When asked, most of us describe ourselves as a team player.  In fact, I have always considered myself a team player. Over the past six years working with dental teams, I started to see a pattern.  When given an assessment, every individual person gave themselves a 9 or 10 for the question asking “Would you consider yourself a team player?”.  However, the question asking “Does the office work together as a team?” the answers are not so generous.   On average, the answer is a 5.  So how is it we can rate ourselves as a top notch team player, but another person on our team would rate us as a 5?  Why the disconnect?

Some characteristics that come to mind when I hear “team player” are helper, dedicated, reliable, even-tempered, friendly, thinking of others’ needs first (servant’s heart).

This is the definition I came up with for a team player:

A team player is someone who sees a need and takes the initiative to help others without complaint, without expecting anything in return and putting others needs above their own for the improvement of the practice/patient experience.

When we agree on a definition, then we can understand our expectations and know what we are striving for.  Setting expectations are part of a successful practice and gives us a feeling of purpose and fulfillment.

After reading this definition, would you rate yourself as a 10 again; in all honesty?  Do you really do things without expecting something in return or without complaint?  When we see a need do we actually help without being asked? I definitely have fallen short of the “10” I thought I was!

One way I have discovered for myself and others to grow professionally and personally, is to focus on what I can control (my own emotions, response to others) and think of the negative actions as “opportunities”.

These are 3 common misperceptions of what a team player is.  As you are reading this think about what resonates with you personally.

1. The “Asker”. Asking is not doing. Simply by asking “Do you need help or are you all set?”  and they answer “ No, they don’t need help.” Does not make you a team player.  In our mind, we are a team player because we asked.  Look at the definition…. “Takes initiative to help others…” Solution:  Either start helping without asking or ask in a different way. Example of a Team Player: Instead of “Do you need help?”  say something more specific like “Let me turnover your room so you can finish your notes and then we can both get to lunch on time, ok?

2. “Good intentions Person”. Using a sweet friendly voice to give excuses why you can’t or are too busy with your own work. Example “I wish I could stay and help but….. or I have s much of my own work to do….etc.”  Although this may be true, when the excuses are a pattern of behavior the rest of the team starts to see you as unreliable.  Usually a time management problem.  The sense of feeling overwhelmed or in a rush.  Solution:  Schedule realistic time in your calendar to get things done.

3. The “Justifier” Not doing something, even though you think you should, because “They never appreciate the help or they never help me”. The person is trying to justify what they know in their heart to be the “right thing” with why they shouldn’t help.  When we do this, we are losing sight of the bigger purpose. Remember, you can control your response, not another person’s response. As human beings, when we do something for someone else, especially when they don’t deserve it, we get a sense of fulfillment. The definition says “Without complaint and putting others needs first and not expecting anything in return.”  Simple concepts not always easy to apply.

Next time you are feeling defeated or like you are the only one doing any work, remember, your co-workers are probably thinking the exact same thing. It’s perspective.  If we were all a 10 at team work, there would never be any conflict in the office, and we all know that is not reality.  You have the ability to change for a purpose.  Change for the sake of change doesn’t work. However, change with a purpose is empowering and life altering.

It’s not about who is right or wrong….our perception is our reality. I promise you, when you start to apply these to your life, the practice culture will change.  I want to challenge you. What is the one intentional thing, “the opportunity”, you are going to do today to have life altering results?  Thanks for reading and leave a comment to let me know your one intentional thing!