Who's on my team?

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Fantasy football players do it before draft day.  They evaluate and appreciate the talents, skill sets, and winning attitudes of the players they hope to draft in forming their dream team.  Leaders do the same thing when they evaluate and hire people for their office "team."  Wing commanders look for the right mix of talents in a person to hire as a squadron commander.   Ad hoc teams reach out to MVPs with specific proficiencies to help solve an emerging problem.  Leaders at all levels look for certain skill sets when choosing someone to lead an important detail or to chair an event. 

There are three qualities I seek in a person chosen to become an integral part of my team: strong character, a rigorous work ethic and a positive attitude.  Embodying these characteristics, whether serving as a leader, follower or team participant adds value to the team.  And knowing my team possesses these qualities helps place my focus on the mission at hand.

The first, a strong character, nicely aligns with our first Air Force core value --integrity.  A strong character encompasses not only integrity, but also trust, loyalty, steadfastness, polite consideration of others, and a strong moral compass.  A person of character does the right thing, every time, even when no one is watching. 

As one who enjoys playing sports, I often think in terms of sports parallels.  The athlete with good character is not only the person who gives his best effort, but also the player who wins the sportsmanship award.  True to the game, true to his team and fair and respectful to his opponent, it is the athlete of good character who holds himself to a high standard, always favorably representing the team. 

A rigorous work ethic is another characteristic desired and expected from team members.   In today's AF characterized by tight budgets and limited manning, I rely on go-getters who can tackle a task with little oversight.  This demands a work ethic in people who recognize when a job needs to be done, and then demonstrate initiative to complete it without micromanagement.  Leaders must communicate their vision, set parameters, and then let the team complete the task to the best of their ability.  This model empowers Airmen to employ their ingenuity and energy to complete tasks somewhat autonomously.  The resulting pride in successful task completion engenders positive esprit de corps and builds confidence in the entire team.

Following the sport analogy, strong work ethic reveals itself in the tenacious hustler, the player who practices as hard as he plays at game time.  It is the athlete who keeps herself in top shape to be ready to perform for her team.  For the basketball fans out there, it's the athlete who can play a tough man-to-man defense all game and is still ready to spring a full court press on the opponent at any time.  It is the team assists leader and the athlete who blocks out and rips down rebounds.   It's the athlete who shoots 100 extra free throws before practice and runs laps after practice for added conditioning.

The final highlighted trait, a positive attitude, is of upmost importance to maintain the kind of morale necessary for top performance and success of a team.  This is even more important in the confines of a small work environment.  One may have the most exciting job in the world, but be miserable performing it because of the lousy attitude of a team mate.  On the other hand, one can enjoy even the most menial or difficult task if surrounded by people whose positive attitudes bring levity to the situation.  In either case, life is simply more enjoyable when surrounded by people who project a positive attitude.

In sports, this is the athlete who brings extra energy to the team when it is needed.  This is not simply the cheerleader, but the person on the team who believes in himself and the team so passionately, that the rest of the team is charged by his electricity.  It is the athlete who drives synergistic team performance exceeding the sum of the players' individual performances.  It is the person who can internally motivate a team to be better than their record, better than what their stats would predict, turning an underdog to victor.

The bonus about each of the three characteristics highlighted is that they are all contagious.  They can catch fire in a work environment and motivate others to think and act likewise.  This set of norms can easily become the new culture of an organization. 

Make yourself the MVP.  Demonstrate to your team members your strong character, rigorous work ethic, and positive attitude.  You will feel better about your performance, gain the respect of your fellow team members, and lead your team to victory!