Teamwork Makes the Dream Work


The phrase,  “teamwork makes the dream work,” first coined by John C. Maxwell in his book of the same name in 2002, may now seem dated. But it remains just as relevant in today’s workplace as it was twenty-one years ago.

Most leaders recognize that their credit unions are deeply dependent on teams to accelerate innovation, address changing member demands, and cope with sudden disruptive events such as a pandemic, volatile political climate, or economic uncertainty.

But just putting a team together does not safeguard its success. Teams fail on a regular basis. Launched with a meaningful goal, the right people to accomplish it, and even sufficient resources, time and time again teams nevertheless struggle to deliver on their potential. As a result, coordination fails, ineffective meetings are experienced, and unproductive conflicts may occur. All of this contributes to frustration, delays, and inconsistent decisions. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Teams can thrive using simple practices that work. By focusing on goals, processes, and creating a safe culture for the sharing of ideas, teams learn to innovate. The focus here is to demystify the pursuit of a healthy team culture and walk you through how to create it. Even if teamwork will always be a challenge, managers who adopt these practices will be equipped with practical tools and insights that can help produce results fast all the while creating an atmosphere where employees can survive and thrive.

Rules of engagement: creating an environment of trust

Teamwork is often used interchangeably with collaboration. When two or more people work together positively on a project or to some end, the phrase teamwork or collaboration is used. Making the dream work isn’t as easy simply demanding collaboration. As a matter of fact, demanding collaboration is likely to create an equal and opposite reaction. Setting the tone for how collaboration can occur is vital to success. Here are a couple of tips to get you started.

Commit to trust

Trust in the workplace means creating an environment where people enjoy a culture of confidence and honesty. According to an article published in Harvard’s Business Review, compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% higher productivity, 13% few sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction in their lives, and 40% less burnout.

Not only can trust help to build and maintain strong working relationships, but it sets the precedent for collaboration to occur. Considering the facts, committing to creating a culture of trust is the first step that must occur prior to creating, communicating, and leading the team. Creating these conditions starts with your commitment to your team, willingness to engage, to serve, and to go the extra mile to ensure you have created an environment where cohesiveness can occur.

Acknowledge distinction

The goal is to create an environment where everyone is given the opportunity to participate, exchange ideas, and freely discuss those ideas without fear of judgment or rejection. People are made uniquely different. Each of us has individual cultures, belief systems, communication styles, and talents. When our differences are seen as obstacles, we feel isolated.

In turn, we may want to disengage. This is communicated by our silence. When we feel recognized, noticed, and appreciated because of our uniqueness we feel rewarded. In turn, we have the propensity as humans to trust, participate, and inspire others. In the simple act of acknowledgment, democratic leadership can occur. It is in this space where trust and respect are earned.

Mission possible

Remember you are building ambassadors of your brand. By assigning a degree of importance to your mission, you are communicating its value. Be sure to do the same for your staff. If your credit union’s mission statement is outdated, or worse nonexistent, make affirming your mission your priority. Your culture depends on your mission.

Unclear mission statements have the propensity to create confusion about our jobs and our roles within the credit union. Make your mission statement a focal point that helps purpose with action. When we are working against the mission, what we are doing will fail. With a clear mission statement, all other projects will align. If your project is not aligned with your mission, it doesn’t have a purpose.

Goals, roles, and responsibilities

When communicated often, your mission becomes a part of your brand and your people become ambassadors. Get creative and make communicating your mission a goal for everyone. Ask your staff questions such as:

  • Thinking of our mission, how do you treat people around you?
  • What products and services communicate our values to members?
  • In thinking of our products, services, and member experiences, are there areas where we may be missing the mark?
  • What does value mean to you?

Once you learn about how staff members see themselves inside of your credit union you become responsible for it together. Capture the top 5-10 value statements and be sure to make them visible and a part of your regular communications.

Stakeholder and collaborators

Creating a culture of trust and confidence where innovation can occur is vital to the health of the employee and of the organization. Teamwork can make the dream work, but if not properly named and executed, teamwork can be the manager’s worst nightmare. Leadership can be a lonely and frightening place unless you remember two things:

  • It’s not about you or the team. Your mission, vision, and purpose are about the member. By keeping your eyes on your stakeholders, navigating the nuisances of your team just gets better and easier.
  • You are not alone. Being a credit union means there are thousands of others just like you. Rely on your peers. Become a part of a network that shares experiences and innovative approaches in culture.

Teams can thrive using simple practices that work. By focusing on goals, processes and creating a safe culture for the sharing of ideas, teams can and will transform. Be sure to commemorate your wins in pursuit of a healthy team culture. Collaboration is the best when it is celebrated. Now that you have worked so hard, throw yourself and your team an epic party!


  • Julie Gessner

    A 17-year veteran of CU*Answers, Julie has dedicated her career to advocating for financial services that benefit credit unions and their members. At CU*Answers, Julie leads business development and marketing initiatives in support of a variety of management service offerings. Julie spends her days working with credit union executives and managers to establish strategies that maximize the opportunity to succeed in both credit union operations and member service.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *