Articles and Case Studies

Cultivating a Positive Team Culture

15 Nov 2017

positive team

Creating a cohesive and harmonious team is one of the hardest things to do as a team leader.

While each medical team faces unique challenges, inherited traditions that have normalised unprofessional behaviour are a barrier for many.1 We outline some strategies for overcoming these obstacles by creating positive teams.

Staff engagement is a distinguishing feature of organisations that deliver safe and efficient health care, and having systems in place can encourage positive contributions and commitment.2 Consider whether the following suggestions would work in your team.

1. Strengthen team relationships

  • Establish a corporate social responsibility program and give back to the community. 
  • Plan an annual or quarterly social event outside of work hours. 
  • Incorporate fun into team meetings by starting with an appropriate joke or story, offering door prizes, or facilitating icebreaker exercises.3

2. Lead by example

  • Model desired behaviour, especially during challenging situations. People are more likely to treat others with respect if they are treated with respect.4 
  • Work with your team and help them complete tasks, especially at busy times.3
  • Empower employees to fix problems themselves and respond to difficult situations. Be readily available and supportive when necessary and do not interfere when you are not required.5
  • Openly share information.5
  • Embrace a non-hierarchical leadership style.6

3. Show appreciation

  • Ask staff to complete a questionnaire about their favourite things, e.g. flower, sweet treat, magazine, colour. Use this information to reward individuals.3
  • Set up a gratitude wall.
  • Share small wins in team meetings. 
  • Provide healthy snacks such as nuts and fruit in common areas. 

4. Encourage suggestions for improvement

  • Schedule a regular and non-judgemental continuous improvement meeting for questions, suggestions and concerns to be discussed.
  • Directly ask individuals what you can do to improve things and act on these ideas. 

5. Put things in perspective

  • Highlight individual accomplishments and share stories that show the value of what they do.
  • Actively promote (and role model) healthy work–life balance. Morale suffers when personal, social and family obligations cannot be met.

6. Help team members develop and grow

  • Invite individuals to share their knowledge at a monthly meeting, e.g. discuss articles or teach a skill that is not necessarily directly applicable to the workplace. This also creates an opportunity for team members to get to know one another better.3
  • Provide opportunities for staff to reach their professional goals through education and training, e.g. organise a facilitator to run a workshop in the workplace, send team members to conferences, enrol them in a webinar.3
  • Conduct regular structured or “on the fly” coaching sessions.

Effective change takes time and requires sustained commitment by everyone involved.

If you are interested in exploring this topic further and collaborating with peers to improve your team’s culture, check out our Events Calendar for upcoming education workshops on teamwork and communication, complimentary for MDA National Members.

MDA National Education Services


  1. Scott K, Caldwell P, Barnes E, Barrett J. "Teaching by Humiliation" and Mistreatment of Medical Students in Clinical Rotations: A Pilot Study. Med J Aust 2015;203(4):185e 1–6.
  2. Moss F. Looking After the Staff Who Care For Patients: An Essential Investment For Good Quality Care. Postgrad Med J 2014;90(1061):123–4. Available at:
  3. Hills L. How to Boost a Low-Morale Medical Practice Team: Twenty-Five Strategies. J Med Pract Manage 2014;30(1):37–41.
  4. Leape L, Shore M, Dienstag J, Mayer R, Edgman-Levitan S, Meyer G, et al. Perspective: A Culture of Respect, Part 1: The Nature and Causes of Disrespectful Behavior by Physicians. Acad Med 2012;87(7):845–52.
  5. Hull D, Read V. Simply the Best. Workplaces in Australia. University of Sydney: ACIRRT; 2003.
  6. Howard M, Brazil K, Akhtar-Danesh N, Agarwal G. Self-reported Teamwork in Family Health Team Practices in Ontario. Organizational and Cultural Predictors of Team Climate. Can Fam Physician 2011;57(5):e185–91. Available at:

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