Stars and Teams

In all teams there are “star” players and there are “team” players. Both are essential to the success of a high performing team. Star players provide occasional moments of high intensity, energy and drive, where they can muster their single skills to overcome particularly difficult situations. The star players, however, are rarely “team” players. They are usually energized by the recognition of their individual accomplishments and usually have a hard time relinquishing control and delegating responsibility.

The “team” players, on the other hand, understand the value of collective strength and that the whole is, more often than not, greater than the sum of the parts. Team players will try to put everyone to work to achieve the best outcome. They are often overlooked as most attention is drawn to the star players, but are pivotal in consistently achieving results. They are usually the ones who create the conditions that allow star players to shine.

"I want employees who are ambitious, but not at the expense of everything else. It’s the ‘peacock’ issue: I don’t want 800 people saying, ‘Look at me.’ The employees I promote deliver results – and their colleagues want to work with them. An individual without the desire to enable colleagues is just that – an individual. Someone who’s passionate about helping others succeed is a leader."

Tracey Fellows, MD, Microsoft Australia

Here are a few of the personal characteristics I look for in candidates when I am building a team:

  • Reliable and accountable. Team players know that the team depends on each other, so they know that the other team members need to know they can count on them;
  • Committed. Team players are usually committed not only to their individual tasks but, most importantly, to the overall outcome;
  • Active Listener. Team players know how to listen. They know how to ask the right questions and how to engage in meaningful dialog without the need to “win” every argument;
  • Participative, shares openly and constructively. Team players intrinsically understand that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, so they proactively share knowledge and work constructively with others.
  • Cooperative, flexible. Team players easily adapt to changing conditions and usually take the initiative to cooperate with others to accomplish a task or help to solve problems;
  • Respectful and supportive. Above all, team players are respectful of other peoples’ opinions and of differing points of view not forcing their own ways or opinions on others. They influence, support and help to develop others. In time, I’ve seen many team members, who have exhibited several of these characteristics, take on bigger challenges and responsibilities and naturally become leadership figures within their own teams. The star players on those teams usually wanted to move on to become bigger and better star players on other teams.
    An interesting observation is that team players who excel at being team players, often become star players themselves,by exercising leadership skills like active listening or delegation, while still retaining their team player characteristics.My observations and personal experience suggest that people who are able to walk this fine line greatly accelerate their personal growth and career development.
    Consider, for a moment, how others see you and what behavior you exhibit in your relationships with co-workers and team mates. Are you a bright and shinning star on the rise or are you a solid and grounded team player? What do you value the most? The recognition of your individual accomplishments or the recognition of the accomplished job?
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The Science of Motivation

Dan Pink, a former speechwriter for Al Gore, gave this wonderfully insightful talk on the nature and science of workplace motivation at the TED conference this year. During his 18m presentation (a limit set for all talks at the conference), Dan explains both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and how knowledge workers react to the mainstream reward system in place in most businesses today.

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