The Teammate Everybody Wants

Remember when it was time to pick teams for pickup games on the playground as kids? Pecking orders were established early. Some of us were perennials early round picks. Others of us still live with emotional scars from being picked last.

No matter which team you ended up on, or how much you got to contribute, one thing was sure. Only one team won. And whether or not you were a winner was determined by which team you were on.

Our work teams have some similarities to teams we used to join on the playground. But it’s not only our individual talent that determines our worth to the team. It’s how our abilities pair with the rest of the team.

Great teammates enhance the performance of every team member!

Have you ever been teammates with someone who had all the talent in the world, but instead of working for the good of the team, they worked only for their individual goals? Even if that person had extraordinary talent, it probably didn’t take long before no one wanted to partner with them – and their talent went to waste.

When it comes to focus, we all know we need to work toward the team’s success, but it’s easy to get distracted at times. Individual goals aren’t inappropriate – but they do become detrimental when they come at the expense of team success.

Here are several characteristics of team-focused teammates and their self-focused counterparts.

Aware of others’ strengthsAware of personal strengths
Proactive collaboratorDetached contributor
Trusted advisorInconsistent transparency
Flexible – The best idea winsRigid – Attached to own ideas
Treats teammates fairlyPlays favorites
Invests in growth of othersPursues individual goals
Promotes teamPromotes self
Champions team performanceHas personal agenda
Succeeds when team succeedsStands out despite team failure

Which type of teammate would you rather have on your team? Do you think you’d settle for a less talented teammate with a high team focus over a more talented but individually focused one?

Maybe the better question is: how do you think your current teammates would describe you?

Here’s an exercise: take a look at the items in the left-hand column. Which item would your teammates be most likely to attribute to you? On the other hand, which one do you think they would like for you to improve most?

If it’s a tough question, here’s a radical idea. Why not ask? And then get to work becoming the teammate everyone wants to pick first.

This article is included in the Leadership-in-a-Box® program:


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