The Benchwarmer

If I am honest, watching my child play basketball is a little painful. He’s not the greatest basketball player in the world. Not even in the top half of his classmates. But he loves to compete and be with his friends. And now that he is getting close to middle school, he is learning that not every one gets equal playing time. He is learning that sometimes there are those that are better at particular things than he is.  I feel his pain of wanting to be out on the floor, in the middle of the action.  Yet, I see the learning opportunity he has in front of him. Learning what it means to be the a great teammate from the bench. To be great and strive for excellence no matter the position or role you are in.

This got me to thinking about how even in business, we at all times have to be great teammates, even when we aren’t getting the ‘juicy’ assignments we think others are or think we are due. We all still have important roles to play. Some of the lessons I am attempting to lead my son through as he struggles with filling his new role, I am beginning to see that the lessons still apply to me.

1. Life isn’t fair – Sometimes others will seemingly get higher profile assignments for no other reason than bias. And that may not be good for the team as a whole. And while it’s good to express those concerns to a team leader or boss, it takes work to fix broken issues, and that is not fair to deal with. But it still takes the work to fix them.

2. Be an encourager – Encourage your team openly and often.  Be the cheerleader the team needs. We all need encouragement and your team needs you to be open and vocal in your encouragement.  It’s the mutual support that everyone needs and deserves. And to get that support you need to give it. So be open and constant in your praise to others on the team.

3. Be prepared – You never know when you may need to step up and take ‘the floor’. Despite challenging circumstances, stay positive. If you slack off or don’t take seriously the assignments you are given, you won’t be trusted to step up to new ones.

4. Take pride in your role – no matter the role, show enthusiasm. Demonstrate to the rest of the team you are proud to be part of the team. You don’t have to be the be the best, but you do have to give your best. Don’t mope because you have an assignment you don’t necessarily like. We all get stuck with crappy work sometimes. That doesn’t mean it is any less important, but we should treat it like it is the most important.

5. You are stronger as a team – no matter how good you are or think you are, you are never as strong as when you are a good teammate. You can say, “yeah but I bring in $XX to this company” or “I oversee so and so clients” or “I don’t have time to help, I’m busier than most”. But if you aren’t performing and communicating as part of a team and doing your part to be the best teammate you can, you are just a clanging gong that others will soon find a way to work you out of the team.

Your roles in your career will constantly change. Some days you be the one getting the ‘glory’, or that promotion, or that high profile assignment; and some days you may be the one taking care of the paperwork, or having to fill in for an ‘injured’ teammate. Whether it is being front and center or being on the sideline, fulfill your role with enthusiasm and pride.  Leadership is an action, not a position.  Some of the greatest teammates have been ‘benchwarmers’ and all great leaders are great teammates.

Nov 26, 2018