In his book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, author Daniel Coyle explores why some organizations achieve wild success, whereas others fail miserably. Leadership certainly plays a role, but so does the organization’s definition of team.
This got me thinking about how the credit union movement defines teams, and what our leaders do to create successful team environments.
When thinking about your team, it’s logical to start with co-workers within your department or perhaps the larger credit union. However, I want to challenge you to think more broadly. As I see it, you have three teams to cultivate and support equally: your co-workers, your members, and your community stakeholders.
According to Coyle’s book, group culture is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. It is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. If you buy into this definition, then you probably agree that culture isn’t something you are, but rather something you do those things you do each day to build relationships within teams of employees, teams of members, and teams of community stakeholders.
There is inherent vulnerability in the cooperative model; if our teams of employees, members, and communities don’t fully understand this and create trust, none can fully thrive.
Culture is critical to a credit union’s success, and credit unions invest a lot of time and energy into measuring, building, and improving internal culture. But these activities are almost always focused on staff. What if credit unions applied the same principles of team culture to members and the communities they serve?
Culture Codecalls out three principles of successful teams: they build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose.
Most credit union leaders can cite examples of how they’ve applied these principles to their internal team but what about those other two teams: members and communities?
Questions About Safety
Have you created an environment for your employees, members, and community stakeholders to take risks? Do they feel the credit union has their backs? Would your team members feel safe enough to ask for help if they are struggling to make ends meet or to ask for guidance when starting a business? Would your local community center seek out your credit union to address a financial education need within your broader community?
Questions About Vulnerability
Is your credit union a place where employees, members, and community stakeholders believe everyone is in it together? Are your team members confident that even if they have no idea what they’re doing, together you’ll figure it out? There is inherent vulnerability in the cooperative model; if our teams of employees, members, and communities don’t fully understand this and create trust, none can fully thrive.
Questions About Purpose
The cooperative financial model has a clear purpose to create better financial futures. How well do those second and third teams understand this? Credit unions exist for their members; but do members truly understand that the goals of a credit union are wholly intertwined with theirs? Do communities understand the credit union mission and turn to cooperatives for support?
It’s Time For Tough Questions
Asking tough questions helps the credit union movement flourish. Make Callahan’s Tough Questions commentary on CreditUnions.com a regular stop for insight on thinking differently about the movement and framing strategies for succes.
It might sound like this is another example of how credit unions need to tell their story better. That’s a piece of it, but it’s not all of it. More importantly, this is a mind shift on how the movement defines, builds, and supports our teams.
Are credit unions creating a safe environment for members to take risks? Not all risks end up with a collector. A member can feel like they are taking a risk just by talking about a situation and asking for help.
Do our teams of employees, teams of members, and teams of community stakeholders understand the shared vulnerability of our cooperative model? How well do you communicate safety, vulnerability, and purpose? To your internal teams, you probably do pretty well. But what about your members and community stakeholders?
I want all three teams to be wildly successfully. If we can get all three teams working tirelessly, passionately, and collectively toward our shared purpose, the sky is the limit.