“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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Why are we becoming so afraid of ideas and viewpoints that are not our own? This mentality of “let’s ridicule, abuse, dismiss, deport, punch, or even kill anyone who doesn’t see the world the same way I do” is leading our country (world) into a downward spiral of hate, intolerance, and flat out stupidity. And we need to stop it.
Reflecting on my own life, the periods where I have grown the most, both intellectually and emotionally, have been when I’ve taken opposing beliefs into consideration. I’ve become more compassionate for those around me when I’ve challenged my own beliefs systems. And I am proud of myself for being willing to have tough debates with people who believe differently than I do, truly taking their points of view into consideration, and being willing to change my mind when I am presented with counter evidence that my way of thinking my not be accurate. I believe that this is what the human brain is designed to do. It’s how we increase intelligence and learn new things.
Over the past two decades, humans in general but particularly Americans, have flocked together in communities where most of the residents share similar skin colors, belief systems, and viewpoints (read here for more information on this). When you only surround yourself with people who share your own views and beliefs, you begin to believe more strongly that “I am right and they are wrong.” You get sucked into groupthink and stop asking yourself, “Why do I believe this? What if I am wrong? What are other viewpoints am I not considering?” You stop challenging yourself to think about your own thoughts. The next thing you know, you find yourself disliking (or hating) anyone who believes differently than you. Maybe you make fun of them, ignore them, treat them with disrespect, or even bully them. You certainly aren’t tolerant of those idiots, morons, losers, sinners, or fill in the blank here.
This type of thinking leads us to being okay with things like the University of Houston faculty senate suggesting to professors that they shouldn’t discuss controversial or sensitive topics in their classrooms now that students can carry concealed weapons on Texas college campuses. Discussing controversial topics in college is what students are supposed to do! College professors are paid to make students think critically and challenge themselves to consider multiple viewpoints. Doing this makes us smarter. But now professors can’t talk about the hard stuff because they are afraid that students will get so pissed off at each other for holding differing beliefs that they will shoot each other? Not only can’t we discuss guns in this country but now we can't discuss anything because we fear guns. THIS IS CRAZY! How can we be alright with this?
The long term ramifications of what we are doing to ourselves will be catastrophic. Because (in general) we allow ourselves to be polarized and tend to surround ourselves with people who think, feel, and believe the same way we do, we are losing the ability to think critically and debate ideas with candor and respect. If we continue down this path we will become a species of far less intellect and filled with a lot more judgement and hate.
So what can you do?
Read and Explore Viewpoints that Differ From Yours
Social media fills our feeds with articles and links to information aligned with our likes and clicks, feeding our beliefs. Don’t fall for this trap. Purposefully seek out viewpoints that are different than yours and read or discuss it with an open mind and with the intent of learning. Travel more, introduce yourself to people who are different than you, have a healthy debate. Read this awesome book, “Persuadable”, by Al Pittampalli. You may find evidence to help change your mind.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
As Friedrich Nietzsche stated, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” While it may seem like your black or white way of looking at something feels true and right, it might not be. We have a million thoughts running through our heads and it’s easy to believe that because you had a thought, it must be true. Stop and analyze your thoughts and belief systems and be willing to consider that you might be telling yourself a fictional story. Please read my blog on not believing everything you think here.
Ask Questions…A Lot of Questions
Humans are great at assuming we know what other people think, feel and believe and we are even better at making decisions and building belief systems based on those assumptions. This is a mistake. We don’t really know what others think, feel and believe. We have to ask. The deeper you dig, the more you learn. For example, I was recently in the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and I was curious as to how American politics and people were viewed by my Middle Eastern clients, both ex pats and Muslims. I asked a million questions and my world view was vastly expanded. I saw more clearly how the information we are fed in the U.S. is filtered and twisted. I didn’t believe or agree with everything I was told but I can accept how they view us and it certainly made me think about things differently.
Empathize with Others
Putting yourself in other people’s shoes helps you to see a different point of view. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were this person?” Try to imagine yourself experiencing life from that person’s perspective. Ask questions to better understand where a person might be coming from. There are plenty of opportunities to practice this right now…our political landscape could greatly benefit from us being more emphatic towards each other. Perhaps something as simple as empathy could help us move out of the gridlock we find ourselves in?
Drop the Judgement
All over the world, the vast majority of people want the same basic things: to provide for their families, to connect with people in their communities, to love and be loved, and to be free to live their lives without judgement and fear. When you take the 50,000 foot view, we really aren’t that different so why dislike each other for living different flavors of these basic desires? Stop worrying so much about what other people do, think, and believe and focus on being a kind, productive person. I suggest every time you find yourself judging someone else, say this (silently or out loud), “I am not a perfect human being either and I certainly dislike being judged for my viewpoints and imperfections. Right now, I am going to focus on doing (fill in the blank) better rather than worry about what so and so is doing.” It’s amazing how well this works…if you let it.
