There’s no ‘I’ in team! How to be a great team player.
What’s the fuss about being a team player anyway, you might ask? I’m working with people all the time, so doesn’t that make me a good team player? Well, the simple answer is, not always. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves why our behaviour and teamwork skills are important to the success of the team – and the business overall. In addition, when a team doesn’t function well, the results can be disastrous. So what makes a good team player and what things should you be doing to ensure you are helping your team to achieve its objectives? Let’s have a look…
Reliability and commitment
This is a key factor for all successful teams. A reliable team member gets the work done and does his or her fair share to work hard and meet goals and deadlines. Continually late to work, or taking unnecessary days off at key times? This is not showing the required reliability, responsibility or commitment to the successful functioning of your team. Consistency of performance is essential. A great team player is on their game and contributing a good performance all the time, not just some of the time.
A high functioning team has people who are not afraid to speak up, but who do so in a respectful, positive and confident way. They also consider the needs and goals of the team when communicating or raising issues. This is constructive communication. A positive ‘can-do’ attitude also helps maintain morale and inspires others to demonstrate the same.
Sometimes even the best made plans have to change. This is particularly true in the workplace, where budgets, staffing levels, and other factors can influence the team’s goals and timelines. The best team players roll with the punches and adapt to changes without complaining or getting stressed out.
In addition, a flexible team member can consider different points of views and compromise when needed. Remember the suggested direction might not be exactly what you think is best but sometimes you have to go with the flow in the interests of moving forward and getting something done. Strong team players are firm in their views, but are open to what others have to offer — flexibility at its best.
Good team players are the ones who share information, knowledge, and experience willingly. They are the ones who will take the initiative to keep other team members informed and in the loop at all times. Speaking with your team mates regularly and outside of formal meetings is a great part of teamwork. This is called informal sharing and helps to pass along important news and information day-to-day. It also helps you form bonds with your team mates which makes working on the team all the more fun.
Co-operation and helping out
Co-operation is the act of working with others and acting together to accomplish a job. Effective team players will work this way as second nature, but others might need some help or guidance on this point. This is about overcoming any personal differences you might have with your colleagues and figuring out ways to work together to solve problems and get things done. Helping out is important here too! Great team players offer to help out when someone is struggling, or is away, and respond positively to requests for assistance.
Working as a problem-solver
Teams, by their very nature, have to deal with problems. Whether you are delivering a service as part of a team, working on a project, or helping to implement a major change in your organisation, your team will no doubt experience some road blocks or technical issues. Sometimes, that is the reason that the team was created — to address the problems that will present in the journey to achieving a goal or objective.
Those who are strong team players are willing to deal with all kinds of problems in a solution finding manner. They’re problem-solvers, not problem-dwellers, problem-blamers, or problem-avoiders. They don’t simply rehash a problem the way problem-dwellers do. They don’t look for others to fault, as the blamers do. Finally, they don’t put off dealing with issues, the way avoiders do. Team players get problems out in the open for discussion and then collaborate with others to find solutions and form action plans.
It may seem obvious, but many people discover during their careers that they have to actually work on their listening skills. Sometimes we are so full of our own good ideas and our desire to have these heard, that we don’t listen to those around us. Good listeners are essential for teams to function effectively. Team players will absorb, understand, and consider ideas and points of view from other people without debating or arguing. These great team players can also can take constructive criticism without reacting defensively.
Most important, for effective communication and problem solving, team members need the discipline to listen first and speak second so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the discussion.