Last week, my ten-year-old son and his three teammates competed in something called “Battle of the Books.”
I’d never heard of it until this year and maybe you haven’t either. Usually there are groups of 3-4 kids who read 8-10 books. Then they get together to answer questions about those books, competing against other groups of kids from their school. The high scorers compete against other schools in the district. My son and his team got first in their school and go to districts today.
Last night, as he was preparing for bed, I could see his nerves. I thought he might be worried about the larger audience, the bigger stage, the fact that his family will be there to watch this time. None of those things were the issue. He was worried about one thing – letting his team down. I couldn’t help but smile and be proud.
Caring about the team more than yourself is a major step toward maturity. Recognizing how your actions and participation affect the group and wanting your impact to be a decidedly positive one is something we all want our team members to demonstrate.
As you and I seek to grow and lead our teams, here are a few things I think are non-negotiables for team members:
- Reliability – My son’s team originally had a member who wouldn’t show up to practices and who wasn’t reading the books. It was a hard talk for the kids to have, but they gently helped the student recognize that they couldn’t be on the team anymore. Team members have to be counted on to pull their weight and if they can’t commit to the workload, it makes sense to let them pursue what really interests them.
- Positive Attitude – Everyone has bad days, but a team member who brings only negativity day in and day out needs attention to correct their attitude. It is possible to put an employee improvement plan in place and lead them to success, especially if their dissatisfaction is rooted in a lack of clarity around their job requirements. An attitude that’s permanently soured and isn’t altered after a 30-day plan may not be salvageable and can spread to others on the team. You’ll have to apply a lot of wisdom to know when it’s right to prune the team and when to keep working to right the ship.
- Effective Communication – Author and former presidential speech writer James Humes said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” I couldn’t agree more. Teams need leaders and leaders express themselves in ways that are constructive and actionable. Your best potential leaders are the ones who aren’t afraid to tell you difficult information in ways that allow you to take appropriate action.
How’s your team stacking up?
Are your team members demonstrating these three important characteristics?
How are you handling it if someone is falling short?
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