To Be a Great Teammate – Identify Your Role

To Be a Great Teammate – Identify Your RoleFor your team to be successful, what are the two things you most need to contribute?

If you cannot answer that question immediately and with confidence, you are not yet as influential a teammate (or leader) as you should be.

Think of the physical talents you possess. Is your strength ball-handling? Rebounding? Shooting? Quickness and Defending the ball?

Knowing your strengths and making a conscious decision to DO WHAT YOU DO WELL and stay away from trying to do things outside your strength zone are a huge part of being a great teammate.

The problem is that most people realize too late that failure is the result of ambiguity. If you are vague about what ingredient you should be contributing, your team will likely enjoy only modest success. Goals and vision are certainly important, but clear and specific roles are what lead a group to superior achievements.

Most teams usually begin their year or project by identifying very specific goals.

Coaches post them in locker rooms and insert them into player notebooks as reminders of the team’s purpose and aspirations. Managers display them in the office break room. Administrators send out reminder emails to their teachers.

But while goal setting is a positive and necessary step, it is also only the first part of the process of building what could be a great team. During teambuilding or speaking events with university programs and businesses, I always spend a few minutes explaining the 5 traits that ALL great teams share:

  1. Goals and Gear
  2. Rapport and Relationships
  3. Expectations and Encouragement
  4. Accountability and Adjustments
  5. Toasts and Transfer

Obviously, identifying clear Goals and the Gear required are important – part of reaching your destination is defining where you want to go. And many managers or coaches recognize the need to foster interdependence and build stronger bonds of trust through scheduling team events and activities that provide opportunities for learning about the backgrounds and personalities of coworkers to improve team morale and relationships.

But without giving proper attention to the third trait, the team is certain to underperform.

Inattention to defining roles by sharing clear expectations for each team member, and neglecting to encourage them to focus on contributing what they do best, are perhaps the most common reasons for team dysfunction. If you want to be a better teammate, one of the most important things you can do is make it clear what each team member should do as often as possible – and then make clear what behaviors they should stay away from.

Some of the most obvious examples of physical roles are found in football.

You would likely not expect a 320 pound monster to play well at the position of defensive cornerback. He would not be quick or agile enough to enjoy any success. Likewise, asking your punter to throw the ball well or make the required decisions that you expect from a great quarterback would rarely bring positive results.

Basketball fans may be familiar with Mark Eaton, who holds the NBA record for most career blocks with 456. On his website, and during his many speeches to businesses, Mark shares an important story about a conversation he had as a rookie with Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain, a legend already at that time, shared with him a simple message – focus on doing what you do well and forget about trying to be what you do not!

The people in your organization all bring unique and valuable skills, and it is the role of a team leader to position them where they will contribute their strengths.

But being a great teammate involves more than just contributing physically. A great teammate also recognizes the importance of personalities and emotional roles.

For those of you that appreciate the support of research, you can read more about the Belbin Team Role Theory here. While primarily applied to business teams, it basically suggests that, although some roles may be more “high profile,” and some team members may be louder than others, each team member’s contributions and actions are essential in making the team successful, for their diversity provides a balance that is necessary.

In addition to your physical skills and contributions, the second role you must be aware of is your personality type and that of your teammates.

Personality conflicts can be a major cause of team underperformance, and the more you know about yourself and those around you, the better you will be able to understand and deal with various dispositions that are likely part of your team.

Many businesses will have their employees take a DiSC personality test, but a much easier to tool to use and understand is Gary Smalley’s animal personality test. You can find out more about the four “animal types” here, and will likely recognize yourself and many of your teammates in the descriptions provided.

To be a great teammate and truly lead from where you are, it is essential for you to know yourself and your teammates. Only by identifying the strengths you each possess and then clarifying what each needs to bring and expect from one another can you expect to reach the potential that you have collectively.

Part of your journey to becoming a GREAT team is establishing expectations – and then encouraging your teammates to fill the roles that best fit their talents and personalities.

If you are interested in learning more about your team’s animal personalities, or would enjoy a day of challenging athletic teambuilding activities to build cohesiveness, communication, and learn to work through adversity as a team, I would love the opportunity to work with your group!

If your team is underachieving, or if you feel your organization’s culture needs a boost of energy, trust, focus, or morale – consider the benefits of a teambuilding event or training workshop to refocus your organization and achieve Great Results!

Great Results Team BuildingIf you are interested in discussing an event or speaking engagement for your group,  visit Sean’s website at

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Sean Glaze has enjoyed motivating athletes and inspiring teams for nearly 20 years, and has consistently turned under-achievers into winners – both on and off the court – with his practical tools and focus on great relationships and teambuilding. As an experienced author, speaker, and team-building coach, Sean entertains and influences audiences with a unique blend of dynamic content, interactive activities, and practical action steps. His team-building website,, provides more information on the team-building events, speaking engagements, and training workshops he offers.   If you are part of a business, school, or athletic team that needs to improve communication, inspire accountability, energize morale, and transform your group into a more productive team, contact him and get started improving your organization today!


  1. Andrew Trevor says

    This may be a bit unconventional, but have you ever thought about using Belbin Training with the team to find out what kind of person they are, its mostly used in businesses but i reckon it could work well on sports teams

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