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Team Performance Model: Trust is a Must

Recently, I had the opportunity to teach team dynamics to a group of mid-level managers at a fast-growing company in a burgeoning industry. I asked them to think back on both their best team experiences from the past and their worst, most-dysfunctional team environments. I asked them, “what was the difference between the best and the worst?” They answered with words such as respect, collaboration, integrity, chemistry, communication, commitment, and others. That said, far and away, the most often used word was trust.

The backbone of great teams is relational connectivity. It is virtually impossible to have healthy relationships without trust. Can you love someone you don’t trust? Perhaps but the health of the relationship will suffer. The second stop in the Team Performance Model focuses mainly on building trust.

The key question in this phase of Team Development is “who are you?” Whenever I teach about this model, I tell people that I spend roughly 80% of my time on the first 2 steps. It is critical and, in my experience, the vast majority of teams go directly from initial charter to goal setting. As tempting as this may be, resist the urge to move past relational connections to the more tactical steps.

One of the strongest leaders I’ve ever known was my friend Kathy Beechem. About 16 years ago, Kathy was at the peak of an amazing career in banking. She was recognized as one of the top 25 women in banking nationwide. This was a highly successful and well-loved woman. She abruptly quit her job upon finding out that her husband Pete had Stage IV brain cancer. She stepped away from a thriving career to be caregiver to her husband. Pete died 25 months later in January 2008. I met Kathy a few years later as someone recommended her to be considered for our Director of Spiritual Growth at Crossroads. About a week into her job, I realized that she was much more needed as our Director of Sites. After all, at US Bank, she was responsible for thousands of branches with tens of thousands of people reporting through her. She could handle a church with 8 sites with eyes to grow more.

Kathy quickly became one of my closest friends. I relied on her to lead a very important part of our ministry but beyond that, she was a mentor and a confidant and a key strategic partner for me. As I got to know Kathy, I realized that even though she technically reported to me, she was far more capable of doing my job than I was. And I was one of hundreds, maybe even thousands, who would consider Kathy to be their mentor. She had a long line of people, especially women, of whom she coached and discipled.

Kathy was a relational dynamo who instilled trust and inspired trust in those around her. I remember once when Pamela and I were hosting a dinner event at our house. We were expecting several cars and we have limited parking at our house. We asked our 15-16 year old teenage son, Tommy, to help park some cars. While he was waiting for people to arrive, he started shooting some hoops in our driveway. Once everyone arrived, everyone was congregating in the kitchen, as always happens, except Kathy. I went looking for her and she, then in her early sixties, was in the driveway with Tommy, playing basketball, and getting to know him better.

That is what Kathy did best. She was genuinely interested in getting to know you better. You always felt valued and loved in her presence. She always knew everyone on her teams. She knew their story and she knew what was going on in their lives. She knew what they were great at and what they struggled to do. She knew their DISC profile and how they were best utilized. She prayed for them regularly. And people loved her. This is what great leaders do and is fundamentally what phase 2 in the Team Performance Model.

Let me share some strategies that help to build trust on a team:

  • First and foremost, be trustworthy. People like to say, “Trust isn’t given, it is earned.” First of all, I’m not sure I believe that for most people. Harvard Business Review in the article Rethinking Trust states, “It often doesn’t take much to tip us toward trust. People may say they don’t have a lot of trust in others, but their behavior tells a very different story. In fact, in many ways, trust is our default position; we trust routinely, reflexively, and somewhat mindlessly across a broad range of social situations.” Additionally, it is universally true that broken trust must be earned back and that can be extremely difficult. So, be a person that displays the character of Christ because others are already predisposed to trust you.

  • Be vulnerable. When you share things about yourself, you make it safe for others to share.

  • Be authentic. People can sniff out manipulative and inauthentic behavior.

  • Be reliable and consistent and humble. Matthew 5:37 says “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” When you make a commitment to someone, honor it.

  • Be compassionate and kind. Most people have some hard stuff going on in their lives at some point. Care for them and guide them through the tough times. Ignoring the trauma they are going through will destroy relationships.

  • Be available. Especially early in team formation, make sure you are available to your teammates.

Returning to the story about Kathy, it was January 21, 2019, MLK day so a day off for us. I can remember getting this text from Kathy sent to Brian, our Senior Pastor, and me, “Got some news this afternoon. Would like to talk with you both together-in person-. I have an 8:00am in Oakley tomorrow. Any chance we could meet at 9 before LT (Leadership Team meeting)?” My heart sank and texted back almost immediately, “Uh oh. Health related? And yes I can meet at 9.”

The following morning, Brian, Kathy, and I met. Kathy led with “I found out I have lung cancer. I’m going to have to back down from some of my work responsibilities in order to get some treatments.” Devastating! Brian and I stumbled through this conversation, prayed for her, and tried to stay positive. A couple of weeks later, I asked Kathy if she would share the news with our staff. In typically Kathy fashion, she shared the news and emphatically stated that she doesn’t want any meal trains or special treatment. A week later, Kathy ran out of energy walking into the building from the parking lot and had to be pushed in a wheelchair into our staff meeting. It was the last time Kathy came into the office. Things deteriorated quickly. I was able to talk to her often and go visit her either at her home or in the hospital when she would allow it. Most of the time when I came to visit, she would download to me all of her ideas about how her team should be led going forward and what the transition should look like.

On March 10th, I went to the emergency room with some significant chest pains. All of the tests they put me through showed that it wasn’t the heart but they decided to keep me overnight “for observations” so that I could take a stress test since it was a Sunday. I tried to talk them into letting me go home to get a good night’s sleep and I would come back for the test Monday morning. They said that wasn’t possible so I settled in for a crappy night of no-sleep. At 5am the next morning, I was shaken from my sleep with the most intense pain I’ve ever felt. The nurses in the unit were very helpful but were not able to reach the Hospitalist who would need to call in a Cardiologist. When the new shift of nurses came in at 7am, one of the nurses, who was subbing for another nurse from the cardiac unit, decided she would call one of the cardiologists herself. The doctor came in and was telling me that all of my tests were indicating that it wasn’t the heart so it was likely some inflammation. As soon as he said this, a bell went off on the computer monitor and test results from my latest blood test came through. The doctor said I was having a heart attack. Seven minutes later I was in the Cath Lab being prepped for surgery. I remember the doctor going through what was happening to me right before he injected me with the medicines that would put me into twilight. He said, “Any questions?” I said “no…wait, is this life threatening?” His words were the last thing I remember. “Oh yeah.”

The next afternoon, I was recovering in my hospital room and I received this text from my friend Kathy who I knew was in the intensive care unit at another hospital right down the road from where I was. She wasn’t doing well. She would die the next morning. My friend was praying for me from her own deathbed. I miss her so much. Here is a picture of that text as well as a picture of our leadership team from March 2018 when we were at Google learning from them how to use digital tools for our church better. She is the one on the bike on the far left smiling as usual. That was one year before she passed and she was as vibrant and energetic as she ever was.

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Feb 07, 2022

Trust seems like it is a value that is lived out vs. just a buzz word given in a team building offsite. Kathy seemed to be the type of person who lived out trust, its evident in your story. Thanks for sharing Darin.


Kathy was one of the best at leading through her example. I called her Smaj…short for Sergeant Major. You always knew she was in front leading the charge. She understood that “go” isn’t a charge call….”follow me” radiated from her.


Kathy was a beautiful and generous woman…she is missed by me and so many! But what a legacy she left!

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