Becoming a Better Team Player


If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team. – Bud Wilkinson

To highlight its annual picnic one year, a company rented two racing shells and challenged a rival company to a boat race. The rival company accepted. On the day of the picnic, everyone entered into the spirit of the event. Women wore colorful summer dresses and big, floppy hats. Men wore straw skimmers and white pants. Bands played and banners waved. Finally the race began.

To the consternation of the host company, the rival team immediately moved to the front and was never headed. It won by 11 lengths. The management of the host company was embarrassed by its showing and promptly appointed a committee to place responsibility for the failure and make recommendations to improve the host team’s chances in a rematch the following year. The committee appointed several task forces to study various aspects of the race. They met for three months and issued a preliminary report. In essence, the report said that the rival crew had been unfair.

“They had eight people rowing and one coxswain steering and shouting out the beat,” the report said. “We had one person rowing and eight coxswains.” The chairman of the board thanked the committee and sent it away to study the matter further and make recommendations for the rematch. Four months later the committee came back with a recommendation: “Our guy has to row faster.”

We hear much today about teamwork and intuitively we understand its importance. Unfortunately, too many want to sit in the boat and shout out instructions and too few want to row.

Becoming a better team player is an evolving process. It requires continual work and evaluation. Perhaps a few questions are in order to help you gauge your effectiveness as a team player in your organization. Here are a few for starters.

Is my niche still a fit?

Every team player has a niche as it relates to his or her role on the team. It’s important to know what it is. It’s even more important as time goes on to make sure that your growth and the growth of your organization are in harmony. If the team has outgrown you, or you have outgrown the team, then adjustments need to be made.

Do I still have the right motives?

Effective team players think “we” over “me”. If that has changed or you’ve succumbed to playing politics to get your way then perhaps you are not the team player you once were. Team players at heart are selfless and are willing to set aside their personal agendas for the good of the team.

Am I supportive of my teammates?

A good team player doesn’t allow petty jealousies to take root and can celebrate the accomplishments of fellow teammates. Why? Because when one succeeds the team succeeds. Being a good team player is about being a good sport. When you are willing to share the spotlight eventually it will shine on you.

Am I still coachable?

The most difficult player on any sports team is the one who thinks he knows it all and can’t be coached. This type of attitude is drain on the rest of the team. When a team member goes rogue it creates a vacuum that other team members have to step up and fill. So be honest; are you still coachable? A smart leader knows there is still more to learn and a wise leader is humble enough to acknowledge it.

Am I still passionate?

A good team player is passionate about the mission and vision of the organization. Do you still have that ‘fire in the belly” that inspires you to be your best, give your best, and bring out the best in your teammates? That type of passion is what championship teams are made of and is what will see you through adversity and lead you to victory.

Baseball great babe Ruth said, “The way the 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.” That is the secret to the success of your team and it’s the secret to your success as a team player. As you commit yourself to your teammates the possibilities of great success can’t be overstated.

Becoming a better team player is about intentionally looking inward from time to time and making adjustments where needed.

Are you a team player?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson






About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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