Book review _ The 17 essential qualities of a team player by John C.Maxwell
It’s one thing to create a team, but quite another to build team work. And it’s one thing to join a team, but quite another to perform as a team member ! For, the internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, coach, and author of more than 60 books, John C.Maxwell, began his book ‘The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player’ with these words: “You cannot build a great team without great players. You can lose with good players, but you cannot win without them.”
This article is a review of John C.Maxwell’s The 17 Essential Qualities of a team player. You will read an overview of what’s in the book and my opinion about it, then a quite interesting summary of this quite interesting book.
The 17 essential qualities of a team player comes as a companion book for The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John C.Maxwell . It presents a clear analysis of the personal characteristics necessary for becoming an effective team player. It’s written for people who tend to improve their own team playing skills as well as people looking for building and mentoring solid teams.
+ Being my third book read for C.Maxwell, The 17 essential qualities of a team player made me assume this author’s wielding of ‘the excellent chapter format’ for self-help genre books‘ . The way informations are presented is captivating. You get the gist of the chapters ‘slowly but surely’: each chapter of this book comes with four sections:
a short anecdote about a historic figure’s accomplishments, and his or her triumph over adversity. These stories demonstrate the lessons that author briefly discusses in the rest of the chapter. The “laws” he promulgates benefit from the stories’ afterglow and are less important than the stories themselves.
Fleshing it out
after giving you a real life example through the story of people who had survived a certain situation because they had a certain quality, the author here explains that quality in details. What it takes to have it and why one need it to work effectively within a team.
Reflecting on it
then he helps you measure what you’ve just learnt to your own self. This section is in most chapters a set of questions the author provokes you with, to make you test if you’re a team member with that quality or you still have to work on yourself to get it.
Bringing it home
in this section the author lists the actions you need to take to improve your self. In my opinion this is the most important part of each chapter.
Daily take away
while the stories at the beginning of each chapter are about ardious situations being surpassed thanks to a certain quality, or being failed because of its lack, this section tell you happy stories! It’s about success stories of people with the quality the chapter is about.
+ One other thing I appreciated about the book is that it’s really ‘easy to digest‘. The reason might be that it’s a succinct companion book for The Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. Or might be that these qualities are really simple to acquire. Yes! It’s that simple, but not that obvious. You need to concentrate and dedicate an effort to change.
± However, what you are not going to like about the book is that the chapters are very seriously independent from one another. This gives you the feeling that you read a list on one of those “the 5 things to get that one thing done” articles. Also, at some chapters you will get bored ! So you’ll skip the first section and jump to the second or the fourth. But at most chapters, the first section is the most enriching.
True team players have 17 key traits, as exemplified by well-known personalities from history or contemporary society. They are:
1- Adaptable: If you won’t change for the team, the team may change you
Team players who are most likely to become adaptable are highly teachable, emotionally secure, creative, and service-minded individuals. To helo reflect on this quality, C Maxwell asked you: “If improving the team requires you to change the way you do thing, how do you react? Are you supportive, or would you rather do things the way they’ve always been done before?” And to help you achieve adaptability he explained that you need to get into the habit of learning, reevaluate your role on the team and, think outside the lines.
2- Collaborative: Working together precedes winning together
“Notice that I didn’t say ‘cooperation’ because collaboration is more than that. “Cooperation is working together agreeably. Collaboration is working together aggressively”. A collaborative team player needs to change in four key areas: perception (they need to see teammates as collaborators not competitors), attitude (they must be supportive, not suspicious of teammates), focus (they must concentrate on the team, not on themselves), and results (they have to create victories through multiplication).
3- Committed: There are no halfhearted champions
Commitment usually is discovered in the midst of adversity. It does not depend on gifts or abilities. Rather, it is the result of choice: “Far too many people think that conditions determine choices. More often, choices determine conditions”. Commitment lasts when it’s based on values: “It’s one thing to make a commitment in a moment. It’s another to stick with it”. Committed people don’t surrender easily. To improve the level of commitment, one must: tie commitments to values, take a risk, evaluate teammates’ commitment: “You cannot make a commitment to uncommitted people, and expect a commitment from them in return”.
