Help a Teammate

Help a Teammate

Last week, I did my first in-person team presentation since COVID-19 showed up. 

The team had great questions prepared. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my answers with all of you.

This week’s topic: What’s the proper way to call out a teammate?

Let’s start with “call out.” The phrase feels so harsh. Let’s change it to “help a teammate.”

My grandpa often reminded us to be good to each other, and his wisdom rings true in many situations. Here are some tips to help you when you talk to a teammate. 

Be clear in your mind about what needs to change, and don’t just talk poorly about it. 

Ask permission to challenge them. Try phrases like: “You OK with me challenging you?” or “Can I tell you something I’ve noticed?” Or, look at Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s concept — “I’m telling you this because I have high expectations of you.”

Most people prefer to be privately pulled aside.This can often be a more helpful approach, and can avoid embarrassment. A public humiliation rarely works, and it’ll probably destroy team trust. 

Think about being in their shoes. Be mindful of your tone and make sure it’s sincere and helpful.  Don’t take a tone of superiority. Remember that you’re not trying to win, you’re trying to help a teammate.

Prepare to offer suggestions, acknowledge your struggles and listen carefully. Though they may not initially be thrilled with what you’re saying, sharing your experience can make them more open. 

Sometimes the hardest part of this is that our own thoughts are being challenged. Recently, my wife gave me some feedback. I didn’t like it at first. But after some reflection, I realized I had messed up.

In reflecting about what I had said, I realized that part of the reason I struggled with it was I assumed she thought about it the same way I did. In my head, I thought she was trying to imply something or be harsh. My point is that the way you receive feedback can definitely influence how you feel about giving it. It’s helpful to think about your beliefs and how you try to protect yourself.  Feedback makes us vulnerable.

Here’s a great Ted Talk about how to not take things personally. The whole thing is great, but the best part is in the last five minutes. 

Being on the receiving end of a challenge can be hard — especially if you didn’t see it coming.  The human tendency is to dismiss it immediately. 

Doing so means you have not been thoughtful about it. It’s okay to say you’d like to think about it a bit more, or tell them you’ll take what they said into consideration and follow up later.

Follow these guidelines when you challenge yourself. Examine your beliefs about giving and receiving. It builds mental fitness. Personalizing destroys it.