“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” — Babe Ruth
There’s nothing better than being surrounded by really stellar teammates. Each teammate fulfills a role, helping to build the team and move the ball down the field. When a team clicks, all kinds of amazing things can happen. Since most of us can’t truly go it alone, why not do your best to be an excellent teammate? Here’s how…
To be a great teammate you have to show up every day, fully engaged in the work that needs to get done. Showing up means you are fully present and prepared, ready to listen and speak, offering insightful solutions to problems. It means you are there to participate, support your teammates, and give 100% effort. Showing up means you don’t check your emails and texts during meetings, walk in late, or exhibit other disrespectful behaviors like not returning emails and calls, staring off into space during conversations, or giving short, non-helpful responses to questions.
The best teammates offer to help whenever help is needed. They are the go-to people when deadlines are at risk or when a project is losing steam. They don’t say things like, “that’s not my job” or “I’ve already put in my 40 hours.” Be helpful by putting your teammates first. Roll up your sleeves when the workload is heavy, partner with people to develop new processes when old ones no longer work, be willing to answer questions whenever asked, and lend an empathetic shoulder to lean on when times are tough. If you don’t have the answer, direct your teammates to someone who does.
Don’t Keep Score
Just because you did something to help a teammate doesn’t mean that you are owed something in return. Score-keeping is the fastest way to erode trust on a team and it shows that you really aren’t being authentic in your giving. Lose the ‘tit for tat’ mentality and be a great teammate because it’s the right thing to do.
Great teammates are honest and direct in their communication. Your teammates should always know where you stand. If you don’t agree with a direction, share why. If you feel that something is being overlooked, speak up. If someone’s communication style is shutting down other team members, pull that person aside and share your observations. Being candid doesn’t mean you have to be rude or discouraging in your choice of words….kindness matters when you have open, honest, and reciprocal communication. And don’t forget to give praise and talk about the good things that are happening…candor can and should highlight the positive, too.
Giving feedback is hard to do and great teammates take it like a champ, making it as easy as possible on those who are forward with constructive criticism. Show your willingness to take feedback by listening closely to what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions and refrain from making excuses or getting defensive. The best possible response is to say thank you and then take action to show that you heard and valued the feedback.
Commit When a Decision is Made
The worst thing you can do as a teammate is walk out of a meeting when something has been agreed upon and badmouth or sabotage the decision. Debate the pros and cons, state your opinion, and provide input, but if a decision doesn’t go your way, you must still commit to a common course of action and implement it as if it were your own idea. Being passive (or passive aggressive) in your support and effort to make the decision a success with undermine the team and your credibility as being a great team player.
Build Relationships and Trust
Great teams are built on relationships and trust. To build these, you must connect with those on your team, always being transparent, honest, and dependable. You must take the time to get to know each person on your team, understanding personalities and working styles, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes, dreams, and fears. You must also let them get to know you; be vulnerable, open, and willing to share personal aspects of yourself. You might be the smartest person on the team but if you fail to connect, you fail at being a great teammate.
Hold Yourself and Other’s Accountable
Accountability is the cornerstone of personal and professional growth. Personal accountability isn’t just about admitting when you made a mistake. It’s about being humble and willing to learn from others. It’s about taking ownership for your attitude, performance, behaviors, teamwork, and life in general. It’s also about holding other’s accountable when they show up with a bad attitude, perform poorly or let the team down. Great teammates understand the importance of accountability and live by the mantra, “I am always accountable to myself and my team; the buck starts and stops with me.”
I am sure there are many other dynamics that could be on this list, but if you start with these eight things, you’ll be well on your way to being seen as a rock star teammate…one who is dependable, accountable, trustworthy, and fully engaged. One on which others can count on through thick and thin. We would all be so lucky to be on teams filled with people who all exhibit these kinds of behaviors. And not these…
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