All the major sports leagues celebrate their best players. But what if there were a Most Valuable Player award for your team? Would you take home the prize?
When I was CEO of Thomas Nelson we established different awards for individuals, service groups, and profit centers. The winners received public recognition, banners, trophies, and prizes.
I loved giving these awards. Without the contributions of these valuable team members, our company would have made measurably less progress in achieving our mission. Instead, we achieved more as a directly result of their efforts.
I don’t know the criteria for Major League Baseball’s MVP award. But after decades of leading teams, I do know what works for companies, nonprofits, small organizations, ministries, and creative collectives looking to make a difference.
Let’s be clear about one thing up front: It’s not about being a hotshot. We’ve all been around people with tons of talent who were a liability to the group. Talent, as John Maxwell says, is never enough.
Here are seven tips for becoming the most valuable player on your team—even if you don’t think you’re the most talented member:
- Play till the whistle blows. Don’t walk off the field in the game. Even if you’re behind—especially if you’re behind—you can make a winning contribution. But you’ll never do it if you quit early.
- Practice good communication. For me that all comes down to clarity, responsiveness, and frequency. Be clear, don’t bottleneck information, and keep everyone who needs to know in the know as often as they need to know it.
- Work hard. More accurately, work harder than you think you need to. Doing the minimum will win no points with people who are putting in extra effort. If you have more to give, do it.
- Share your best. If you want to serve your team members, don’t hold back. Creativity, talent, learning, insight—they can make all the difference in the final outcome, so share your best stuff.
- Own your mistakes. Responsibility is the mark of a strong team player. If there’s a problem and it’s yours, own it. Accountability frees people to work on the problem, not fester about the one who created it.
- Affirm others. Team spirit is critical for victory, and everyone on the team is responsible to improve the mood if possible. Catch others doing good work and call them out.
- Be positive. By its very nature, cynicism kills teamwork. Unlike constructive criticism, it’s defensive and self-indulgent. It’s designed to protect the cynic at the expense of everyone else. A positive attitude about problems is the best way to help the team get past them.
Michael Jordan said talent might win games, but it takes teamwork to win championships. You may not have any control over the level of your talent, but you have a lot of control over your character and how you interact with your team.
To achieve its goals, a team needs members who give their all, give their best, and play to win.
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