“Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.”
A. H. Wheeler, editor and film critic, 1909-2002
Bill Russell changed the nature of professional basketball by the way he played the center position. In fact, his number 6 jersey was retired by the Boston Celtics in 1972 to honor his contributions to the teams that won 9 consecutive NBA titles.
So you might wonder about his take on winning and team work. After all, he’s an obvious expert.
When asked about that, he gave a shocking answer that had nothing to do with pride or ego. Russell said, “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.”
My reaction was “Wow!” Everybody talks about teamwork and team building, but no one focuses on what it means to be a great TEAM PLAYER. Russell knew that was a key part of the formula.
I’ve found that great team players do three things.
=> 1. Great team players VALUE their teammates.
When you think about your teammates, put a “10” on each of their heads. If you think of your teammates as “10’s,” you’ll show your respect in several ways. By contrast, your behavior is totally different when you think of someone as a “3.”
One way to check out the value you place on fellow teammates is to make a communication log. Test yourself. The next time you meet one-on-one with a team member, note on a sheet of paper the number of times you interrupt her. Do the same thing at a team meeting. Do you dominate the conversation or facilitate the conversation? Write down how many ideas came from you and how often you encouraged other team members to speak.
Hewlett-Packard found a unique way to show how much they valued their team members. One morning, several team members found “subpoenas” under their doors when they showed up for work. They were summoned to “jury duty” that day instead of their usual duties. The company had planned an elaborate “trial” to determine the fate of its new business plan.
One team of employees argued against the plan, while another group defended it. A third group sat in the “jury box.” After each side made its argument in a two-day trial, the jury reached a decision, and every one of the team members returned to work excited and talking about the company’s new direction. Obviously, each team member felt valued.
As you look at your team, take a look at how much you value each member. And take a look at how much you show it. As business advisor William Dale Cvist says, “No one person is indispensable, but all people are important.”
=> 2. Great team players CONNECT with their teammates.
They know each other. They know each other’s dreams, values, skills, attitudes, and challenges. And they care about those things. Quite simply, you can’t be a great team player if you don’t care about what your teammates care about.
So how do you find out what they care about? Consultant Patrick Costello would say, “Create an environment of candor and encourage courageous conversations!”
I totally agree. Of course it may take a while, but your investment of time almost always gives a big return. After all, communication IS the pathway to trust.
So take some time to get to know your team members. Schedule an annual overnight offsite meeting where you talk about the important things in your life and big challenges in your work. Spend some “time around the campfire,” modeling openness, tuned-in listening, and candid discussion.
And the best way I’ve found to do that is through the asking of Brave Questions. It has literally transformed the communication of thousands of people, teams, and family members.
Here’s what Deb Olswold of the Mayo Clinic wrote. She said, “I have always been a very shy person, always in the background of the workplace, family, and personal life. Not anymore! I was asked to interview for a high ranking Administrative Assistant position just before I bought your ‘BRAVE QUESTIONS’ book. I read the book and wrote a few of the questions on a small piece of paper, such as ‘Where do they want to be in one to two years … Who are they looking for … and … What do they expect from me?’ I sat with confidence through the interview.”
“When it was time for me to ask any questions, I simply asked two of your ‘Brave Questions.’ Within the hour I had received a call from the HR department offering me the position. Yes, I accepted it and have thanked you daily in my prayers. Your book on ‘BRAVE QUESTIONS’ helped me get the best job I have ever had.”
But there’s more. Deb went on to say, “I love the way your Brave Question technique has affected the rest of my life and career. I can finally ask questions with confidence and move into a meeting with ease. The ‘shy secretary’ fades away and the new confidence emerges. I always knew I could be a speaker, but I didn’t realize I would love it so much. The ‘BRAVE QUESTIONS’ book gave me confidence beyond what I thought possible for myself. Do I have butterflies? You bet I do, but I can do it!”
=> 3. Great team players make their teammates BETTER.
Great team players approach life as a win-win … because they know that making others better isn’t just better for the other person … it’s better for everyone. As the old adage goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Customer service is like that. The customer and the provider are basically a team, and it’s a good team if both sides win … or if both sides are better off because of one another.
Such was the case with the waiter and the patron. The waiter asked, “What can I get for you today.”
“I’ll take the meat loaf dinner and a bit of good advice,” said the man seated in the booth. Minutes later, the waiter returned with a hot plate of food. “Here you go.”
“Hey, what about the good advice I asked for?” The waiter leaned down and whispered, “Don’t eat the meat loaf.”
That’s what teamwork is all about. You help the other person to be better off.
And you make your teammates look good. That’s what the famous pianist Paderewski did.
Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway piano on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”
Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn’t recall what else the great master played. Only the classic, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
That’s the way it is with great team players. Besides being good themselves, they bring out the best in their teammates.
Action: Make a list of all your team members. Write down the number you place on them, from a “1” to a “10.” And then make a determined effort to treat everyone like a “10” and watch what happens to the results you get.