4- Communicative: A team is many voices with a single heart
Communicative team players do not isolate themselves from others; make it easy for teammates to communicate with them; follow the twenty-four hour rule: “If you have any difficulty with team-members don’t let 24 hours go by without addressing it” , give attention to potentially difficult relationships; and, follow up important communication in writing. To improve yout communication you are expected to be candid; be quick and be inclusive.
5- Competent: If you can’t, your team won’t
Inspiration is easy, implementation is the hard bit. Competent does not mean simply having adequate skills to perform a job. It means the individual must be highly qualified to do the job well. Highly competent peopleare committed to excellence, never settle for averag, pay attention to details, and perform with consistency. To improve your level of competence, you must: focus yourself professionally, sweat the small stuff, pay attention to relationships to make them thrive, and this is especially true of people in a team, where there is potential for conflict. So give more attention to implementation.
6- Dependable: Teams go to Go-To players
You know when you have dependable people on your team, and when people are undependable. John C.Maxwell classifies the essence of dependability as having pure motives (not always putting yourself first), having a strong sense of responsibility, it must be coupled with good sound judgement to be of any real value to the team, and a willingness to consistently contribute. On the reflecting on it section, the author makes you ask yourself these questions: “Do you make good decisions that others can rely on? And do you perform consistently, even when you don’t feel like it? Are you a go-to player, or do your teammates work hard around you when crunch time comes? “. To improve your dependability you must: check your motives, discover what your word is worth, and find someone to hold you accountable.
7- Disciplined: Where there’s a will, there’s a win
Discipline is doing what you really don’t want to do, so that you can do what you really want to do. It means paying the price so you can have the reward later. Just as no individual can succeed without discipline, neither does any team. Discipline is developed in three areas: disciplined thinking (keep your mind active, and always think about the right things), disciplined emotions (either you master your emotions, or be mastered by them) “You will never win until you can control that temper of yours”, and disciplined actions (action separates the winners from the losers). To become a more disciplined team player one should strengthen his work habits: “And do something necessary but unpleasant every day to keep yourself disciplined”, take on a challenge and tame your tongue.
8- Enlarging: Adding value to teammates is invaluable.
Team members love a player who is able to inspire them to become more successful. Team players who enlarge their teammates value their teammates, value what their teammates value, add value to their teammates and make themselves more valuable. Things you do to develop ‘ the enlarging quality’ : believe in others before they believe in you, serve others before they serve you and add value to others before they add value to you. One of the best quotes from the book comes in this chapter: “Becoming an enlarger of others isn’t always easy. First, it takes a secure person to add value to others” . “No man is more cheated than the selfish man”.
9- Enthusiastic: Your heart is the source of energy for the team
People who bring an enthusiastic attitude to teamwork often: take responsibility for their own enthusiasm, act their way into feeling (the only way to begin is simply to begin), believe in what they are doing, spend time with enthusiastic people. Enthusiasm is contagious: “There is no substitute for enthusiasm. When the members of a team are enthusiastic, the whole team becomes highly energized and that energy produces power”. To improve enthusiasm, one must: show a sense of urgency, be willing to do more, strive for excellence.
10- Intentional: Make every action count
Being intentional means working with a strong sense of purpose, making every action count. Successful individuals are never scattered and haphazard. They have a clear reason why they are doing what they are doing. For a team to be successful, it needs intentional people who are focused and productive, the kind of people who can make every action count. To be intentional you must: have a purpose worth living for, know your strengths and weaknesses, prioritise your responsibilities, learn to say no and commit yourself to a long-term achievement. As the author says: “It’s about focusing on doing the right things, moment to moment, day to day, and then following through with them in a consistent way”.
