The Single Must-have Attribute of a Successful Team

Sometimes it feels odd to contemplate the lack of trust that exists in the credit union space. Pre-hire criminal background checks, credit checks, references, and the required insurance bonding – one might assume anyone who could pass these “trust” tests would naturally add to an abundance of trust. But there are different dimensions of trustworthiness. The bottom line: “your trustworthiness is your commitment to fulfill another’s trust in you.”

Leaders, do you trust your team?

Not sure if lack of trust is a problem for your team? Honestly ask yourself how well your team, individually or collectively, follows through on commitments. Generally, does your team come through on time as planned? Or do your initiatives frequently come in late or somehow lacking? When members of a team consistently fail to deliver on their commitments, they undermine trust at the team level, and if it’s the senior management, at the institutional level. If left to fester over time, the credit union’s culture becomes sluggish, slow to act, lacks confidence, and becomes very inefficient, with low morale.

Leaders, does your team trust you?

If you are the leader of your team, I believe the success of your career is determined by how much your team trusts you. The attribute of trust is what makes leaders great. It’s the ability to rally a team in good times and bad. It’s that thing that motivates people to work harder and stretch for more. Here are a few examples of mistrust to consider:

Leaders who don’t walk the talk. They are good talkers, but they fail to deliver on promises. Whether it’s on the next promotion or it’s the commitment to resources for the department. Leaders lose trust when they don’t do what they say.

Team members don’t trust their leader’s temperament. Leaders who consistently send mixed messages or display a wide range of moods lose trust fast. Nothing says, “I don’t want to be bothered” more than a slammed office door first thing in the morning!

Trust is lost when you don’t have your team’s back. Success comes from having the right people on our team, taking the right risks. We are in the risk business. Teams that lack a trustworthy leader will be slow to take certain risks or to stretch themselves if they think they’ll be tossed under the proverbial bus if something goes sideways.

Trustworthiness enhances cooperation and results

Dysfunctional cultures are absent trust. As outlined in the national bestseller, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” the absence of trust is the number-one dysfunction (a fear of being vulnerable prevents the building of trust) and it is built upon four other dysfunctions: Fear of Conflict (the desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict); a Lack of Commitment (the lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to); Avoidance of Accountability (the need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable); and Inattention to Results (the pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on the collective success.

Why it matters

If you believe that your team has a trust issue, deal with it now before it destroys your culture or your charter. It’s a bold statement, but I mean it. I know of credit unions that have merged as a result of a poor culture of trust that held the credit union back and prevented it from making desperately needed changes. These credit unions missed key moments, and their ships sailed.

Trust doesn’t survive without accountability. If you’re a member of a dysfunctional team that lacks trust, start by holding yourself accountable for each of the commitments you make, and holding your teammates accountable for their commitments.

If you’re a team leader, you must follow through on your commitments. Your team must trust your temperament and direction. Finally, you must hold your people accountable. If you fail to do this, it’s a downhill spiral that will cost your team time, money, success, and fulfillment. Remember, good people don’t usually leave because of pay – they leave because of poor leadership.