I overheard a conversation the other day that made me think about an issue that plagues underperforming teams yet is irrelevant to teams with of good teammates. The man standing next to me was telling his friend how he had spent the entire day cleaning out his company’s supply room. I didn’t get the impression that this was an especially enjoyable task for him.

With an unenviable look, his friend asked, “Did you volunteer for that job?”

“No. They couldn’t get anybody else to do it, so I was sort of volunteered,” the man replied.

His friend shot back, “Oh, you mean you were voluntold.”

Voluntold. Isn’t that the perfect way to describe situations where individuals are forcibly assigned an unpleasant task? Once common military slang, the term has now worked its way into pop vernacular. Being volunteered is laced with irony. Being voluntold is laced with accuracy.

A person who is voluntold is told what to do. Declining isn’t an option, which attaches a negative undertone to the concept. Nobody wants to be told they have to do an unpleasant task.

From a leadership perspective, no quality leader wants to have to tell someone to do an unpleasant task. When leaders are left without any other recourse but to forcibly assign an unpleasant task, they risk being resented, creating disgruntled workers, and having to deal with what will likely be subpar results. All of which contribute to a toxic culture.

Teams that rely on work getting done by members who’ve been voluntold are doomed to underachieve, because the members’ hearts will never truly be into their work. Teams made up of good teammates, on the other hand, don’t have this problem.

Good teammates embrace opportunities to volunteer for anything that could potentially help their team be more successful. They don’t necessarily enjoy doing unpleasant tasks any more than anyone else. But they are willing to engage in unpleasant work that is beneficial to their team’s core mission—without hesitation. Good teammates don’t have to be voluntold.

This reality is one of the many reasons that quality leaders appreciate and value good teammates, and why teams with good teammates accomplish more.

The mercenaries beat the draftees because they have a greater source of motivation. Volunteers crush draftees and mercenaries because they also have a greater source of motivation—a commitment to serve the needs of their team.

Consistent commitment defines a good teammate, and that commitment is fueled by passion. Passion can override anxiety, fear, repugnance, and apprehension. Passion can turn the daunting into the delighted.

The next time you are voluntold for a task, consider why you had to be. Perhaps your commitment to your team isn’t as strong as it should be and it’s time to increase your passion.

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

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