11- Mission conscious: The Big Picture is coming in loud and clear
The four qualities of mission-conscious team players are: they know where the team is going, they let the leader of the team lead, they place team accomplishment ahead of their own and they do whatever is necessary to achieve the mission. To improve your mission consciousness you need to check to see if your team focuses on its mission, find ways to keep the mission in mind, contribute your best as a team member. “A team isn’t really a team if it isn’t going anywhere”.
12- Prepared: Preparation can mean the difference between winning and losing
The author wrote here: “The man who is prepared has his battle half-fought”. To be a more prepared team member, be a more prepared person and think about assessment (know what you are preparing for), alignment (good alignment makes success possible. You can’t just work hard you must know the right work to do), attitude (lazy people rarely prepare. Set yourself up for success by being prepared) and action (ultimately it is the one thing that is necessary). To improve preparedness you must become a process thinker, do more research and learn from your mistakes. Preparation may not guarantee you a win, but it puts you in the right position for one.
13-Relational: If you get along, others will go along
Teams want people who are relational. Look for the following in your team relationships and you will know if you have built a solid relationship with them: respect, shared experiences, trust, reciprocity and mutual enjoyment. To better relate to your teammates you must: focus on others instead of yourself, ask the right questions, share common experiences and make others feel special. “He understood that relationships are the glue that holds team members together, the more solid the relationships, the more cohesive the team”.
14- Self-improving: To improve the team, improve yourself
To improve the team, improve yourself. People who are constantly improving themselves make these three processes an ongoing cycle in their lives: preparation, contemplation, and application. Too many people want to do joust enough to get by and ‘arrive’ and then they want to ‘retire’. They are looking for ‘quick-fixes’. To become a more self-improving person you must become highly teachable, plan your progress, value self-improvement above self-promotion. My preferable quote from this chapter is: “Adopt the attitude of a learner, not an expert”.
15- Selfless: There is no “I” in team.
Being selfless isn’t easy, but it’s necessary in any team endeavour. As a team member, how do you cultivate an attitude of selflessness? be generous, avoid internal politics, display loyalty, value interdependence over independence. If you want to become a contributing member of a successful team, you have to put others on the team ahead of yourself. Maxwell discusses just how to do that in an empowering way. His tips on how to become more selfless are: promote someone other than yourself, take a subordinate role and give secretly, without the other team members knowing.
16- Solution-oriented: Make a resolution to find the solution
Make a resolution to find the solution. Many people can see problems. That doesn’t require any special ability or talent. Your personality type, upbringing and personal history affect how solution-oriented you are naturally. However, anyone can become solution-oriented, if they want to be. Solution oriented people recognize these truths: problems are a matter of perspective, all problems are solvable, problems either stop us or stretch us. To make yourself a solution-oriented team player, you must refuse to give up, refocus your thinking, rethink your strategy and repeat the process.
17- Tenacious: Never, never, never quit
It’s appropriate to finish the discussion of the essential qualities of a ten player by talking about tenacity because tenacity is crucial to the success of any endeavour. Being tenacious means giving all that you’ve got, 100% of what you have, not more than you have. Tenacious people do not rely on luck, fate, or destiny for their success. When conditions become difficult, they keep working. Quitting when the job is done, not when you’re tired. Push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. So the key points required for tenacity: giving it all that you have (no more, no less), working with determination (not waiting), thinking “How quickly can I move on this? and quitting only when the job is done (not when your tired) .To improve your tenacity, you must work harder or smarter, stand for something, make your work a game.
I highly recommand this for beginners with this genre, or for readers who haven’t been working on teams before, and/or for college and high school students. Because as I mentionned before, this book is easy to read.
Regarding the reading tips, the first, most obvious thing, I would recommand is you read the book in it’s entirety. You might benefit from the brief summary above, or from the high readability and good format of chapters, but, learning is an experiential thing ! Besides you’ll have fun reading the intresting stories at the beginning of each chapter. The second, less obvious thing I would recommand is already mentienned by the author when he concluded the entire book, he wrote: “review this book periodically to measure how you’re developing“.
That’s all readers ! let me know your feedback in comments when you read the book.