I had an interesting encounter recently with a high school softball player. My wife and I were out for a walk when we passed by a softball field and noticed the girl.
She was out there alone on the field, working on her game. Over and over again, she would hit softballs off a tee. Then she would gather all of the balls up in a big bucket and repeat the entire process.
I was impressed with her work ethic and inspired by her dedication. As we passed by, I gave her some encouraging praise.
She told me she was getting ready for the start of her season.
This lead to us striking up a conversation, during which the girl mentioned that she led her conference in homeruns and batting average last year. She said she was hoping to have an even better season this year.
I thought, “Wow! This kid’s got ambition.” So, I asked her what her goals were for this season.
She said, “This year, all I want is for my team to win a championship. I don’t really care about the individual stuff. I honestly just want my team to win it all.”
She had a look of surprise on her face when I responded, “Well, what you’re doing probably won’t be enough.”
My perceivably pessimistic response clearly wasn’t what she was expecting to hear. But what I said was true.
I explained to her that if her goal was to hit more homeruns this year, or to raise her batting average, then she was doing exactly what she needed to be doing—putting in extra practice time.
But to improve as an individual wasn’t her goal. She wanted her team to win a championship.
By all indications, she was already doing her part to be individually successful. Certainly, improving her own hitting wasn’t going to hurt her team’s chances of winning a championship, but would it be enough?
What she really needed to do was to get the other players on her team to be invested in getting better.
Getting others invested in the team is usually what differentiates a good player from a good teammate. All it would take for that to happen is for her to ask a teammate to come to the field with her next time.
Not every teammate can be a good player. Sometimes, there are just physical limitations. But every player can be a good teammate. And there is no reason the team’s best player can’t also be the team’s best teammate.
Sharing your desire to improve as an individual with another member of your team is way to be a better teammate.
This encounter happened to take place on a softball field. But it could have just as easily taken place on the basketball court, in the weight room, in the classroom, or even in the board room—because it is true for all teams.
The next time you are engaging in some type of personal or professional development, why not ask a teammate to join you? It might just be the key to achieving future team success.
As always, remember: Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.