“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” ~ Michael Jordan
I feel compelled to stress to my fellow young professionals the importance of being a good – no, strike that – being a GREAT team player. I feel this partially because my company’s Leadership Team has started reading the canon of Patrick Lencioni. (We began with The Five Disfunctions of a Team, and we just finished up The Ideal Team Player. (If you have not read these, I highly recommend them.) But I also feel drawn to this subject because it is all-encompassing. There is no industry or position that is not affected by teamwork – or the lack there of. Success in any business cannot be achieved without proper utilization of the team’s diverse skill sets; and, of course, that utilization cannot happen without teamwork.
So, how does one become not just a good, but a GREAT team player?
1. Attitude is Everything
The attitude of a truly great team player should be one of positivity, adaptability and commitment toward the team’s objectives. In The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni defines a great team player as someone who is hungry, humble and smart. The hunger keeps us motivated; being smart helps us collaborate and work well with other individuals; but having an attitude of humility is how we truly serve our team. My mind immediately recalls the command: “…Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” A great team player sports that kind of attitude – always putting the team’s goals ahead of his or her own.
2. Going Above and Beyond
Being a great team player also requires innovation and initiative. It requires outside-of-the-box kind of thinking. Great team players know that taking risks, stepping outside their comfort zones, and generating creative ideas is what is required to move the team ahead.
3. Cooperation = Working Together
Broken down into its simplest form, Google dictionary defines teamwork as:
team·work – /ˈtēmˌwərk/
Noun – The combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient.
Team work requires cooperation – the act of working with others and acting together to accomplish a job. To be great team players, we must exemplify this mentality. Despite any differences they may have with other team members, great team players figure out ways to work together to solve problems and accomplish goals.
4. Utilize Strengths
Meredith Belbin, a British researcher and management theorist, developed the Nine Belbin Team Roles to help organizations discover the strengths and weaknesses of their teams. The nine team roles he identified are:
- Resource Investigator – a researcher and idea-collector
- Team Worker – a cooperative diplomat
- Coordinator – a objective-keeper and delegator
- Plant – a creative problem-solver
- Monitor Evaluator – a logical strategist
- Specialist – a technical well of knowledge
- Shaper – a dynamic momentum maintainer
- Implementer – an action-taker/work organizer
- Completer Finisher – an end-of-task quality controller
Which role do you most relate to? Each one of these roles is based on the strengths of the individual, but each contributes to the overall mission of the team. Utilizing your strengths and identifying and being mindful of your weaknesses are crucial disciplines of a great team player.
As young professionals striving to advance our careers and step into leadership roles, we need to keep an attitude of positivity. There are no problems – only solutions. We need to always be hungry, humble and smart. We must go above and beyond what is expected of us – proving that we are good stewards of the responsibilities we have been given. And we need to utilize our strengths and recognize our weaknesses in order to be effective and GREAT team players.
The Table Group – a Patrick Lencioni Company