Motivating our teammates

by Chief Master Sgt. Jacob Dunbar
Air Force Special Operations Command

Many of us have set goals and intend to reach them. We get pumped up by the thought of achieving them. Though we got off to a valiant start blazing full speed toward the finish line, there are times when the fire in us fades. Sometimes our circumstances dictate that we give up or give in, and we see our dreams slipping away. When we lose the drive and our goals seem impossible, these are moments when we could use a little motivation to move along or get back on track. Often this support and encouragement comes from the people closest to us — our teammates. These are our friends, family and co-workers.

Teammates help each other along. They are the support arm, providing the extra push, the burst of energy, the additional determination we need to get over the hump, cross the finish line and achieve the goal. How do teammates provide this motivation? They do it in many ways, but the ones that stand out to me are being understanding, honest, selfless and committed.

Being understanding is about making the effort to know someone and their circumstances. This is a crucial element in building an effective team. It is important to know each other’s weaknesses and strengths, moods and attitudes, likes and dislikes. Teammates complement one another; when one becomes weak, the other gets stronger, making up for the shortfall. Being attuned to our teammate’s behaviors helps us to recognize when something is out of the ordinary, when they need assistance and when we should intervene. Sometimes, helping the other person is telling them the truth.

Honesty between individuals improves communication and establishes a level of trust that is vital to pulling off joint goals. We must be able to tell our teammates when they are wrong, when they are not carrying their weight and when they need help. Sometimes, we do not always see our own faults or notice our inadequacies, however, the people around us who are observing can see the situation more clearly from an objective viewpoint and alert us to it. This gives us the opportunity to get better and refocus our efforts on the things that really matter.

Team in itself signifies us, we and all; there is no I, me or self. It is about being selfless and being more concerned about the success of the team than ourselves. It is about looking out for the other guy, being a good wingman, friend, co-worker, family member. The idea is to be each other’s keeper and not stand by allowing our teammates to fail when we can prevent it. It is being there for someone when they need us, understanding their concerns and supporting them in the most difficult and challenging moments. Here we take responsibility for each other’s successes and failures; we are a contributor whichever way it turns out.

Even within the most cohesive teams, individuals have differences; those varied perspectives can drive a wedge between members and hinder the team’s success. However, when we are committed to others, we have to put aside those differences and come together as one. The key is that we are focusing on and pursuing the same goals. When the path is decided, we stick to it regardless of difficulties, distractions and personal desires. The success in “team” is not how much as individuals we can accomplish but how much more together we can achieve.

The motivation in all of this is letting our teammates realize that they are not alone in the pursuit; we will be behind them pushing them along, beside them cheering them on and in front of them pulling them forward. The notion is that they do not have to stop when they get tired, and they do not have to quit when things get tough. Even though, at times, they feel they will have to do it alone, they don’t. They can depend on us to get them to the goal.