The old adage that there isn’t an “I” in team is wrong.

Hear me out. I’m not saying that a team is a bunch of individuals but that each individual has a responsibility to himself or herself and to the team. It’s the only way a team will function successfully. All members are responsible for three key attributes to ensure that they are not only taking care of their role on the team but themselves in the process. This approach to teamwork is imperative for the continuous growth of both the team and the individual.

Mastering Your Stories

The concept of mastering your stories originates from the book “Crucial Conversations” (by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler) and has so many implications across professional and personal life that we cannot ignored it when working as part of a team. Something happens, and we tell ourselves a story about it, which quickly creates an emotion and then leads to action.

The problem with this process is that we often see these stories as facts, when in reality, there can be hundreds of ways to interpret events and behaviors. The key to mastering your stories is to think about the undisputable facts of the situation and address them first. This way, you remove subjectivity from the equation and save the emotion for later. For example, rather than saying, “You made me feel disrespected,” say, “When you started talking while I was talking during the team meeting, I felt disrespected.” Starting with the fact allows for more open dialogue around the situations that can bring down a team.

If we rely on stories to drive behavior, we can’t accomplish anything, and relationships deteriorate. Resentment builds and eventually keeps the team from progressing.

Developing a Growth Mindset

In her research, Carol Dweck has discovered that a growth mindset drives success. Simply put, a growth mindset is the belief that you can develop and change your intelligence and status. The opposite is a fixed mindset, or the belief that success or failure is predetermined.

A fixed mindset can drastically impact the team environment and prevent team members from growing together. It can also leave team stagnant after a failure and make team members hesitant to take the risks that will help them grow.

Each individual on the team is responsible for managing and modeling growth mindset. For example, rather than saying, “I can’t do this” or, “I’m not [blank],” you can celebrate hard work and progress despite a challenge or failure. An example of a growth-minded statement is, “Great job working hard and struggling throughout the process!”

Hunger and Drive

One of the key attributes of an ideal team player, as defined by Patrick Lencioni, is hunger, also called drive. In his book “The Ideal Team Player,” he describes hunger as “a manageable and sustainable commitment to doing a job well done and going above and beyond when it is truly required.” When one person on the team isn’t driven or is unwilling to go above and beyond, the entire team suffers.

When team members are driven and strive for more opportunities to accomplish and learn, it’s easier for others to work with them. No one is left behind or perceived as a slacker. Teams can only grow and flourish from the hunger and drive of each individual. This team success then promotes innovation and fosters a future-proof workplace.

Developing hunger and drive requires accountability and a structure that supports and motivates team members to continuously grow. Connecting to the mission of the team and using teammates to motivate and inspire each other are great ways for a team to thrive.

Team success isn’t always about what the group does but how each member contributes. In order to be the best teammate, manage these three key attributes and develop them over time.

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