I was playing Othello with my daughter a few weeks ago…

(fun finding things to do during a pandemic) 

And I was reminded – while flipping discs over – of how people in YOUR organization conform to Team Norms.

If you want to improve team culture in your organization, you have to overcome the challenge of existing conformity.


Leading and improving culture is truly a lot like playing Othello!

In the board game, once a disc is outflanked on both sides by the opposite color you have to flip it over to the opposite color.


In your organization, people also often become what they are surrounded by...


Culture is repeated behaviors, and your individual team members will either set a new example and standard of behavior based upon their commitment to success, or they will adjust their behavior to match the prevailing norms of the group.

In an article from many years ago published on Michael Hyatt’s blog, I wrote about penguin leadership.


Your job is to act differently often enough to influence others and AFFECT TEAM NORMS.


When YOU act differently, it is an anomaly…

When you act differently CONSISTENTLY, it becomes a habit…

When you influence OTHERS to act differently, it is a trend…

When others act differently CONSISTENTLY, it becomes a norm!


Just as in Othello, what you DO influences others around you.


As a teammate or team leader who is concerned with improving your team culture, one of the most interesting and relevant research studies that you need to be aware of is the Solomon Asch Conformity Experiment.


If you are not familiar, it is a study that was conducted in the 1950s – but it illustrated the significant influence that peer pressure and group dynamics can have on individual behavior.


There are TWO effective ways for you to change behavior and overcome the challenge of conformity –


SO HOW do you do it?


You MUST change the AWARENESS of individual team members.


The two most effective ways to improve your culture are:


Build a desire for different results




Maintain the consistency of your example




Recognize that the desire for different results is a key catalyst for improving your culture. 

People will ACT differently ONLY IF they see their current behaviors delivering results that they DO NOT LIKE.

YOU cannot change others – but you can help them to SEE the impact of their current behaviors… and can ask them to consider WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN if they decided to shift their behaviors to do something differently. 

DO they care enough about the results they want to commit to different behaviors for long enough to see different results?




Your example is the single most powerful tool you have to change your team culture. 

What you DO– choosing to succumb to the existing norms or to BE DIFFERENT – is a daily decision.  And that decision either supports their behaviors or it becomes PERMISSION for others to begin emulating YOUR EXAMPLE.

AS a team leader, keep flipping tiles by behaving in a way that will benefit the team when others eventually copy that behavior.



It won’t be easy – and it may not be immediate…


And there will certainly be days when you feel frustrated or discouraged…


But take the initiative to be different.

Choose to persevere.

Affect others with your example.


That is the most pure and impactful form of communication…

That is what it takes to create a new norm.


That is what it means to be a Winning Teammate!