Look for these traits in successful team players

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It was a cold winter.  The hedgehogs, realizing the situation, decided to bunch together to keep warm.  However, the quills from each hedgehog pierced their next-door neighbors, so they decided to move apart.  But then they started to freeze and die alone, so they made the decision to cuddle back together and live with the little piercings caused by the close connection with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the group.  This allowed them to survive.

And that, my friends, is the perfect definition of teamwork.

No team is composed entirely of perfect people.  Whether you're a superstar or a benchwarmer, you are an important member of the team.  

Individuals working together as a group make a team successful.  The success of any team - be it in sports or in business - is dependent on every person working toward a common goal.  The role of every team member, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is valuable to the team's overall success.  Success doesn't come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently.

Andrew Carnegie, business magnate and philanthropist who led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and often identified as one of the richest people ever, said:  "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives.  It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."  

Do you think he knew about hedgehogs?

Helen Keller said, "Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much."

That's hedgehog talk if I've ever heard it!

I always get a kick out of when someone refers to someone else as a self-made man or woman.  Let me tell you, there is no such thing.  No one reaches their goals without the help of many others.

As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said, "Great things in business are never done by one person.  They are done by a team of people."

Michael Jordan said, "There is no "i" in team but there is in win."

Whether you're forming a fully self-directed work team or leading a group that just needs to collaborate effectively, you must recruit the right people.  Keep your eyes open for these abilities and traits:

  • Willingness to contribute.  Is the person ready to put the team's goals first?  This doesn't mean ignoring personal needs, but it does mean that team members must put their primary energy into contributing to the team so they can share in its success.
  • Acceptance of roles.  People on a team have specific jobs, tasks and roles. Although they should be willing to stretch themselves, they won't be effective or helpful if they insist on going outside the boundaries of what the team needs from them.
  • Eagerness to assist.  On a team, no one can back off and say, "That's not my job."  Look for people with a track record of pitching in to help wherever they're needed as situations call for it.
  • Identification with the group.  Effective team members take pride from their association with the group.  Find out what other teams, task forces, and committees a potential team member has worked on.  How does he or she describe the experience?
  • Responsible attitude.  Everyone's eager to share credit. Is your team made up of people willing to accept responsibility for failure?  Look for people who can be honest about their mistakes and willing to learn from experience.

Perhaps the best example of teamwork I've ever heard of is one I share with my audiences whenever I give a speech.  It's about mules, not hedgehogs, but the message is every bit as effective.

A salesman is driving on a two-lane country road in a rainstorm and gets stuck in a ditch.  He asks a farmer for help.  The farmer hitches up Elmo, his blind mule, to the salesman's car and hollers out, "Pull Sam, pull!"  Nothing happens.  He then yells, "Pull Bessie, pull."  Still nothing.  "Pull Jackson, pull."  Still nothing.  Finally he hollers, "Pull Elmo, pull."  And Elmo rips the car right out of the ditch.

The driver is confused and says, "I don't understand.  Why did you have to call out all those different names?"

"Look, if he didn't think he had any help, he wouldn't even try!"

Mackay's Moral:  For a winning team, recruit hedgehogs, not attention hogs.



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