The Hard Hat: 21 Ways to Be a Great Teammate
The book hinges on the story of George Boiardi, a college lacrosse player who died after taking a hit to the chest from a ball during a game. His character inspired the 21 ways outlined in this book.
The first half of the book is all stories about George’s spirit, character, habits, etc. He definitely seems like a person we’d all be better for knowing. Little lessons are sprinkled into this section of the book, but it’s mostly setting the stage for the “21 ways” in the second half.
Naturally with a theme centered around lacrosse, much of the book has a slant on the context of team which leans towards sports. While some of the phrasing below is specific to sports, the core lesson can be applied to being on any type of team.
These are the 21 ways to be a great teammate. The book chunks them up into a title, an example from George’s life, and the “lesson” to be learned. I’m writing the title and lesson verbatim here.
1. Sweat More
A team member, one of the things you control every day is your effort. When you work harder and sweat more, you bring out the best in yourself and your team.
2. Remember WD > WS
There’s nothing wrong with words. Sometimes we need an inspiring message. Sometimes we need to be challenged and encouraged. Even George occasionally told the team to”pick it up” when he felt they weren’t giving their best effort. But remember that, as a teammate, you speak most powerfully through your actions. Well said (WS) is important, but well done (WD) is always better, hence: WD > WS. Set the example in all that you do, so when you speak, people will listen because you have earned their respect by what you have communicated with your actions.
3. Choose to Be Humble and Hungry
Humble and hungry are a powerful combination. The minute you think you have arrived at the door of greatness, it will get slammed in your face. The key to success is to be a lifelong learner continuously works hard to improve. When you stay humble and hungry and focus on the process, you will love what the process produces.
4. Pursue Excellence
Each day, it’s important to wake up and strive to be better today than you were yesterday. Identify what you need to work on to get better and focus on improving each day. Don’t settle for average. Instead, chase greatness. Realize that everyone wants to do what the great ones do but few are willing to do what they did to become great. Be willing. Be humble and hungry. Pursue excellence. To help yourself and your team, implement the 1 percent rule, which says that a little more time, energy, effort, practice, focus, and care can bring big results. If you can push yourself to give just 1 percent more during each practice, each game, each film session, each class, each homework assignment, and each project, over time you will see big results.
5. Share Positive Contagious Energy
As a team member, you not only control your effort but you also control your attitude. One of the most powerful things you can do to be a great teammate is to stay positive and share your positive energy with others. Research shows attitudes and emotions are contagious, and each day you can either infuse your team with positive energy or infect them with negative energy. You can be a germ or a big dose of vitamin C. When you share positive energy, you enhance the mood, morale, and performance of your team.
6. Don’t Complain
There are times when things don’t go our way. There are situations that seem unfair. There are moments when we feel like we have a right to complain. But complaining causes us to focus on everything but being our best. When you work hard, stay positive, and do what the team needs, things always seem to work out. To be a great teammate, don’t complain. Stay positive. You can’t always control the events that happen to you, but you can control how you respond and, so often, this determines the outcome.
7. Do It for Your Team, Not for Applause
Great team members always put the team first. They work hard for the team. They develop themselves for the team. They serve the team. Their motto is whatever it takes to make the team better. They don’t take credit; they give credit to the team. They have an ego and what to be great, but they give up their ego and serve the team, in order to be truly great.
It’s not easy to put the team first, but if you want to be a great teammate like George, it’s something you must work on. In today’s self-consumed world, you have to work as hard to be a great teammate as you do to be a great performer. In the end, your team doesn’t care if you are a superstar. They care if you are a super teammate. And when you put the team first, you become a superhero in their eyes.
8. Show You Are Committed
George was loved by his team because they knew how committed he was to them. If you want to be a great teammate, you can’t just talk about how committed you are. You must demonstrate your commitment in all that you do. And always remember: If you want commitment, be committed.
9. Never Take a Play Off
Most teammates are not consistent. They have good days and bad days. One day they are in a great mood, and the next day they are in a bad mood. One day they are saying nice things about a teammate, and the next they are badmouthing someone. One day, they give a great effort, but the next day they slack off. One day they yell and scream, but the next day they laugh and goof off. When you are inconsistent, your team doesn’t know what to expect from you, and it makes it difficult for them to trust and count on you.
To be a great teammate, you want to be consistent in your attitude, effort, and actions. Like George, have a great attitude all the time so you can give your best in everything you do. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself every day. Don’t change with the wind; instead, be like a strong-rooted tree that does not waver, regardless of what is happening around it. Be the kind of teammate everyone knows they can trust and count on.
10. Hold Yourself and Your Team Accountable
George’s example is a simple and powerful one. To hold your team accountable, you first have to hold yourself accountable. When you expect the best of yourself, you can expect the best from your team, and when you expect the best from your team, they will rise up to meet your expectations. To be a great teammate, you must hold your teammates accountable to the high standards of excellence your culture expects and demands.
11. Treat Everyone with Respect and Expect Everyone to Do the Same
To be a great teammate, it’s important to respect and value each person for who they are, not what they do. When you respect everyone, as George did, everyone will respect you.
