When you’re the only star (part 2)

(part 2 of 2)

You’re a star performer. The other members of your team aren’t. What do you do? Last time we looked at a few things that don’t work — whether you’re the best basketball player in the world, a popular and accomplished baseball player, or an all-star technical writer on a team that isn’t getting the job done.

Now here are some things that do work.

What does work: Have faith in the team

Remember: while you might think you’re the only star on the team, the team members probably don’t share your view.

Here’s something else to remember: no one on your team is trying to fail. Nor are they incompetents, unable to do the job.

Somebody hired them, thinking they had the necessary skills. Surely, then, you won’t need to look very hard to see the qualities that can turn your teammates into capable performers, even if they’re struggling with the current project.

Yellow Brick road from the Wizard of Oz

Your vision can guide your teammates to taking their first steps along the yellow brick road to the goal

So try a dose of humility.

Ask someone to tackle a specific task that aligns with their strengths. When they succeed, even if the task was relatively insignificant, their confidence will get a boost.

Show your teammates what success looks like: When we’re done doing this, our customers will be able to install and use the product much more easily than before. A vision of the goal might be all they need to stop floundering and take the first steps toward the goal.

What does work: Help where you can

If your teammates aren’t being effective, perhaps they simply need some help. In sports, experienced players often become unofficial coaches by giving tips and advice to younger players. The same works in the business world.

But never step in and help — tempting as it might be — without first asking.

You have to be sensitive, especially when you’re not the manager and the team members don’t report to you. Not everyone, even the poorest performers, is looking for your help. They might even resent it.

Your offer to help puts your teammate in control of the situation. If they say no, then let no be the answer.

If they say yes to your offer of help, don’t simply take over. Instead, use the opportunity to teach or mentor. It does no good if your teammate doesn’t learn something, doesn’t get a chance to develop a skill.

What does work: Set an example

How else can you help? Create an atmosphere where people expect to succeed, by acting like someone who expects to succeed. This is part of what it means to be a professional.


Gil Hodges, before the happy ending

In the last article, I told you about baseball player Gil Hodges and his tribulations while playing with the legendarily bad 1962 Mets.

When his playing career ended, Hodges became a manager, and in 1968 he returned to the Mets in that capacity.

The Mets were still a last-place team. But that didn’t matter to Hodges.

From day one, he told his team that he expected them to carry themselves with pride. They were to take things seriously. No clowning around. Hodges’ own demeanor set the tone.

In the first year, the Mets still had a losing record. But they won more games than they ever had before, and the young team learned about playing with pride.

In the second year, the “Miracle Mets” started near the bottom of their division and then steadily overtook all of the other teams. Then they surprised everyone — except themselves — by winning the World Series.

You don’t have to be the team’s manager to model the right kind of professionalism. Act like you expect to succeed, and people will follow your example.

Of course it’s important to complete the project successfully and on time. But step back and take the long view:

  • Will the actions you take to complete this project help or hinder the team’s ability to complete the next project, and the one after that?
  • Are you really the only star around? Or are you overlooking your teammates’ skills and  potential?

Once again, I’d like to hear your stories — and your tips for helping teams succeed when they’re struggling. Use the comments section to share.

1 thought on “When you’re the only star (part 2)

  1. Pingback: When you’re the only star | Leading Technical Communication

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