Last week, I wrote about my gallbladder surgery. I am delighted to report that the operation was a success and that I am steadily headed down the road to recovery. The amount of well-wishes I received was humbling, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reached out to me.

The message from last week’s blog is best summarized as: Toxic teammates are like malfunctioning gallbladders in that sometimes the only viable remedy is to remove them (from the team).

I mentioned, as a side note, that disruptions aren’t always proportional to an individual’s prominence on the team. Disgruntled benchwarmers can be just as disruptive as star players. I tried to use the analogy of my gallbladder to explain the extent of the misery that can be caused by such a small and seemingly insignificant organ. In mentioning this, I inadvertently muddied my main point about removing malfunctioning teammates by using the term nonessential to describe teammates with less prominent roles.

Mixed in with the many well-wishes I received were a pair of emails from readers who questioned my use of the nonessential label. Their objections were worthy and necessitate clarification.

I believe everybody on the team is essential. A leader’s job is to assemble a team comprised of the minimum number of teammates needed to achieve the maximum efficiency. If you’re on the team, then it should be assumed that your role is essential; ergo, you are an essential teammate.

I was attempting to point out that any malfunctioning member can derail a team. Think of the many talented chefs who’ve had their restaurants fail because of poor service. Chefs spend their entire lives honing their culinary skills and acquiring savory recipes, only to have inattentive wait staffs sully their restaurants’ reputations. Yelp is filled with one-star reviews citing good food, but lousy service.

Comparable scenarios are true for doctors’ offices, car dealerships, and almost any other business. Everybody on the team is essential.

However, I also believe that nobody on the team is essential. I had hoped my italicizing the word nonessential in last week’s post would convey the duality of my thoughts. That obviously didn’t happen.

Everybody is essential if we interpret essential to mean valuable. Nobody is essential if we define essential as irreplaceable. Both statements are accurate.

The most talented chef in the world will fail if he is disruptive to his restaurant. His culinary skills won’t matter, nor will his sought-after recipes. His toxic disposition will prevent his restaurant from reaching its potential.

Again, the same is true for talented doctors, car salesmen, and athletes who are toxic teammates. Their toxicity will eventually overtake their talents and their teams will fail. Keeping them on the team and tolerating their toxicity will always be hazardous.

Good teammates understand the significance of every team member, as well as the replaceability of every team member. They have the confidence to accept that nobody is ever better than them, and the humility to appreciate that nobody is ever beneath them.

The duality of that perspective is what makes good teammates essential to any team’s success.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is a leading authority on the good teammate mindset. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.

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