This past weekend marked the beginning of college football season! And I watched many teams play on Saturday, it made me think of one of the many reasons I like the game of football—it is intriguing to see eleven guys working in perfect synch and playing as one unit. I like many sports, but the ones that are particularly appealing to me are the sports that involve group effort and teamwork. Football is never about one individual player. Sure, one guy runs across the goal line, but the ten others snapped, blocked, threw, decoyed, and cleared the path for the score. There is something about a group of guys working together to accomplish a common goal that makes me want to cheer!

Whether or not football is your sport, there are many lessons to be learned from this game. There are so many parallels between team sports and life. Both require trust. Both require unity. Both require vision. Both require focus. Both require lots of practice to perfect the execution of the plan. And both require a team mindset. Today I want to talk about that mindset. We will take the four letters in TEAM to briefly discuss four points that create the formula for an outstanding team member.

As a dynamic member of a team, you need to think beyond the expected. Think outside the box. Go one step further. Stop asking ordinary questions. Stop doing what you always done just because you’ve always done it that way. Do it because it is the most effective way. Do it because it gets results. If the old way is no longer effective, come up with a better way. If the old way is not getting results, think bigger.

Understand everything you can about your mission and be creative in proposing new strategies. Be resourceful. Be innovative. Use your imagination. Think outside the box, so you can reach people and solve problems outside the box.

A job well done is always recognized. A person with a commitment to excellence will become a
stand-out individual and will always have a vital role in any organization. To achieve excellence,
you must become passionate about your work and be dedicated to quality performance each day.

I recently saw a saw a bumper sticker that said, I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just
wanted paychecks! Some days I think that describes many of us. We start out with great enthusiasm, but as time goes on, perhaps our reality is just not quite up to our initial expectations, so we become, frankly, lazy, and we begin to accept mediocrity in our lives and in our work. After a while, we are just marking time, instead of investing in the pursuit of excellence. When begin to say, “Just let me sleep for a night, and I’ll throw something together in the morning.” And we go through life thinking, “I’ll do this better next time.” “Tomorrow, I’ll start over and get it right.” And ‘tomorrow’ rarely comes, so our lives turn into ‘good enough’, and we miss out on so many opportunities and experiences just because we settled.

The irony is, we want excellence from everyone else. We want the ‘step above’ that sets apart a hotel, a concert, a restaurant, an iPhone or a pair of shoes. We choose excellence. But my question for you today, is “Do we practice excellence?”

Start where you spend many of your daylight hours–at work. Are you an employee of excellence? Do the people at your office know you are the one that does not settle for mediocrity, but puts dedicated effort into both the small tasks and the large projects?

People with a mindset of excellence will stand out, and people of excellence make the best
team members.

To be a successful team member you must be adaptable – you must be able to bend and adjust without losing sight of the mission. If you don’t, you are will find yourself “inside the box”, “in a rut” and stuck with “the way we’ve always done it.”

Adaptability is the ability to change and the key is being willing. Time changes, technology changes, circumstances change, and if you intend to stay relevant and competitive, you too, must be willing to adapt to the shifting climate. If you don’t, you will find yourself marginalized while innovative teams take the win.

I want to be very clear on this topic of change. Being willing and open to positioning yourself for success means that your methods must sometimes change and your way of conducting business must adapt to changing conditions; however, your core principles—the heart principles—should never change. Principles of honesty, integrity, loyalty, and courage must remain consistent throughout your life and your career. So, be willing to change what is necessary for you to stay relevant and effective, but also be wise and never alter your core values.

Growth is absolutely essential in a thriving team, so it is also critical in every team player. When I measure growth, I look at three things. I look at attitude, improvement, and work ethic.

First, ATTITUDE. You are on a team because you have the skill set and the knowledge to make a great contribution. Your success on the team, and in life, will be largely determined by your attitude – the way you act and react to the circumstances around you. It’s all up to you. Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

I also look for IMPROVEMENT. Everyone has room to become better, to be innovative, and to expand. Your growth comes in doing your work better and in achieving improved results. That should always be our goal, both at work and in life – to consistently grow better and to improve.

And the big one, WORK ETHIC. I say this is the big one, because it is the lynch pin for the other two. You can have a fantastic attitude and be happy and cheerful, but if all you do is walk around, drinking coffee and chatting with your teammates, you are not growing. And if you are not growing, you are not truly helping the team. Along with that positive attitude, you must have a positive work ethic. And if you have a positive work ethic, you are setting yourself up to see the improvement we just discussed. So work! Work hard and work well.

Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonalds into the most successful fast food operation in the world said, “The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.” If you want to win, you must ‘do something about it.’ Simply put, you must work.

So next time you see a football game, think about the unity and the effort required to make a successful team. The best TEAM is about winning, and winning requires dedication from each player. It is about everyone pulling together and becoming successful as a group. These mindset traits create the formula for TEAM—Thinking outside the box, Excellence, Adaptability, and Motivated growth. By embracing and practicing these four qualities, you can become an outstanding team member with skills to create a successful and significant life.

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