12. Give All and Take Nothing
In a world where far too many energy vampires suck the energy out of the people around them, George is a great example of the impact you can have when you give all and take nothing. To be a great teammate, decide to be an energy fountain instead of an energy drain. Don’t take anything positive away from anyone. Make your team better by giving the best within you to bring out the best in them. When you do, they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.
To be a great teammate, it’s essential to communicate with your team members collectively and individually. Communication builds trust. Trust generates commitment. Commitment fosters teamwork, and teamwork delivers results. Without communication, you can’t build the trust and relationships necessary for great teamwork. Talking in team meetings and giving team speeches isn’t enough. Great communication requires one-on-one conversation that help build relationships. In this spirit, I want to encourage you to make time to communicate with your teammates. Talk on the bus. Talk in the locker room. Each with different team members each week. Don’t just talk about the work at hand. Talk about your concerns and challenges, goals, and dreams. When you are busy and stressed it’s the last thing you want to do, but it’s the most important thing you can do to build the kind of relationships that build great teams.
One of the biggest complaints I receive from coaches is that their teams aren’t connected. They have a bunch of young men or women who usually focus on themselves, their own goals, and their own success. These young men and women usually have family members and friends telling them they should be playing more, scoring more, or getting more recognition. The message they receive from the world is that it’s all about the individual, not the team. This creates a disconnect between personal and team goals, and it undermines shared success. I have found with the coaches and team I have worked with, that when people focus on becoming a connected team, me dissolves into we. Bonds are strengthened. Relationships are developed and the team becomes much stronger. A connected team becomes a committed and powerful team.
As a teammate, one of the most important things you can do is connect with your teammates. After all, you can be the smarted person in the room, but if you don’t connect with others, you will fail as a team member. Don’t just communicate; connect. Get to really know your teammates. As you read about George and learn how he connected with his team, find your own moments of connection and you will be on your way to building a connected, committed, and powerful team.
15. Become a “Come with Me” Teammate
If you want to be good, focus on making yourself better. If you want to be great, focus on making yourself and your team better. When you are with your team, identify who would benefit from your leadership, help, encouragement, and time and invite them to do something positive with you. Do this often, and over time you’ll leave an incredible legacy.
16. Practice Selfless Compassion
You can’t be a great teammate if you are selfish. Great teammates like George are selfless. This doesn’t mean they think less of themselves; it means they think of themselves less. They are more focused on others and think about how they can serve others. Always remember, you don’t have to be great to serve, but you have to serve to be great.
17. Show You Care
George embodied the truth that great teammates care more than others. Great teammates care more about their effort. They care more about their performance. They care more about how they are impacting the team. And, most of all, they care more about their teammates. George cared more about his teammates and they knew it, felt it, and will remember it forever.
To be a great teammate, it’s important to show your teammates that you care about them. You may not drive people home from practice, but you can find your own unique way (I call this a caring trademark) that shows them you care. When you show your team you care about them, they will care about you. When you care, you will inspire others to care. When you care, you will build a team that cares, and a team that cares will accomplish amazing things together.
18. Be a Loyal Friend
A loyal friend and teammate is more precious than a diamond and more valuable than gold. They are very rare. My hope is that as you read this, you will increase the supply of loyal friends and teammates by deciding to be one today.
19. Love Your Team
Love truly is the greatest leadership principle and team-building strategy on the planet and if you don’t have it, you can’t share it. The truth is, if you don’t love your team, you can never be a great teammate. Don’t wait for your team to love you; first commit to loving them. I learned this lesson in my marriage and realized that the more I love my wife, the more I love my life. I’m not talking about the popular phrase happy wife, happy life. I’m talking about the fact that the more I focus on loving my wife without expecting anything in return, the more I love my life. It’s not about what she does. It’s about the love I give. As you focus on becoming a great teammate, learn from George and focus on loving your team. While many average players want their teammates to love them, you can become a great teammate by loving your team in spirit and action.
Note: Right before this “lesson” section Gordon talks about George’s shot block which is the impact that ultimately led to his death. That’s why he starts this lesson text the way he does.
Please know I’m not saying you need to sacrifice your safety to be a great teammate. But you must be willing to give some of yourself for the greater good of the team. You have to be willing to sacrifice what you want for what the team needs. You have to decide to move from selfishness to selflessness. We live in a world where everyone wants to be great, but the truth is, only through service and sacrifice will anyone become great. This means you may have to play a different position than you are used to. You might dive for a loose ball in basketball or execute a sacrifice bunt in baseball. Perhaps instead of scoring, you can set a pick to help your teammates score. It means that sometimes you are the star and sometimes you help the star. George’s last act was to jump in front of a shot; however, it was all the sacrifices he made for his team throughout his time with them that they talk about most, and I hope this will inspire you to sacrifice short-term pleasure and selfish desires for long-term respect, admiration, and impact.
21. Leave the Place Better than You Found It
No “lesson” section for this one. Self explanatory though.