4 Traits of an Ideal Teammate

what-is-an-ideal-teammateWhen you think about the type of teammate you most want on your corporate or sports team, what qualities do you desire? How about the ability to enjoy someone else’s success? Maybe work ethic and focus? Or the guts to hold others accountable? A sense of humor?

All of those attributes are what I think make an indispensable teammate, and here’s more about why.

Ability to enjoy someone else’s success.

There’s no room on great teams for a fake. A great test of sincerity is whether a teammate can truly enjoy someone else’s success—truly be happy for someone else achieving regardless if you benefit.  When my friend, and long time client, John Smoltz was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, he described a teammate who epitomized this humble perspective:

“I remember sitting in the locker room at Tiger Stadium, a fish out of water, scared to death…. Alan Trammell came up to me and said, ‘Hi, I am Alan Trammell. Anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. This house is your house…’ It was as if he had introduced and gave me a baton and said now pay this forward every chance you can, because this game has a chance to impact a lot of people.”

Work ethic and focus.

An indispensable teammate must demonstrate these fundamentals. Work ethic is the result of inner drive. This teammate wants to make himself or herself better and raise the performance of the team, and willingly puts in the time and the work. This teammate is never dogging it, always giving it their all, ready to step up both when people are watching and even when they are not.

At the highest level, work ethic and focus become almost as natural as breathing, because this teammate has absorbed the attributes into his or her identity. As Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat said: “The thing is, I don’t do these things for recognition, being a good teammate, being a positive member of the community. I do them because those things make me whole and complete.”

The guts to hold others accountable.

Authenticity inside of relationships takes courage. At times, it demands vulnerability and sacrifice. The payoff is the ability to form more authentic connections. With deep trust, teammates can have the tough conversations about meeting expectations. This is holding one another accountable in an upfront way, avoiding gossiping or backstabbing. This type of closeness keeps people on the team and investing in its other members. They don’t want to jump ship for a flashier job or even more money.

One example of accountability came from Dean Smith, the legendary coach at North Carolina. He came up with a simple gesture that showed accountability and fostered loyalty: Anyone who made a basket was to point to the teammate who made the assist. It was his way of teaching his players and spectators that every person on the team is connected.  What if we embraced that kind of acknowledgement in the board room?  Or at all staff meetings?

Peak performance rises from a culture of selflessness. Indispensable teammates focus on giving to one another. They want to be pointed out for their contributions, but more important, they want to point to one another.

Sense of humor.

Appropriate humor is a pressure release. In the intensity of competition, this teammate is putting everything he or she has into success, and a sense of humor is all about perspective and the ability to step away from a situation long enough to see it in a different way. Humor keeps us from taking tasks so seriously that the tasks get harder to complete.

For NBA San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, humor signals a generosity of spirit. As he puts it:

Having a sense of humor is huge to me and to our staff because I think if people can’t be self-deprecating or laugh at themselves or enjoy a funny situation, they have a hard time giving themselves to the group.”

Your Game Changer Takeaway 

The teammate that you cannot live without has great character. You find out in crises what that person is made of. He or she is going to jump in battle with you instead of running away.  I encourage you to share this with your teammates– a fresh perspective I hope inspires, challenges and enhances your team!

The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company’s Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating, so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.