Companies and leaders can only influence the feeling of self-worth in individual team members to a limited extent. What you can do is to treat all members of your team or company equally and with respect, regardless of their role in the team and company. Often it is small gestures that become very important in the perception of one's own worth:

  • Do I receive greetings from everyone?
  • Will I be thanked when I have done something?
  • Am I asked for my opinion and is it taken into account?
  • Does my boss make time for me when I have a concern?
  • Am I informed about the essential things and decisions together with everyone else? (Information transparency)
  • Are limits shown to the "loud" colleagues?

Equality can also be promoted by defining areas of responsibility more broadly and by giving responsibility for the completion of tasks in teams. Within the team, the members organise the completion of tasks independently. This can lead to the perspective that every team member masters all tasks that arise. In this way, teams have greater flexibility in completing tasks and the risk of resource and knowledge bottlenecks is virtually zero.

Here's how you can boost self-confidence

Unfortunately, our education system is not designed to grow self-confidence in children. That is why we see this as a key leadership task. Strengthen the self-confidence of your team members by regularly giving honest and constructive feedback, dealing constructively with mistakes and regularly giving sincere praise.

You can also promote self-confidence by delegating responsibility and expanding the team members' scope for action. Out of the comfort zone, into the growth zone.

This is how you can strengthen the emotional sense of security

You can strengthen the feeling of emotional security through everything that leads to the basis of trust growing - both the basis of self-confidence and the basis of trust in the team and the company as a whole organisation. In addition to the points already mentioned, these include:

  • People talk with each other, not about each other
  • Problems are addressed directly
  • Addressing and resolving conflicts is learned together
  • Aspects that are relevant to all are communicated transparently
  • You trust others and delegate responsibility appropriately
  • They deal constructively with the mistakes of others and openly admit their own mistakes


Team development in SMEs is of central importance for entrepreneurial success

A healthy and trusting team culture is of crucial economic importance for all companies, but especially for medium-sized ones. If it is lacking, demotivation, a drop in performance, inner resignation, high absenteeism and ultimately also outer resignation are almost inevitably the result. Quality suffers, customer relations may be damaged. Personnel costs rise due to increased absenteeism, dismissals entail costs for recruitment, new hires and training. And bad reviews of the company in social media or on the kununu platform also damage the employer brand.

These are all solid arguments for declaring team culture and team development a management priority and for creating emotional security, a feeling of equality and space for growth and development so that the self-confidence and heart and soul of each team member can grow.

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We send out our newsletter about once a month, providing tips and information on the topics of leadership and organisational development. You can cancel the subscription and unsubscribe at any time. We use the E-Mail address you provide here exclusively for sending the newsletter and do not pass it on to third parties.

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