I listen to a lot of podcasts. Sometimes, a podcast episode really stands out because of stories I’ve heard from clients. 

One such podcast episode was The Long-Distance Teammate Anniversary Episode. This episode of The Long-Distance Worklife podcast explores the difference between being a “team member” vs being a “teammate,” especially in a remote or hybrid environment.


What is the Difference between Team Member and Teammate?

The author, Wayne Turmel, explained that a “team member” is anyone who is a member of a team.  Being a “teammate,” however, involves three additional factors:


  • Productivity – It’s not just completing your own tasks or doing your own job, but really pulling your own weight and supporting the whole team’s mission. When Turmel talks about productivity, he is talking about getting the “right work done in the right way and in the right amount of time.” The “right work” means not only your own work, but also supporting the work of the rest of the team by offering assistance, asking questions, and stepping up to support the right work of the team as a whole.


  • Proactivity – This involves reaching out to help the team do the team’s work without being asked. Examples include stepping up and volunteering, showing up and speaking up in meetings, and asking questions when you have questions. You can take proactive action even when you clarify the priority of your assignments by asking questions of your manager or taking action on your own initiative to support the work of the team.


  • Potential – This is really focused on taking a step back and looking at the big picture. Consider, not only what the team is trying to accomplish, but also take a long view of how your team’s planned accomplishments meet a bigger goal, regardless of the long-term advantage to you specifically.


Being a “teammate” is about taking initiative to build stronger and more effective relationships, not just having basic transactional conversations with others on the team.

Teammates help each other get the right work done in the right way and at the right time. They focus on understanding each other and staying engaged.


Why is being a “teammate” important?

This 3 Ps model—Productivity, Proactivity, and Potential—helps teams understand that working remotely requires more than simply completing your own assigned tasks to be successful.

Leaders and teams can use this framework to create opportunities for more intentional interaction among team members. These interactions can help the team connect and engage with each other and also with the organization’s mission. Such interactions can help others outside the organization see that the team is really working together and supporting each other. 

In remote and hybrid environments, this connection is even more important because there are few occasions to bump into each other while getting coffee or walking down the hall. We may even be unaware of what is going on with another team member – unless we proactively ask or are intentional about checking in with others.

Instead, we can very easily get caught up in our own little worlds. We often focus only on completing our own individual assignments, with little consideration for how our own work fits in with the work of the rest of our team or how our own work aligns with the team’s overall objectives.

For the overall success of the team, we must take deliberate steps to contribute to the team’s morale and accomplishments.

We must take the time to get to know one another, to discover each other’s strengths and potential areas of support. We must intentionally create ways for the team members to interact, connect, and contribute to each other. 


How do you want people to think of you?

After listening to this podcast, I realized that it has been important to me that people think of me as a teammate, not just someone who is an individual contributor. I strive to proactively help individuals and the team as a whole to accomplish more of its mission.

So even though my own role is often as an external consultant or facilitator, I want my clients to accomplish more as well. I still want people to think of me as a teammate


Ask yourself… Are you a team member or a teammate?

When you consider the difference between being a member of the team and being a teammate, how do you want the rest of your team to think of you?  

What do you think they think of you?

If you want to learn more about these ideas, read The Long-Distance Teammate by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, founders of the Remote Leadership Institute.

P.S. If you want to explore ways to help your team members feel more connected, engaged, and like teammates… let’s schedule a time to discuss.


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