Identifying the Traits of Successful Team Members to Improve Your Culture

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Wanted: Extraordinary Attributes

I am blessed to work with professionals of the highest caliber in the world in rehabilitation and performance. This is most evident to me in our Sports Physical Therapy Residency team. What sets these sports residents apart? After obtaining a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, these PTs apply for a rigorous, 15 month sports physical therapy training program that requires 50-60 hours each week.  Less than 10% of all doctoral students apply for a any type of residency program, and less than 1% of all PTs pursue a residency.  Among the applicants to our program, only three are accepted. To say that I get to work with the best of the best of the best is an understatement. It strikes me, though, that while all of the graduates are remarkable, some stand out as extraordinary in their brilliance and success.

Over the past 10 years, I have worked diligently to identify the traits that separate the brilliantly successful from the rest. Finally, this year with the help of several books and countless discussions with our team, we were able to identify and articulate those traits. There were three essential books which aided us in expressing the expectations representative of our residency culture: Mindset, The Ideal Team Player, and Grit.

These are the characteristics of our sports residency team members:

Our residency program expects and seeks to nurture individuals who are positive, humble, hungry, people-smart, and have grit, all with a growth mindset.

One of our Residency faculty recently posted on the topic of a “growth mindset.”  Reading it will give you a flavor of how deeply these values are entrenched in our program.

If your team members don’t know your vision (your why), your efforts are much less likely to  succeed. Also of importance is that they know how team members are to accomplish the vision. The tactical steps about “how” things are supposed to get done come to mind for most. But, I care most about our team being aligned with our vision and possessing the character traits to carry out that vision. In my experience, this helps the end product take care of itself with the perk of eliminating micromanaging. The vision is simply accomplished by having specific goals in conjunction with continual communication and accountability.

Many people have experienced working alongside a team member who is not displaying the desired character traits.  In The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni describes the requisite traits as virtues and offers solutions when they are not exhibited. If you cannot successfully “rehabilitate” a team member, liberate them from their current position. In this case, kindness is essential. And in this case, being kind means relieving the team member from their current position. When an individual is held back by your culture, you are doing them a disservice by allowing them to persist in a culture that does not match them. Let me be more clear, I have seen numerous teams that were unable to successfully implement a systematic approach to injury prevention because of one person. One person can also cause many outstanding people to leave an organization. Most of the time, this person is merely “tolerated” for who they are. In order for a team to be successful, this cannot occur.

To ensure that you are assembling the best possible team, begin by articulating what characteristics are most desirable for your team. If one of my consulting clients has questions about getting change within your organization, I first ask:

  1. What is your vision (your why)?
  2. If I were to ask your staff (and sometimes I do) what the vision is, would they know?
  3. What are the characteristics of your team and your team players?

Those questions have to be answered before we get into the “what” of implementing an injury prevention system. In future posts, I will be discussing the nuts and bolts of systematic injury prevention, but I can’t emphasize enough that the greatest need for most organizations is not the specifics of the system, but the foundational vision and culture to execute the details.

Share what you think the characteristics of an ideal team player are below.

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Phil Plisky

I want to change peoples lives through dialogue about injury prevention research and return to activity testing.

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