A team to me is a group of individuals who have shared experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly. There’s a common interest that binds a team together, and a shared goal. Cricket wasn’t my first choice of sport, I actually grew up playing Tennis. I had dreams of winning Wimbledon, and lots of tennis posters on my wall. But I was eventually drawn to Cricket because of the team aspect of the sport. I enjoyed being part of a team.
The great thing about teams is that you’re not in an echo chamber. When things go wrong, you have a group of people to fall back on: people who have gone through similar experiences, who share the same goals, and whom you can rely on for support, feedback, or workshopping your approach. Your team has got your back.
Let’s look at the glue that holds a healthy team together.
Establishing a strong set of values that everyone buys into is the cornerstone of a solid team. And if you’re a team player, you’re someone who believes in those values and is willing to work towards the team’s shared goals. Values are especially important when things aren’t going well.
Usually, people “act out” when they no longer feel connected to the team’s common goal. When there’s a mismatch in values and goals, individuals are more likely to undermine the team. A great example is when someone goes behind their colleague’s back, or go off on a tangent that wasn’t agreed upon. These are red flags that your team member isn’t quite buying into the culture and the goals that everyone else is working towards.
Let’s not confuse a mismatch in values with healthy disagreement. That’s a very different conversation. In this case, we’re talking about individuals who aren’t willing to communicate their issues, and figure out how to resolve them with the team. If you’re not willing to share your perspective, rationale, or even your feelings about something you disagree with, you’re not being a team player. You’re in a sense opting out of the “shared” aspect that keeps people together. Values should never feel enforced on the team. Make sure everyone is on the same page and feels connected to what you stand for.
A team leader is someone who oversees the rest of the team and takes stock of the different personalities in the mix. Try to initiate activities outside the office such as rock climbing that will take people out of their comfort zones. This allows your team members to step up.
Every team has the typical strong personalities, the type of people who are very outspoken during meetings and will usually steer conversations. But when you take these people out of their comfort zone, you are shaking things up. Different people might end up taking the lead, and open up different ways of communicating.
All in all, your team will get a better sense of the kinds of strengths that each member of the team brings, how they tick, and how they work. As a team leader, you’re in a position to facilitate these interactions. With deeper understanding between team members, there’s more respect established, which makes working together much more effective.
A good team player doesn’t have to be the best player of the team. To use Cricket terminology, the best player in the team won’t necessarily be Captain. The Captain could be just a very strong leader, someone who is excellent at that skill set. Sachin Tendulkar, arguably one of the world’s most iconic players, probably wasn’t the best Captain although he was a stellar player.
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Australian International Women’s Cricket Team