There is a difference between being a teammate and being a team member. Be a teammate.

September 30, 2022

To be a teammate implies:

  • a social and emotional connection that goes beyond merely who you report to and work with
  • a deeper level of commitment to, and connection with, others and the outcomes of the team

When you view your role and relationships with others as more than just transactional, better and more satisfying results can occur.

Here is the big difference:

  • A team member focuses on their work and tasks.
  • A teammate considers not only how to be personally productive, but also on how to help the rest of the team and organization (agency) meet its goals.

The Long-Distance Teammate, by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

I read the book The Long-Distance Teammate in the spring of 2021. Probably the most significant takeaway from the book was the idea of being a teammate, not just a team member. It really is all about a mindset. A mindset that focused beyond me to consider the needs of others and how I can help them be successful in the process.

It was not that I did not take my teammates into consideration before I read this book. But I came away being more conscious of the need to be a teammate and not just a team member. It began to affect how I thought about the work week. I started making some different choices to live this out as a mindset.

Made a priority of participating in team campfires where we played games together

I started making it a priority to participate in LGND Campfires where we would play games together. This is an optional opportunity that we have once a month.

To be honest, I am not really that good at the games we end up playing, or at least as good as many of my teammates. I don’t always think on my feet well so I get targeted in games like Mafia or Spyfall. It is very rare that I get into the top five when we play Murder Party in JackBox Games. And because I am a competitive person, I don’t like games that I don’t frequently win.

But I make it a priority to play because it helps me to build relationships with my teammates outside of work tasks. It helps to build that social and emotional connection that leads to more productive work relationships. Playing games together builds relationships in a way that would be hard to replicate in any other way. We laugh together and you find out interesting things about your teammates as you casually hang out playing the game together.

Just this afternoon, I was tempted not to participate in our Campfire where we were playing Codenames. I have enough work to keep me busy. But because I value being a teammate, I decided to participate. And I am so glad that I did. I had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed connecting with those who participated. It was a small group made up of people that I do not interact with as often. It was a worthwhile investment for both myself and my teammates.

I made a choice to actively pursue building relationships with teammates through virtual coffee meetings

One of the chapters in The Long-Distance Teammate is about building and maintaining relationships with teammates. Building relationships is very important.

  • as we get to know and understand people, we will work with them more effectively
  • it helps to build trust
  • stress and conflict are reduced
  • job satisfaction improves – we like our work better when we like the people that we work with 1

The chapter is full of ideas on how to build better relationships in a remote setting. One idea that I had was to take an existing practice of our team and expand it. One of the practices of our team is to have “virtual coffee” with new teammates who are onboarding. These are 15 to 30 meeting Zoom meetings where we get a chance to get to know each other a bit better.

I decided to take that existing practice and started scheduling virtual coffee with teammates that I don’t interact with as much on a regular basis. I started out by scheduling about 2 of these appointments each week for a month.

And it was a big hit. My teammates really appreciated that I pursued building our relationship by scheduling this time. It helped me to feel more connected to teammates on our video team because I had any project work that we collaborated on.

I have gone through a couple of cycles of scheduling virtual coffees and I feel due to start scheduling some more. As I write this, my team is less than a month away from getting together face-to-face for the first time in three years. I have only met 6 other of my teammates in person before (we have 22 total). I am looking forward to times of relationship building that we will be able to do in person. But I want to start planning to meet people online not too long to keep investing.

Web design and development have always been a bit of a solo effort. And many of us have had a period in our lives where we worked as freelancers, so we may not have that much experience working in a team. When you get paid by the hour, you have to make your time count. And we live in a country that values and celebrates the individual.

It may only seem like semantics, but there is a big difference in whether you view yourself as a team member or as a teammate. Choose to be a teammate. You will be better. Your teammates will be better. Your team (company, agency) will be better. And I think you will enjoy the journey a lot more.


Being a teammate does not mean that your teammates are your closest friends. You may not even consider them friends. And it definitely does not mean that you are a “family.” (If your team starts referring to itself as a family, run for the hills. That is not a healthy thing.) You can build connections with people on your team without being best buds. The reality is that you spend a good portion of your life with these people. You might as well enjoy it and be intentional about building those meaningful connections that will lead to greater joy and satisfaction doing the work you do.

1 The Long-Distance Teammate p. 98-99, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, 2021, Bernet-Koeler Publishers, Inc.

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