I believe that we are at a significant crossroad in our history. Ignorance, fear, intolerance, and segregation will not advance us as a species. We must think critically and work together to solve the massive problems that lie ahead of us…in this lifetime and for future generations. I am challenging, appealing and downright begging for all of us…no matter what you believe…to stop this insanity. It starts with each of us as individuals. If we individually commit to being more tolerant, more open to ideas, and more willing to come to the table and talk, we can profoundly affect our families, companies, communities, and on a larger scale politics. Let’s not let critical thinking become a thing of the past.
Thanks for reading and as always, I welcome (and enjoy) comments, likes, and shares.
In a recent strategic planning session involving all of the managers and supervisors at StoneAge, I stated admirably that one of our employees was worth a million dollars to our organization because of what he brings to our team and customers on a daily basis. I received several nods of agreement, and then a comment was made by a young manager who said, “I want you to say that about me someday. I’m motived to bring that kind of value to the company.” Since then, I’ve given a lot of thought to her statement. What makes an employee a high performer? What makes someone promotable? What qualities would someone need to exhibit to be invaluable to our company? How would I coach her, and all of our employees with so much potential, to be rock stars in their own right. Ah, the perfect blog topic…how to be a great employee! Want to be a top performer? Exhibit these behaviors…
Deliver Outstanding Performance
Most of us will spend all of our adult lives working. For some of us this idea is exhilarating. For others, it may be demoralizing. But the fact is that most of us HAVE to work. So why not commit to being really great at what you do? Outstanding performance goes beyond just producing quality, timely work and surpassing your agreed-upon performance goals. As described in the book “Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success” top performers are experts in their jobs and focus on doing the right work…work that deliverers the highest value to their teams and companies. Outstanding performance is also based on your perceived helpfulness…do your coworkers see you as a team player who is ready to roll up your sleeves when they ask you for help? Outstanding performance means going the extra mile, always looking for ways to do your job better and improve your team’s overall performance. And it means you are an awesome teammate.
Exhibit Your Company’s Values
To be a rock star, you not only have to deliver results, you have to live and breathe your company’s values. You may be talented and smart but if you disregard the very things that are most important to the company, you may not be seen as a top performer. For example, if a core value of your company is teamwork and you blow off your teammates by not responding to emails, leave early when there is still work to be done, make snippy comments or say “that’s not my job” when they ask you for help, you are not a rock star. If another value is agility and you live purely in the black and white and find it torturous to change directions in the middle of a project because the company HAS to get an order out the door, it will be difficult for you to enjoy your job enough to be a rock star. Aligned values matter.
Have a Positive, Can-Do Attitude, Even When Things Are Difficult
There is almost nothing more important than your attitude when wanting to become a rock star employee. Face it, most people don’t want to be around someone who is negative, mean, pompous, or who is generally hard to work with. Like it or not, likeability is important. Be friendly, honest, and helpful. Have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself so seriously. This is especially important when the organization is stressed or going through significant change. How you handle your own stress when times are tough won’t go unnoticed and rock star employees can help others resist diving head first into the downward spiral of negatively and fear.
Be Candid and Solution Focused
Keeping a positive attitude doesn’t mean you don’t bring up problems or express your feelings when you get frustrated or upset. Top performers are committed to communicating candidly. Speak with honesty, authenticity, and directness and always say what you mean rather than beating around the bush (please read my blog on candor here). Additionally, rock stars say to themselves, “I want to be part of the solution, not the problem” and always share ideas with their managers and teammates on how to resolve issues.
Receive Feedback Like a Champ
Everyone needs feedback to grow as a teammate, employee, and as a human being. If your goal is to be a top performer, you have to get good at receiving feedback, both good and bad. My very best employees appreciate feedback, handle it with grace, and take action immediately. And if they react to it poorly, which all of us do from time to time, they take ownership of their reaction and apologize. If you would like more tips on how to receive feedback like a champ, read my blog on it here.
Being a top performer isn’t easy to do. It takes commitment, feedback, and effort. But it’s worth every ounce you put into it as it makes you, your team, and your organization better. That being said, I will leave you with this quote from Woodrow Wilson: "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."
Thank you for reading and as always, please feel free to share, like, and comment. You can also sign up here to receive my blogs in your inbox…just scroll down to the bottom of my home page and submit your email address.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.