A few years ago I would have argued that it is impossible to boil the defining trait of winning teammates down to just one word.
In the book, The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates, there are a list of behaviors that are helpful in defining the difference between common disengaged employees from the more successful coworkers who inspire those around them.
Winning Teammates are what we all hope to work with, and what all of our team leaders and colleagues hope that we will be like in our daily interactions.
Winning Teammates are the glue that holds organizations together, because they bring more than technical skills with them when they arrive – they also bring vital interpersonal skills that contribute to a more profitable and positive team culture.
But it was after a funeral that I learned the defining trait of winning teammates.
It was after the passing of my father-in-law that I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my wife’s family following her father’s funeral.
My wife commented about how nice some of the flowers were.
My mother-in-law agreed, and mentioned how nice the service was.
And then my brother-in-law noted how thoughtful people were and how nice it was to see many of the people there who had traveled into town for the occasion.
And after a moment, my wife said something that surprised me.
She said, ”But I’ll tell you what I’m never gonna say at somebody else’s funeral.”
We all looked at her curiously.
She shook her head.
“Not ever again. Because once you’re in a position to hear it enough times, you realize what it sounds like when you say it.. And I’ll never again tell anybody to call me if they need something.”
I still didn’t get it.
But I hadn’t been there for the many days leading up to his passing.
And she could tell I was a bit confused.
So even though I think her mom and brother understood her reference, she continued for my benefit.
“There are so many people who come up to you – and they mean well – but they tell you to ‘just let me know if you need anything.’
And the fact is, that if we did need anything we aren’t in the mood or really even able to take the time to call and ask. Nope… the best thing you can do if you want people to know you care is to take the initiative to fill a need you see that they haven’t asked for help with.”
She pointed to the kitchen counter.
“See – there’s a casserole… and there’s muffins… and you’ve gotten other things that people who KNOW just go ahead and bring over. They don’t share a polite phrase… they do something that they know needs doing…”
That moment is still etched into my memory.
I see the kitchen table.
I see the look in her eyes of determination to never get caught sharing the “let us know…” phrase.
I can almost feel the scratch of my pressed white shirt collar, still tight from the black tie around it, that remained on my neck after the services.
And I’ll never forget the lesson she gave me that day… the one I share with teams across the country at many of my events.
Because winning teammates – people that care about and want to serve others – don’t wait to be asked…
Winning teammates – servant leaders – take INITIATIVE.
They look around and notice what needs to be done.
They pick up the slack from a co-worker before it becomes an issue.
They care enough to think about doing what’s needed without waiting to be asked.
So on YOUR team – how often do you wait to be asked?
How observant are YOU when it comes to your coworkers and their needs and circumstances?
Wouldn’t it be AMAZING if somebody cared enough about you to take the initiative to do something meaningful and helpful for you without you having to ask?
Would it be amazing if YOU were that person for others?
There is a long list of things that Winning Teammates consistently DO to make their teams more profitable and productive. They share Winning Phrases… they claim responsibility for results… they stay coachable… they share appreciation…
But at the heart of those behaviors – there is ONE WORD that explains it all.
The defining trait of winning teammates is that they take INITIATIVE.