Are You a Supportive Teammate?

Last Updated May 16, 2011 9:28 AM EDT

"I worry about hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes, but I don't worry about you."

That is a paraphrase of something Mark Grace, long-time major league ballplayer and now a color analyst for Fox Sports and the Arizona Diamondbacks, said when talking about what players can say to buck up a teammate going through a slump. His comforting words demonstrate the confidence one player might express for another going through hard times. While Grace was talking baseball, his advice is worthy of passing along to the wider world of management.

While there is much focus on a leader's responsibility to shore up the confidence of employees, often scant examination is given to what colleagues could do for each other.

Toward that end, here are some suggestions for bucking up a colleague going through tough times.

  1. Listen. Sometimes all a coworker needs is your sympathetic ear. Just listening to him talk about a problem he has can be enough to make him feel better.
  2. Offer perspective. Sometimes, when people make a mistake, they may feel as if their world is coming to an end--or conversely, they may be in denial about its impact. You can help put the issue into context, the trusted friend who says, "Hey, wake up. You messed up. Make it right and move on." Caution: just make sure you do not get caught up in a pity-party or engage in a "woe is me" dialogue. Focus on how to make things better.
  3. Give advice. Advice from a friend can be powerfully motivating, even more than it would be from a boss. You know your team member's strengths and weaknesses often better than the manager does. You know whether she has a habit of making careless errors and could benefit just from taking a couple minutes to review her numbers, or whether she is ordinarily meticulous and needs a course in budget analysis.

One caveat:

Make certain the advice you give is not tainted by petty jealousies. And, if you are the recipient of the advice, make sure the source is someone you trust. If a rival is offering you this counsel, view it skeptically, that is, labeled with the line: dangerous when swallowed whole.

Advising a friend is a good thing and when done right is a form of leadership, that is, doing what the organization needs doing.

Have you been supported by a colleague? What did you find effective--or not?


image courtesy of flickr user, americanistadechiapas