The following is an excerpt from Step Up Your Teamwork from Chapter 2 – Preparing for Success. What other qualities would you add to this list?
Ten Qualities of an Outstanding Team Player
One of the key components of developing a winning team is to seek out individuals who have outstanding “team player” qualities. Every organization should be committed to hiring the quality people. 80% of your success will be a result of who you bring in the front door. Skillsets will vary, but many team building experts agree that people representing their organization should at the very least possess the following ten qualities.
A person, and an organization, can never become truly successful without integrity. Integrity is a foundational trait. You can build a winning team upon it, but you can’t build one without it. Integrity is a key component to building trust, and without trust, you have nothing. People define integrity in different ways. One of my favorite definitions is, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Rick Warren, author of a purpose driven life had another great way of defining this quality. He said, “Integrity is built by defeating the temptation to be dishonest.” When an individual’s actions and determination align with strong morals and values, and that individual is committed to the organization, you have found a person worth keeping around.
When a person is committed to the vision, mission, values and ideals of an organization, they are exhibiting an essential quality you will want in a team player. Commitment breeds determination, and determination breeds perseverance. These are powerful traits that cannot be overlooked. Committed people keep their eyes on the prize, not the price they will have to pay. They understand there will be challenges and obstacles, but they look at them as minor bumps in the road. Committed people never take their eyes off the goal. They have adopted the mission of the organization as their own. When you fill a team with these types of people, you develop a strong, durable team that is ready to take on any challenge.
An enthusiastic individual with passion and few skills will always outperform an individual with great skills and no passion. Enthusiasm is defined as a sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of your duties. If a person is enthusiastic, they are optimistic, cheerful, and willing to accept challenges. These are the types of person who are eager to take on more responsibility. They don’t shy away from work. Instead, they seek better ways to do things. Every organization and team needs enthusiastic people because enthusiasm is contagious.
‘Good’ leaders have learned to utilize the Talent, Skills and Abilities (TSA) of their team members. ‘Great’ leaders look for individuals who possess the skills that are needed in order to add depth to their team. When individuals bring unique skills to the table, your team will begin to develop depth and a stronger union. When you can count on a person to be proficient and deliver high quality results in a specific area (or areas), you can improve the team by letting that person run in their lane. A team of skillful people in various areas enable a leader to implement the concept of the lane theory – allowing each individual to work in their area of expertise.
In any arena, especially the fire service, we are constantly expected to solve unique problems. Many times, we are dealing with situations we have only read about in books. Because of this, it’s essential that we find creative individuals who have the ability to think outside the box. Your team will never suffer from an abundance of creativity, but you can suffer from lack of it. This quality cannot be stressed enough for those of us in service-based organizations. People who are constantly thinking about, training on, and trying new and better ways to do things can become great assets to a team that is dedicated to finding the “one best way” to accomplish tasks and satisfy customer needs.
As important as it is to bring TSA’s to the table, it’s equally as important to bring a desire to learn new skills. Outstanding team players have a thirst for knowledge. They read books, watch videos, attend seminars, and ask questions. They understand that they will not learn anything new by talking. If they are going to learn anything at all, it will be by asking the right questions, to the right people, and listening. They understand the importance of staying ahead of the competition. They know there is always a better way, and they recognize the fact that complacency is one of the biggest reasons why teams fail.
Benjamin Franklin said, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." We are all on this earth for a reason, and stressing out over things we have no control over isn’t it. Firefighting is routinely listed as one of the most stressful jobs in America. On the other hand, it is also always listed in the top five for career satisfaction. One of the reasons for this is that most firefighters know how to take time out for a good laugh. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
It doesn’t matter if a person routinely works in hostile environments under extreme circumstances, or if they spend most of your day at a desk crunching numbers. Reliability is an essential quality. Being reliable means your community, your customers, and your team members can count on you to get the job done – every time. Reliable people are capable of performing in routine circumstances, as well as hostile or unexpected circumstances. Reliable people don’t just start projects. They follow through and complete them.
Teams fail when one person wants to take all the credit. A generous team member understands the importance of distributing credit where credit is due. When every member of the team is working hard, and pulling an equal amount of weight, one person receiving more praise than the others will cause resentment and dissention. A strong leader will ensure that all members receive their fair share of the glory, but will also look for members who are confident in their ability, and unselfishly supportive of others around them.
All the qualities listed above are important, but without a solid work ethic, they are futile. A strong team consists of people who are ready and willing to get their hands dirty. You’ve heard the saying, “Many hands make for light work.” That should be adapted to, “Many working hands make for light work.” Don’t take people who express their desire to take on new projects for granted. When you find these individuals, welcome them with open arms and point them in the right direction. Mentor them, and prepare them to mentor others down the line.
Determining who you want on your team is not a difficult process. Sometimes you can make that determination by asking one simple question, which is “Who would you want in your foxhole?”