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Unless you’re a complete narcissist, I think there’s always a slight worry when someone close to you starts a sentence with, “I was chatting to X about you today…”

I had that experience just last week when my wife was relaying a conversation that she’d had with a close friend and business associate of mine.

That friend said something along the lines of,

“The thing about Ben, is that he’s a great team player.”

I don’t share that out of ego; quite the opposite in fact. I’ve written, deleted and edited this post far more than any other.

That comment really got me thinking about teamwork though. In particular, my own teamwork highs and lows.

It also got me thinking about teamwork as an essential component of leadership.

There has been so much written about the qualities of great leaders, but far less has been written about the qualities of great team-members. The England Rugby team, under the leadership of Clive Woodward, went to great efforts to address this with what they called the ‘Teamship Rules’.

I believe that teamwork must be fair and equitable if a team is going to perform at the highest level, for a sustained period of time.

My friend’s observation is correct. I do place a great deal of focus and effort on being a great team member; I think I always have. But I don’t do it to seek out any form of reward or recognition. I do it because teamwork fits with my core values, and it energises me.

We are all different though. There are people for whom teamwork is far less important.

You’ll have both types of people in the team that you lead. There will be some natural team players who thrive on helping others and doing all they can to make the team the best it can possibly be.

There will also be the more individualistic people, who prefer to get their head down, focus on their own tasks and who draw far less energy in making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

For those leaders truly committed to building an exceptional team, this poses a significant risk.

The danger is that we default to the natural team players for all things team related.

We rely on them to maintain a sense of connection within the team.

We rely on them to take the lead when talking about team-development.

We rely on them to ensure any new ways of working are implemented.

And the list goes on, and on.

But the natural team players don’t have a bottomless reserve of energy when it comes to all things team related. Unless they feel that they are operating in an environment that’s broadly fair and equitable, those energy reserves start to become depleted. And if it continues, apathy can creep in.

There will come a point when they think;

“Do you know what, I’m putting loads into this team and making lots of personal sacrifices, but I really don’t feel others are doing the same.”

I know this is the exact thought process that these people have, because I’ve had those thoughts myself, many times. As have many of my coaching clients.

And when that happens, they’ll have one eye on new opportunities and different teams.

What about you and your team?

Are you clear about who are your natural team players?

Could they feel as though they’re being taken for granted?

Are there any non-team players in your team?

And perhaps more importantly, who do you think may already have one foot out of the door that you need to quickly bring back into the fold?

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