There are normally three types of team members on an organization’s payroll: caretakers, playmakers, and game changers. The behaviors associated with each category go beyond skills or talent; they are primarily mindset issues that determine how well the skills and talent of an individual will be applied.

While these characteristics can typify any position, this article will focus on helping you to evaluate yourself and the other leaders on your team. I have included a partial list of character traits for each mindset: caretakers, playmakers, and game changers. While each person may demonstrate a blend of these mindsets from time to time, there is normally one mindset and corresponding set of behaviors that dominates their performance.


  •  Caretakers are baseliners. More often than not, they do what is required of them and no more.

  • Caretakers are steady and dependable. You can count on them to consistently “soldier on” in their role and think and act as maintainers—not really innovating or rocking the boat in the process.

  • The caretaker may make an occasional great day, but they are not going to determine the month’s outcome. They are also quick to encourage and cheer others on, but aren’t going to personally take what they do or lead to a new level.

  • A caretaker may secretly covet the spotlight; but, when he gets it, doesn’t normally handle it very well. People come to understand they can’t count on the caretaker to get fired up enough—consistently enough—to rattle the status quo or shake things up in a meaningful way for long.


  • Caretakers don’t initiate. They wait to be told what to do. Their strength is dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s,” not creating the script or writing the story.


  • Caretakers focus on holding ground, or not losing ground, but haven’t developed the killer instinct to take new ground.  They will however, do a diligent job of tending the ground they have been given.


There are roles for caretakers within an organization in positions that require a steady, dependable, and “holding down the fort” mindset, but certainly not in a leadership position where it is expected they grow people and elevate a department to the next level.

Note: Caretakers can be groomed for playmaker or game changer status, but something must first change within them—their mindset. At some point they must become less content with being good at what they do, or desiring to be great at what they do, and must want to be the best at what they do. Sadly, most people never flip the inner switch to make that transition; or, they just plain aren’t interested in working that hard, so they drop anchor at the caretaker level. 


  • Playmakers normally have more energy or drive than caretakers. They may also have more talent, but are primarily differentiated from caretakers in how their mindset enables them to apply their talent.

  • Like caretakers, playmakers are not great initiators—or innovators either—but will energetically attack what you give them to do.


  • Playmakers on the team will help you have a great month from time to time, but aren’t high-impact enough to carry you to a great year. In the sports vernacular they win an occasional game for you, but don’t have the game-changing horsepower to carry a team to the championship.


  • Playmakers are prone to promote themselves, and love getting the credit and attention. They have a tendency to worry more about themselves looking good, than impacting others for the collective good.

  • Playmakers are prone to borrow credibility from past great plays and may lack the unyielding focus to prove themselves over again day after day.


  • Every organization needs playmakers. With tweaks in mindset, playmakers can grow into game changers. Just as a shift in mindset can lift you from caretaker to playmaker status, a bigger shift in mindset is necessary to leap from playmaker to game changer. Most don’t flip that switch because of the complacency their success as a playmaker creates for them.


Note: Playmakers are prone to push back on your process, and often shortcut it. They believe that because of their talent, they don’t have to do what others do—or do it as often as they do it—in order to get results. This flaw in their mindset is often what keeps them from ever becoming game changers.

Game changers

  • Game changers are relentless. Relentless is defined as being “oppressively constant, unyielding, or incessant.” In other words, being relentless is about becoming unstoppable as you pursue not only your goals in business, but your dreams in life.


  • Being relentless is more a mindset issue than a talent issue. Many people have immense talent, but lack the mindset to fully develop it and invest it without holding back.


  • A key is being committed to fully develop your talent, and to consistently apply it daily. The adage is true: hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.


  • Game changers measure themselves less against others, and more on whether they are better than they once were. 


  • The game changer is driven beyond the desire to be great at what they do; they aspire to become the best at what they do. And becoming the best isn’t a passing interest, but a consuming obsession.


  • The game changer doesn’t depend on external motivation.  A game changer’s motivation comes from their own reasons. The pat on the back is nice; it’s not necessary.


  • A game changer may not love the process anymore than the caretaker or playmaker, but she loves the outcome that the process brings so she follows it, every time, every day.


Note: Game changers are so focused on results, so in control of their emotions, so confident of success, and so committed to winning that everyone else feels empowered when around them. Game changers are the “go-to” leaders. When everyone else panics and pukes, they are who others look for, look to, and look up to. They are the go-to person and everyone knows it.


In my next column I will present the six steps that you can follow to become a game changer.


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Comment by DealerELITE on June 29, 2016 at 9:40am
Dave great article
Comment by Chris Pyle on June 25, 2016 at 10:42am

Great article Dave! These terms have a much friendlier vibe than the old "Retreaters/Do-Nothings", "Average Action Takers" and "Thoroughbreds" Much easier for someone to relate to themselves as a caregiver! lol  

Comment by steven chessin on June 24, 2016 at 6:12pm

The very definition of "Game Changer" was probably coined for Babe Ruth. In 1918 he led the league with 11 homeruns while still a top pitcher !  No player has ever come close to that. It is also important for management to recognize that the true potential of a player might be in a different position where they can change the game.       


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