Karin’s Leadership Articles

Unsticking your team is one of the biggest challenges of a leader. When inertia sets in, there’s almost always a breakdown in belief at some level. When teams stop believing they stop doing. If your team has lost that magic feeling, look for signs of lost believing.

6 Ways Teams Stop Believing

1. They Stop Believing in You

This can take a variety of forms, but it almost always comes down to a matter of trust. They’ve stopped believing you have their backs. Or, they’ve stopped believing you have the guts to speak the truth up, down or sideways. Or perhaps, they’ve stopped believing your guidance is sound.

This is the hardest one to fix, but you won’t be successful until you address the issue. Look for ways to open the conversation one-on-one to get to root cause. Know that your words will only go so far. They’ll be scrutinizing every behavior for signs of what to really believe.

2. They Stop Believing in the Organization

The trust in you may run deep, but if the team has started to question the ethics or the future of the organization, they may be distracted and lose steam. They’re watching you for clues. They’re unlikely to believe if you’ve stopped believing. If you suspect the team has concerns in this arena, it’s best to give them an opportunity to express and discuss their concerns. It’s likely that the story they’re telling themselves is much worse than the truth.

3. They Stop Believing in the Cause

Teams and people are motivated by WHY far more than how. Ensure your team understands the greater good and how they fit in.  It’s a good time to ensure you have a strong team vision and that each team member knows where they fit in.

4. They Stop Believing in One Another

No employee engagement strategy is going to work if your team’s stop believing in one another. Take a close look at what you’re doing to encourage teamwork.  

5. They Stop Believing in Themselves

You can a clear role and vision, and a team that gets along like peanut butter and jelly, but if the individuals on the team lack confidence in their ability to execute, they won’t succeed. It’s good to gauge confidence levels at an individual and a team level from time to time. If they think your goal is impossible, they’ll talk themselves out of trying.

6. They Stop Believing They Can Make a Difference

Perhaps they’ve worked on a  big project, only to see a change in direction make their work obsolete. Or perhaps the downstream processes are so screwed up, any work they do is inadvertently sabotaged by later incompetence. If people don’t think their work really matters, they stop doing work that really matters.

Great leaders inspire belief in the vision, the cause, themselves and one another.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Alli Polin

    Found myself nodding along with all of your points, Karin. It stinks when people really want to do great work, love their boss and it’s the org culture that has them staying stuck and coming up short. I was a leader in a division that was about to go through radical change and people sensed it and the directive from above was not to answer questions directly. As a result, belief all round fell through the floor. The best way to build faith, confidence and belief is trusting and open conversation about what people are experiencing.


    • Karin Hurt

      Alli. Thanks for sharing your story. Amen.

  2. Terri Klass

    Your points are all terrific and unfortunately ring true for many teams I work with.

    Another reason I have seen teams get stuck is that there is a lack of clarity and direction. At some point the team may have started out working on certain priority projects and then midstream they were never clearly told that the priorities changed. It is essential when there is a pivot in direction, the new why’s and how to’s need to be shared openly with specific instructions.

    Thanks Karin for addressing this important and very common leadership challenge.

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Thanks so much. Great add. I’ve seen that too. Nothings more frustrating for folks when the priorities have changed…leaving people feeling ” why didn’t they tell us sooner?”

  3. Steve Borek

    Team members don’t believe management is serious about the objective.

    It’s kind of, “here we go again!” and they roll their eyes and go through the motions.

    Someone at the top needs to set the tone and model the way.

    p.s. I’m leading a class on Coaching Business Teams and I’d like to share your post with the students. OK?

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, we call that “flavor of the month” In fact it became such a part of the lingo that as leaders were rolling out new initiatives they would say “this is NOT the flavor of the month.” If you have to say that…..

      I would be honored for any and all sharing. Thank you!

  4. Alan Allard

    Karin, what a straightforward and discussion provoking post. I see what you have identified and described all too often and it takes courage and emotional intelligence to deal with it. I’ve coached several senior managers recently who did not believe their boss had their back–and often the reason is that boss fears the consequences of what would happen if they had (as you stated) “the guts to speak the truth up, down or sideways.” By the way, that’s the best one liner I’ve heard in a long time.

    Organizations truly have the employees they deserve. What we see happening with teams and the lack of engagement from such large percentage of individuals is ultimately a leadership problem.

  5. Sara Parrish

    Karin, great post. As I was reading this I just kept thinking about the glue that holds a team together. I believe having a strong #2 man/woman on the scene who cares about leading in both directions holds a team together. Wonderful points, when there is to much on the plate you can forget to leave room for the sweet stuff. I love the quote, it is a nice add.

    • Karin Hurt

      Sara, Thanks so much. You are so right, it’s so important to have other people stepping up to draw the team together. Thanks for extending the conversation.

  6. LaRae Quy

    Great list, Karin!

    I’ve experienced each and every reason you mentioned, but the hardest for me is when I no longer believe in myself. That is when I really need to pull myself up by the bootstraps and keep moving. Looking for and finding purpose in company or team goals often just means looking at it differently; in the same way, looking at ourselves differently is very hard to do.

    Love the brainy quote!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Me too. That’s when we need as you say “mental toughness.”

  7. Mark Phillipy

    I really enjoyed your post Karin. I especially like and agree with the statement “When teams stop believing they stop doing.” I have found that to be a true fact of human nature. True leaders must learn how to effectively motivate their team and make sure they understand and yern to deliver on the Vision of the project or work.

    • Karin Hurt

      Mark, so great to have you extending the conversation. Thank you. Yes! yes! vision is vital… at every level. So often managers assume vision is a job bigger than them.

  8. Botswana Mmatlokwa Mfolwe

    I would like to learn more on team bulding and how to boost team moral and leadership best practices.

    • Karin Hurt

      Botswhana, Excelent. I’m so glad you’re here. Are there speciific areas you would like to hear more about?


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