Entrepreneur, speaker, life-long learner

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 WDWS

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.

13. Com­mu­ni­cate

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.

14. Con­nect

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.

20. Sac­ri­fice

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.

Tags for this book

team teamwork leadership