There’s an old proverb that says: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. As your credit union enters strategic planning season, think about the powerful impact that “togetherness” (or teamwork) can, and will, have on your ability to fully and effectively execute those critical plans next year.
Along with the needed investment of money and resources into new technology or delivery channels or product lines, consider an investment in solidifying the teamwork in your organization. The long-term success of those other investments could be significantly amplified by the ability of your teams to collaborate and synergize.
Recently in this column, we’ve written about the need to invest in your people, especially your top performers and future leaders. Today, we’re talking about investing in a culture that will allow those, and all, employees to thrive. Two key drivers of employee engagement are being connected to others and contributing to something meaningful. Fostering an environment of teamwork and connection will position individuals to be optimally successful but also position your credit union to grow and fulfill your meaningful common goals and mission.
I know … culture investment has rarely been considered a strategic investment. Investing in employee development has often been a tactical plan usually developed and deployed by the Human Resources department. This time, however, we’re talking about investments in the critical trust-building relationships in your organization that result in strategies being executed, problems being resolved, and, most importantly, members being satisfied.
“In order to thrive in this climate of rapid growth and continual disruption you need teams that communicate well, learn quickly, experiment and adapt.” says Jillian Reilly, Creative Partner at BraveShift . “Team building has therefore transformed from a feel-good human resource investment to a strategic necessity.”
(BraveShift is a partner of ours and Jillian and her team are great at nurturing teams, leaders and workplaces by placing human connection at the center of everyday operating strategy. Check them out at www.braveshift.com.)
Today’s changing workplace dynamic has accelerated the need for an optimal teamwork environment. As individuals bring varying skills and personal qualities to the table, organizations need to find ways to maximize the contributions of those individuals to the betterment of the team. It’s no longer good enough to just focus on the development of individuals; credit unions that invest in the development of teams will standout with their overall positive production and performance.
Ultimately, it will also allow them to recruit and retain better talent. The focus of workplace culture is shifting from individual roles and tasks toward social and team relations, especially when that collaboration results in innovative new ways for individuals to make more significant contributions to the collective success of the organization. Individual performance is still important, of course, but the manner in which someone performs in a team environment has become a critical aspect of how many individuals define success.
Creating this team-based culture won’t happen overnight but here are three steps you can take during your upcoming planning process to initiate your organization’s efforts:
- Conduct an assessment of how well your teams work together in today’s environment. To do this thoroughly you may need an outside, unbiased perspective but, at least, start by surveying your staff to get their perspective on current strengths and weaknesses. Focus particularly on instances where lack of teamwork impairs the member experience.
- When assessing the performance of individuals, place significant emphasis on their contribution to their team’s performance and the quality of their interactions with other teams across the organization. “Teamwork” is often a category on performance appraisals but enhance its weighting and look at it with a much more discerning eye.
- Find ways to get teams working together as much as possible. In the past, individuals were expected to be talented enough to solve problems on their own; today, problems can be solved just as fast and often more thoroughly by leveraging the collective talents of a team. Don’t assign projects just to individuals, get cross-functional teams working on that assignment. Even as an executive, don’t tackle an issue singularly, assemble a team and get them engaged in resolving that issue.
In his book, Together is Better, Simon Sinek said: The ability of a group of people to do remarkable things hinges on how well those people can pull together as a team. Therefore, simply talking about teamwork isn’t enough. You can’t just sing kumbaya around the company campfire and expect teams to form and perform successfully. Leaders must make concentrated efforts to create teams, give them clear goals, and hold them accountable to desired performance.
“Twenty-first century teamwork requires leaders whose focus isn’t simply on executing a plan or hitting a target, but on creating a sense of belonging,” says Reilly at BraveShift. “Team members need to feel valued, respected and invested. Foster a sense of belonging and you unleash your team’s full capability and ambition into your workplace.”
When a new recruit shows up at the US Marine Academy one of the first things he or she learns is that they will never be successful as an individual – they must always depend on the overall success of their team to succeed. The words “I”, “me”, and “my” are stricken from their vocabulary and quickly replaced with the team-focused pronouns. Your employees aren’t soldiers and banking certainly isn’t combat but the metaphor presents a valuable lesson: your credit union can go much farther with a highly-functioning team-focused approach than just an individual one.