Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

What makes a good team member?

As many readers (not to imply that I have a readership, but please roll with me) probably know or could guess - I have a fairly romantic but peculiar obsession with the idea of teams.  In my experience, as is with most things, some people buy into teams and others don't really see them as teams but rather as a sum of individuals.  Some see the synergy and some see the parts which may create synergy.  Some see the forest and some see the trees.

I'm interested in what makes people see the forest - what makes people buy into the concept of teams and be successful in them.  Here's a frame: what makes some people trust things (and in some cases put almost blind faith) into things that are "larger than themselves"?  Here are some thoughts, not necessarily woven together:

Practice / Commitment
If you're around teams long enough, you see the magic that they create and it's inspiring...especially if you're on a good team.  Moreover, if you're on a team that sticks together for awhile you start to flow really well together, which is good because you get past the growing pains of being on a team and you get to the good stuff.

Confidence / Comfort
I feel like it would be very easy to be alienated in a team if you're constantly fearful of your own standing or of your material well-being.  So, it's probably important to be confident and feel affirmed.  Without being affirmed, you'd probably be too worried about self-preservation to care about the team.

Purpose
It's a big turn-off, at least for me, to be on a team which doesn't align with one's own purpose.  It's really taxing on your personal energy.  Adding to that, if it's not a noble purpose (of the person or the team) one of the two - the team or the person - will fall to selfish aims, and in turn destroy the team.  To have purpose you have to find something that matters gravely to you - so I suppose discovering your passion is an utterly necessary component of being a good team member.

Humility
To submit yourself to something larger than yourself, you have to acknowledge that something other than you can be greater than yourself.  That's jumbled, I know, but the point still stands - you can think anything is greater than you if you think nothing is greater than you.

Selflessness / Listening
Teams don't function when any one members' needs are consistently higher than others'.  So, once has to have some level of selflessness (so they don't monopolize mindshare) and ability to listen.  Without these, there's not a team because someone has elevated themselves above others.

Authenticity
People in teams have to be real with eachother, or, nobody trusts them.  No trust = no team.  'Nuff said.

All of these, though, raise a larger question of - Neil, you've listed all these virtuous qualities...how do you cultivate those?  Ya know, I'll have to think about that - my ideas aren't quite there yet.

-nt