Fall is my favorite season of the year. I love the cooler air, the changing leaves, apple picking, and fires by the campsite. But then winter is great as well — fresh snow, Christmas, and a sense of calm and quiet in nature that other seasons can’t quite match. And then there’s spring with its new life, bright colors, and warmth after months of cold weather. Then summer. Well, I live in Georgia, so summer is hot and humid. But I do love summer bike rides and long days. Fall is still my favorite, but I’m glad the seasons change.
Just as the seasons come and go, I find each year also has a rhythm of planning and reflection. In January, the whole year is ahead — a clean slate with endless possibilities. We set goals and make resolutions, committing ourselves to new things big and small. Likewise, the end of the year is a natural time to reflect. In December, we look back to the dreams and plans of January and ask, “How much of what I set out to do actually got done?”
As this year comes to a close, and you spend time reflecting, let me challenge you to consider your performance from a new perspective — how did you do as a teammate?
A New Perspective on Reflection
It is easy to limit the scope of reflection to our role as an individual.
- Did I complete my projects on schedule?
- Did I accomplish my goals?
- Did I learn and apply new skills?
- Did I grow personally and professionally?
- Was my work high-quality?
- Did I steward my time well?
These are wonderful things to evaluate. In fact, being a good teammate begins with personal excellence because great teammates own their individual roles within the team.
But, while being a great teammate starts with personal excellence, it doesn’t stop there, and neither should our personal reflection.
If we are to be people who truly add value to others, creating success and fulfillment for ourselves and those around us, then we must always be growing in our willingness and ability to serve others and the common goal of the team.
The reflection I’m suggesting looks beyond our individual tasks and projects to ask deeper questions such as:
- Over the past year did I put team first, or self first?
- Did I look for ways to serve my teammates sacrificially?
- Did I share resources with my teammates or did I hoard resources to ensure I had what I needed first?
- Did I seek to add value to others with my work?
- Did I encourage and celebrate those around me, or did I get lost in my own efforts, adding to an every-person-for-themselves status quo?
- Based on my performance this year, would I want me as a teammate?
Reflecting in this way can be as simple as setting aside dedicated time to consider questions like those listed above. More generally, ask yourself, “How would I rate my performance as a teammate over the past year?”
Do this for each team you are on and don’t limit yourself to the workplace. Consider teams in your community, your church, and even your family, especially your family (yes, a family is a team). Then, once you’ve captured some thoughts, do these 3 things.
Three Steps to Improve as a Teammate
1. Decide on one area of your performance as a teammate that you would like to improve.
As you reflect, there may be several areas where you’d like to see growth. However, trying to improve everything can easily lead to improving nothing. Be selective and start with one. Some ideas include: becoming more trustworthy, seeking opportunities to help and serve other team members, improving your ability to give or receive feedback, becoming more consistent and intentional in celebrating and encouraging others, or improving your ability to seek or provide clarity.
2. Identify at least 2 actions you could take to make progress.
Picking an area of improvement is great, but now you need a plan. These are specific and measurable things you can do to become better in your focus area. For example, if you selected giving and receiving feedback, you might plan to set a meeting with each of your teammates to ask two questions:
- What is one thing I could be doing that would help me be a better teammate for you?
- What is one thing I’m doing as a teammate that is challenging for you?
This gives you a chance to practice receiving feedback, and it would also give you great information on how you can better serve those on your team.
I once had a coach ask me about my progress in some key areas of life in which I wanted to improve. I shared that I wasn’t getting the results I hoped for. When my coach asked why, I confessed that I wasn’t following through on the action steps I’d identified. His response? Perhaps I needed to examine myself to see if I really wanted the outcome I’d described, because my failure to act suggested otherwise. He was right. Making an action plan can be easy, but following through is where real change occurs. This third step is simple, but it’s not easy.
Selfless behavior is life-giving, but selfish behavior is life-taking, and both are contagious.
The best teammates are servants. They are servants of others and the common goal of the team. Take some time to reflect on the type of teammate you’ve been for others this year–or month, or week. Be honest. Commit to growth in one area of opportunity. Then, the next time you reflect, you will see your progress. You will be better, your team will be better, and then the journey continues.
To learn more about how you can become a better teammate, check out Team Work: 13 Timeless Principles for Creating Success and Fulfillment as a Team Member.