In a few days, the top two teams in professional football take the field to determine who will become Super Bowl champions. It’s the ultimate team endeavor. Each side consists of as many as 200 people: players, coaching staff, and support personnel, each with a specific duty. All play a part in determining whether the game will end in victory or defeat, from the star quarterback who leads the players on the field, to the equipment manager who decides what type of cleats to attach to the player’s shoes. The pressure and level of scrutiny is beyond intense, with millions of people judging every play, every action, and every decision made both on the field and on the sidelines.
You’ve probably been part of a team at some point in your work career. And while your team may not be as widely analyzed as a pro sports team, the outcome can be every bit as important. How you execute your role and how you interact with your team will affect your success and your future. It’s no small task to navigate the complexities of diverse personalities, each with unique skills and different levels of commitment to the goal. Whether or not you’re a sports fan, there are lessons from the gridiron on being a great team player that you can adapt to the workplace.
Know Your Role
It’s important to understand your role on the team, so you know what is expected of you. It’s also important to know the responsibilities of the other team members and how you will interact with them to meet your goal. Once you understand your role, commit to it. If you’re unsure of your role or responsibility, ask your team leader for clarification. As you undertake your responsibilities, don’t assume everyone knows what you know. One of the keys to team success is communication. So share your knowledge and expertise, but at the same time be receptive to the ideas and experience of others.
Be Ready to Step Up
You may be called upon to assume more responsibility if the team dynamic changes, for example, if someone leaves or gets promoted. You’ll set yourself up for failure if you just sit on the sidelines, not paying attention or staying up to date on the project. If you’re unprepared, and the need arises for someone to step in and assume greater responsibilities, you’ll either be passed over for a colleague who’s more prepared or you’ll step in the new role and be quickly betrayed by your lack of preparation. So stay informed and be ready. You don’t have to know everything, just enough to hit the ground running when your number is called.
Don’t Expect Equal Participation
Participation and effort in a team situation will never be equally balanced between all members. Some will be called on to contribute more due to their experience and knowledge. If you feel someone isn’t pulling their weight, it may be due to a lack of experience or knowledge about the objective. They may lack confidence in their ability. Or a team member may not be engaged in the effort. Don’t waste energy worrying about who’s not doing their fair share of the work. Focus on your responsibilities first. If you believe you can take on additional duties, or help someone who seems to be struggling, approach your team leader and offer to help.
Respect is Earned
You may feel qualified to take on greater responsibility, but don’t get the opportunity or recognition you deserve. If you’re a new or untested employee, you have to demonstrate that you have both the ability and the disposition to lead. And that takes time. You’ll earn respect by being reliable, eager, positive, and encouraging. One of the most effective ways to gain respect is to give it. Show respect to people and their opinions.
Put the Team Ahead of Personality Issues
You don’t have to be best friends with everyone on the team. But you do have to work together amicably. In the event of a personality clash, do your best to separate the person from their perspective. Don’t be quick to dismiss an idea just because you don’t see eye to eye with someone. If you believe a teammate is sabotaging the effort, don’t call them out. Bring up the matter with your team leader in private. Be aware that how you present your concerns will say a lot to your leader about how you deal with conflict. Focus on the issue, not the personality.
What qualities come to mind when you imagine a great team member? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.