• Performing well in a consistent manner over a long period of time

  • Yielding dependable and predictable outcomes again and again

  • Contributing to the team on a consistent and trusted basis


Reliability is something that everyone recognizes, but often times it isn’t discussed as much as it should be. 1) If a person is reliable, he or she may be taken for granted. 2) If a person is unreliable, it may be difficult or awkward to address it with them. Either way, the subject of reliability frequently gets less airtime than it should...
Well, today we are going to talk about reliability.
When I was 16, I had a job mowing someone’s yard. I was very irresponsible and unreliable in my duties. Some weeks, I showed up and did a good job. Other weeks, I didn’t. One time, I mowed the yard halfway, and then had to leave and come back another day to finish. Another time, I cancelled and didn’t mow the yard at all that week. I took swim breaks in the owner’s pool. My girlfriend would come hang out with me while I was there. I mowed and trimmed the yard differently from week to week. I got free Cokes out of the fridge. I was “hit-or-miss” (to say the least.)

I am sure that the owner of the house would have preferred that I had quit rather than showing up intermittently and occasionally doing a good job. Instead, I just muddled along, providing extremely inconsistent and unreliable service. At one point, I finally just stopped showing up to mow the lawn, and the owner stopped calling me. We never discussed it, but I guess I was fired. Or maybe I quit. I’m not sure, but it is embarrassing for me to look back and think about how unreliable I was that summer.

I don’t ever want to be that unreliable again.

At Funds For Learning, I am a member of a team that provides a quality service. For that team to be trusted by others, it needs to be reliable. It needs to deliver on its promises over and over again. It needs to provide the right service, at the right time, in a correct manner, without overdoing it or under doing it. If the team performs in that fashion, it will be reliable.

It stands to reason, then, that for the team to be reliable, it needs members who are reliable. A team’s work is the combined product of each individual’s contributions. Similarly, a team’s reliability is the combined product of each individual’s reliability. If the team members can’t be trusted to get the job done right, how can the team?
Therefore, it is important that the members of a team have a shared understanding of what reliability will look like for them. It is vital for them to define the right expectations, particularly when there is a high interdependency between responsibilities and outcomes. I define reliability like this:
Repeatedly meeting someone’s need in a timely manner, with proper quality and without faltering.


Once we move past understanding what reliability is and how it is defined for a team, it’s important to examine ourselves. How reliable am I? When am I unreliable? What areas can I be counted on? Are there areas in which I falter?

Fortunately, in many cases, personal reliability is something that can be developed and improved. We can all take simple steps to increase our reliability. Here are a few:
  1. Understand strengths and skills. Build up the skills and training that are necessary to be reliable.
  2. If it’s not possible to become reliable at something, then stop doing it, and find someone else that can do it consistently.
  3. Say NO. This is key. If you can’t be trusted to get something done, say so. Ironically, if you get really good at notifying others about what it is you can’t be trusted to accomplish, they will trust you more and you will begin to be seen as a reliable person. (Think about it! If you are reliable about self-reporting your unreliability, you immediately become a more reliable person. It’s almost a Catch-22, but not quite.)

I am convinced that being counted upon to help another human being with a need of theirs is one of the greatest gifts that we can ever give (or receive). As team members, we should discuss what reliability means in the context of our group performance; and each of us, as individuals, should consider our own reliability and takes steps to improve it.

Key Words and Phrases

Dependability; Consistently able to be trusted; Constant; Yielding the same results repeatedly; Responsible; Solid and sure; Predictable; Stable and steadfast.

Opposite Terms

Undependable; Faltering; Irresponsible; Can’t be counted on.


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