How to Get the Best out of Your Imperfect Co-Workers

Sean inspires people to have fun laughing together so they can have more success working together.   His three books, The Unexpected Leader, Rapid Teamwork, and The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates are powerful parables for building and leading great teams!

I have said many times in conference keynotes and training programs that the best teammates claim personal responsibility for the team results.

Let that idea sink in.

If you are familiar with my work, you know that my most recent book has that idea as one of the Commandments for winning teammates.  Have you taken PERSONAL responsibility for your TEAM results in the past?  Have you felt that the success of a project was completely on your shoulders, regardless of your position or title?

After thinking about the implications of that statement, many of the people in my audiences will come to me after a conference and share a “but what if…”

“But what if my coworker is not dependable?”

“But what if their work usually has mistakes?”

“But what if there is a hard deadline?”

Many people end up doing more themselves because they haven’t learned HOW to get the best out of the people they work with… even when their coworkers have previously been unreliable. 

So, imagine that you accept that YOU are responsible for ensuring your team is successful.  And imagine that you DON’T WANT TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF.

What is the secret to getting your teammates to be more reliable?

Well, you have three pretty clear options:

1. Accept that people at times are going to be imperfect or late and just live with the results.

2. Change your team (get a new job or get rid of the unreliable coworker)

3. Learn how to share reminders and encouragements that produce the behaviors you need 

If one and two aren’t realistic options for you, then option three becomes vital! 

The truth is that you only get the best out of people who are sometimes unreliable if you take responsibility for sharing the reminders and encouragements that will inspire them to see the behavior you want as a priority.

Sometimes good people look back to point and blame others for mistakes… I call those rearview criticisms. 

In basketball, a review criticism is “Why didn’t you block out that last shot?

In business, a rearview criticism might be “Why didn’t you get that paperwork in?” 

But nobody can go back and change the past.

So don’t waste your time or upset members of your team with rearview criticisms…

instead, focus on what you CAN CONTROL, and commit to giving reminders and encouragements. 

Instead of complaining after the fact, winning teammates take the initiative to remind and encourage before!

Do and say what you need to so others are ready to make the next play. 

Winning Teammates share reminders and encouragements because they anticipate what their teammates NEED to happen next.

Winning Teammates don’t wait until a problem occurs to give rearview criticisms… they know that their responsibility is to impact the NEXT PLAY and prevent problems with Reminders and encouragements! 

You can help the people you work with focus on their next play…

Here’s what you can do… to use that insight and get the best out of your late or imperfect coworkers. 

video presentation

If you are taking responsibility for team results, you have to begin by taking the initiative to look further down the path your team is on.


Once you know what they need to do, and when, you can send an email like this:

“Hey Steve – 

I’m so glad to be working with you.  

This project is very important to me, so I will be checking in a couple of times before our deadline to be sure you have everything you need to get your part of the job done just like we discussed.  

I’ll check in every few days to be sure you are 100% sure that you can deliver what the team needs by the day it is expected.  If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out immediately – and I don’t want anything to keep us from knocking this out of the park.

Thanks for your help in making this a big win for us!”

That wasn’t too bad, right?

And when you send another email a couple of days later, or when you pass by Steve in the hallway, you can share a similar reminder or encouragement to be sure he is focused on delivering what the team needs when the team needs it.

Hey Steve – 

Just checking in with a quick reminder to be are we are able to deliver by next Tuesday.

This is a really important project for us… 

Please let me know where you are on it and if there is anything you need help with!

Appreciate your help and focus on this! 

Easier than you expected, huh?

It doesn’t require being rude or getting emotional.

But it DOES require that you take the initiative to see what MIGHT become an issue and try to address it PRIOR to the moment that issue pops up!

If you are taking responsibility for team results, you have to begin by taking the initiative to look further down the path your team is on and identify possible issues that you can help prepare them for. 

The trick is to be consistent –

and to be consistently NICE and POSITIVE!

Expect the best out of your people, and they will often live up to that expectation – especially when you clarify what you need from them and emphasize the importance and impact on the team. 

We really DO teach people how to treat us. 

If we seem likely to accept incompetence or low performance, that is often what we will get. 

If you are looking for a teamwork speaker, an entertaining and interactive team building event can inspire more positive and profitable interactions on YOUR team!

And whether it is a live in-person event or an online virtual team building program, your team becomes significantly more successful when everyone understands the power of reminders and encouragements. 

The key to great TEAM victories are the little personal victories that come when ONE TEAMMATE commits to doing things the right way and helping to remind and encourage others to do the same. 

And if you take personal responsibility for your team’s results, regardless of your position or title, you will find yourself having a tremendous positive impact on team success when you stop using rearview criticisms.

Winning Teammates take the initiative to share reminders and encouragements. 

What will that look like on your team this week?

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