The Secret Ingredient in Team Building

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Haven’t you ever wondered: “What’s the secret to team building?” Why do some teams seem never to lose employees and have such great cultures? How do they do it? What’s their secret? How do some teams have such high levels of employee engagement and low turnover rates? Surely, we’ve all seen them or maybe even been on one of those teams before. People rave about working there and don’t want to leave! People will even, at times, take less money to work on a team with that kind of culture. So, what is it? What’s in the secret sauce?

A word of caution is required before I reveal the secret ingredient. It’s one of those ingredients that’s deceptively simple. Although you may think, “oh, that’s easy.” Click. Move on. It’s not that simple! This secret ingredient takes some work and finesse. So, stay with me.

The secret ingredient is….


Deceptively Simple

I told you. It sounds really simple. Create a Values Statement or a list of values. Then, give it to your team, and that’s it!


Hold on a second! It’s not that easy. Values can’t be imposed. They don’t work that way. You can’t write a set of values and issue them to the team. In fact, values must be discovered.

What are Values?

Values are the qualities, characteristics, or principles that are most important to us. They stand on their own without needing anything to prop them up. In other words, values are the things that are important to us when everything else has fallen away. Values inspire how we behave, but values are not behaviors.

We can define our values. We know what they are and what they mean to us. And, values are both positive and nonjudgmental.  

Values provide guidance when the team’s leaders aren’t around. They serve as guard rails to keep us from driving off the road. Finally, values determine how we spend our time, the decisions we make, and how we do things. They drive culture.

What Make Values the Secret Ingredient?

Researchers and historians have studied that question many times. Bestselling books have been written on the subject. Here’s the simple straight answer:

Values are the glue that holds teams together.  

When a group of people working together discovers the enduring truths that they all hold dear, it binds them in a way that nothing else can. Those shared values pull them together into a team.

A team that shares the same values as their leader can be trusted. The leader doesn’t have to micromanage every decision they make, because he/she knows that the team members all make their decisions through the same filter.

Equally important, shared values have a way of policing themselves. When each member of the team shares the same values, they hold each other accountable. For example, when a team member sees something going on that doesn’t seem right, they say: “This is important to me, and I know it’s important to you. Why are you doing this?”

Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It’s a basic human need. We all crave being a part of team building where we feel we belong. That sense of belonging comes from sharing a belief in what’s most important.

How do I “Discover” My Team’s Values?

First, you must understand the values discovery process. It’s part of team building. It takes some time and facilitation skills, but it only has to be done once. As a leader, you are a part of this process, but you must be careful not to lead your team to your values. It has to be a process of discovery. The team leader can facilitate the discovery process; however, most find that it is better to have an outside facilitator.

The Discovery process moves from the individual to the group. In the beginning, each team member, including the leader, has their own set of values. Then, by the end of the discovery process, the team has one set of shared values.

Set aside 3 – 4 uninterrupted hours for this discovery process. A large room is best. Make sure it is equipped with ample flip charts and markers.

Second, the process begins by pairing the group up. Each person has their own set of 5 values. Potentially each pair has ten values. Each pair then works to agree on five values between them. Each pair then finds another pair and works to agree on five values between them. The facilitator moves among the groups helping them when they get stuck. This process continues until the group is divided into two halves, each with a set of 5 values. The facilitator then works to help the two sides identify five shared values for the whole group. Finally, the facilitator helps the group define and prioritize those values.

Using the Secret Ingredient

The values discovery process will be fun, exciting, and momentum building. When you have your 3 – 5 shared values, start using them. Here are a few ideas.

  • Create ways to keep the values in front of the team: posters, cards, email signatures, websites, flyers, discussions.
  • Have regular “Values Check” discussions. Go through your list of shared values and ask: “How are we doing? Are we living up to these values?”
  • Use your values list to debrief both the team’s wins and losses.
  • Work discussions of values into your one-on-one meetings with team members.
  •  Incorporate your values into your hiring process to ensure new team members share the same values.

I’ve led many teams through this values discovery process and I can tell you it takes some courage.  The “what if’s” and doubts start attacking you and can derail the effort before you ever start.

It’s also hard to discover rather than lead. But the payoff is unbelievable. It is such a powerful, fun, energizing, momentum building process. This secret ingredient will supercharge your team building!

My name is Matt Moore, and I own Sprig Solutions. I help leaders solve their biggest pains, dysfunctions, and key challenges and reach their goals through leadership coaching and training. I can help you increase engagement, reduce turnover, and build the team culture you always wanted. I start with a free coaching session, where we get to know each other and make a plan. My schedule’s pretty full these days, so act fast. Click here to schedule an appointment.