What it Takes to be a Great Teammate

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

I was following the college baseball World Series a few weeks ago because my beloved Michigan Wolverines were in the final against Vanderbilt. While watching one of the games, I learned a powerful lesson about success and teamwork from a 19 year-old college baseball pitcher.

His name is Kumar Rocker and he’s a 6’4, 255 lb. freshman at Vanderbilt. Coming out of high school in 2018 he was the 3rd ranked right-handed pitcher and rated the 8th best overall player in the nation. He would have been a first-round MLB draft-pick but was committed to attending college (which means he can’t be drafted by MLB for 3 years…after his junior year in college).

When asked what his baseball goal was while attending Vanderbilt, what do you think he said?

“I want to be the best teammate Vanderbilt baseball has ever seen.” Wow!

He didn’t say what you might expect: “I want to break all the school pitching records,” or “I want work on my game before I turn pro,” but “I want to be the best teammate Vanderbilt baseball has ever seen.” Quite a bit of humility, maturity, and wisdom from a 19 year-old who has had people fawning over his athletic skills for years.

So what does that mean for us as teammates at work? I think it’s pretty clear. How can each of us be the best teammate possible? If that was our goal, how enjoyable would work be and how well served would our customers feel?

So what does being a good teammate look like? To me, it looks like servant leadership in action. It looks like:

  • Putting the needs of my teammates ahead of my own
  • Honoring my commitments
  • Doing what’s best for the team/customer even if it’s not the best for me personally
  • Doing what I can to set my teammates up for success
  • Running the play that’s been called (i.e., following processes, standards, etc.) rather than making up my own play and throwing the rest of the team into chaos
  • Being more concerned and committed to the team winning versus garnering personal accolades

The legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler was famous for preaching these words: “The Team! The Team! The Team!”

That’s what success is all about. The team! Ask yourself today—What can I do to be a better teammate?