Creating a vision for your team

Learn how to build team culture and engage your work family


Two men bumping fists
A team vision can help give your employees and colleagues an achievable goal to work toward. Photo by Adobe Stock

I have always enjoyed going to work. It’s my “work family” and a place I feel safe, trusted, empowered and motivated. We are all working toward a common goal and are a support for one another. When I trip up, I am in a space where I’ll be supported. It’s an environment where my peers look out for me and vice versa. I am challenged and provided with opportunities to grow and develop — to become the best version of myself. Also, we just have a whole bunch of fun doing what we love.

Wouldn’t it be great if every team member you managed felt this way? We all manage variables in our workplace, from topography, turf species, construction methods, soil type, climatic conditions, irrigation systems, fertility, budgets ... you name it. There is one common factor for all of us who work on crews, or lead them, and that is people. Knowing your people is the fundamental difference between poor and great leaders. Take an interest in your team members, understand how to get the best out of each individual, and appreciate what it is that makes them tick. It starts with honest conversations, then a collective approach to agreeing what the vision is for the team.

A vision is a dream with a deadline. It’s not where you are today; it’s where you want to be in the future. It’s aspirational and almost out of reach. It is your purpose, your “why,” and without it, you are walking blindly into a day that has no meaning. How can you lead a team who don’t know what you are trying to achieve? It has to start with a vision.

Mission statements and values are typically found in a frame, hanging on a wall somewhere obscure, with words that no one understands. It’s unlikely many have read it, let alone that it has been shared or delivered. More likely it’s part of an employee handbook that you have been asked to familiarize yourself with. Individuals will have a set of their own values, and rightly so. That said, your team needs to have values that you work by every day. They guide us to make decisions, even when the leader is not present. Values are the guiding principles. It’s how we behave when nobody else is watching.

When thinking of team culture, consider this equation: Culture = Values + Behavior. To make that work, you have to have a clear set of values first. Innovation, honesty … these are not values. These are things you may write on the wall, but they are nouns. Instead of honesty, the value would be “tell the truth.” This is something you can do, and all your values need to be things that your team can actively do by behaving in a particular way. Agreeing with your team how you are all going to behave is one of the most insightful processes to go through. Bringing in and surrounding yourself with people who can help you achieve your goals is powerful.

Truly engaging a team takes time, and your ability to actively listen becomes crucial. Every individual could be experiencing things at a different point along the way, and that’s why I believe having an active interest in your team will help you manage the journey so much better.

Your team members want to be:

  • Heard
  • Given clear direction
  • Treated with respect and understanding
  • Given time for the simple things
  • Made to feel like their input is of great value
  • Made to feel part of the bigger picture

A popular quote in business circles about customers says, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us; we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption to our work; he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider to our business; he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him; he is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

Read this again, but this time remember who your customer is. Internal customers are the people we work with every day. Now, replace “customer” with “team member.” It is our responsibility to help develop, motivate, encourage and inspire them all. That is what it is all about. Oh, and have some fun along the way!

Craig Haldane is the director of education at The Bernhard Academy, an educational initiative of Bernhard and Co. directed toward turfgrass managers. The 16-year GCSAA member formerly served as the golf courses manager at Gleneagles in Scotland and presented on the topic of team culture at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando.