The Essentials of Teamwork Series, #5 Care about Each Member of the Team

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 19, Issue No. 4a
August 1, 2020

By Dan Coughlin


A team is a group of individuals who support one another toward fulfilling a meaningful purpose and achieving important outcomes.

A critically important aspect of supporting each other is genuinely caring about each other and each other’s success. This is MUCH easier said than done.

To care means to think about another person and focus on what is important to that person. It doesn’t mean you have to be best friends or hang out on the weekends. It doesn’t mean you have to do what every person wants you to do. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone all the time.

It means you know something about the person and what is important to the person. It means you listen with empathy. And it means in your thoughts and actions you are focused on that person’s goals, concerns, and feelings.

Again, MUCH easier said than done. You are extremely busy. You have your family, your goals, your desires, your thoughts, and your emotions to be concerned with. However, if you want to help build a truly great team, then you have to care about the other people on your team.

Most work groups are not teams. They are a collection of individual performers, cliques, subgroups, departments, special interest groups, or committees, but they are not teams. If you truly want to build a team, here are three suggestions.

Know The Name of Every Member of Your Team

Whenever I come into an organization and speak to a group of 80 or fewer people, I ask for a list of the names of the people who will be in the room. I also ask for a pictorial directory in case they have one available for me to study. Before I start speaking I get to know each person’s name, and then I start my presentation by going up to each person and saying their name without looking at any notes or lists.

Almost every time at the end of the presentation some people say to me, “How did you know all of the names? I don’t even know all of their names.”


How can you possibly be a good team member if you don’t know the names of the people on your team? If you genuinely care about the people on your team, then you have to at least know their first name. Every first name. Not just five people who are close to you on the org chart. Knowing each person’s first name is the very minimal standard of teamwork.

Can you imagine playing a baseball game and not knowing the name of the person on first base? Can you imagine a football team where the quarterback doesn’t know the name of the wide receiver? “Hey, 44, run out wide and I’ll throw you the ball.” Crazy, right?

Invest the time to get to know the name and face of every person on your team, or stop calling it a team. You are not a member of a team if you don’t know the name of the people on the team.

Know Some of Their Aspirations, Values, Strengths, Passions, and Morals

Of course, it’s not enough to just know someone’s name. You need to really get to know your team members. You need to know what’s important to them. That includes their aspirations, values, strengths, passions, and morals. Here are five questions:

  1. What do you aspire to achieve or become?
  2. What do you believe is so important that it drives your behaviors on a consistent basis?
  3. What are you better at doing than anything else that you do?
  4. What energizes you?
  5. What do you believe is right and wrong in a given situation?

Now see if you can answer each of those questions about the members of your team. Not in the aggregate. I mean on an individual basis. Do you know these folks? How can you support individuals toward fulfilling a meaningful purpose and achieving important outcomes if you don’t really know the people on the team?

Listen with Empathy

One of the most effective ways to demonstrate that you genuinely care about another person is to listen with empathy. Empathy means to work to understand what another person is thinking and feeling, and then respond in an effective way. It doesn’t mean you have to agree or that you have to do what the other persons wants. It just means putting in the effort to really try to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. And then after you understand that, try to say or do something that is effective for the other person.

This is extremely hard to do, but in trying to do it you are demonstrating that you care about the other human being. The effort to care is the key.

Please remember this famous and useful advice: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

You can care no matter what title or role or salary you have right now, and you can care enormously. The key is to always care about the other people on your team no matter what title, role, or salary that you have at any point in your career.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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