Friday, March 9, 2012

Are You a Winning Teammate?

Baseball legend Babe Ruth once said, "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."

Ruth may have been talking about baseball, but the same is true in business. While we often celebrate visionary leaders and pioneering individuals who set themselves apart from the crowd, most successful companies are built and sustained on the effectiveness of their teams.

So what sets great teams apart, and what traits should you aspire to as part of a team? Here are five keys to get you started.

Define your role. Every show needs a supporting cast, and every team needs role players who bring their own unique skills and experiences to the table. Figure out what role you play (or should play) on the team. If you are the team leader, then lead. Otherwise, carve out a niche for yourself that allows you to bring your best qualities forward for the betterment of the group.

But be flexible. Remain open to the needs of your team and willing to adapt to fill a role outside your comfort zone. Doing this will not only help the team meet its goals but will also help you personally grow and expand your own skills and abilities. In the process, you might have fun discovering new areas of interest you enjoy tackling on the job.

Assists are important, too. In basketball and hockey, players are given assists for helping set up a scoring shot. In baseball, relief pitchers must often get their team out of a tough situation, and closers are called upon to "save" another pitcher's win. Look for ways you can contribute to victories at work, without the need for personal glory or praise. Use your strengths to complement those around you, be quick with a helping hand, and remember that when the team wins, you do, too.

Communicate effectively. Open communication is vital to any team's success. Strive to be clear, concise, honest, and direct with your team, always mindful and respectful of the other members, too. Work on creating an atmosphere where people feel encouraged to share their ideas and to discuss them freely, with the goal of bringing the best ideas forward, regardless of egos.

Play nice. In discussing solutions, listen intently to contrary views. Tackle each project with a spirit of cooperation. Keep discussions civil, and look for ways to compromise when possible without sacrificing the team's goals or integrity. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and offer support for others who may be struggling. Above all, remember that you're all part of the same team and are working toward the same common goal.

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