Every good professional should strive to be a team player. But how does one become a team player, and what does the actual practice of being a team player look like? Is face paint or a uniform involved?
Being a team player is first and foremost about collaboration. Collaboration is a proven way to generate more productivity, and online collaborative tools can facilitate teamwork even more. The team is greater than its parts. Two heads are better than one. If we can’t trust clichés, what can we trust?
Related: The 25 Best Teamwork Quotes
But before you work together with your team you should have the knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable effective teamwork. According to a study published in Psychology Today, there are 15 areas of teamwork competence, which are grouped into four major categories: Identity, Communication, Performance, and Regulation. Wow, being a team player is even more fun than I thought!
Identity means you’re aligned with the team and can adapt as needed to contribute and commit to its goals. Communication states that if you can’t articulate what is needed, then nothing gets done. Then there’s Performance, which is being able to perform all necessary tasks. And finally, Regulation, which includes conflict resolution, negotiating skills, etc.
Forbes goes on to flesh out the main characteristics of a real team player. One of these characteristics is honesty. You must be a critical thinking individual to be a great team player. Don’t assume that someone else has all the answers and blindly follow them, being a blind follower is typically a bad idea.
Furthermore, an effective team member is not a nodding yes-man. If you don’t speak up because you’re fearful of not being perceived as a team player, then that’s not a team-friendly environment. Teamwork, according to Forbes, is about questioning the logic of goals that are not realistic or too ambitious. If your coworker orders a second burrito, kindly warn him that he’s being too ambitious, and the team will thank you.
What Are the Benefits of Being a Team Player?
If you’re still not convinced that being a team player is positive for both you and the group, then consider the fact that working together fosters creativity. It’s true. No man is an island (and no cliché is passed over in this post!), and the myth of the lone creative genius is just that, a myth.
Creativity is a group effort. People are often inspired when they work with others, bearing new ideas that wouldn’t manifest in isolation. You’ve heard about the benefits of brainstorming since elementary school. It works because it allows a group to build on ideas together. When you share knowledge, you learn too, so it’s not only good for the team but for the individual as well.
Skills can also be enhanced through collaboration. When you’re working with teammates whose talents complement yours, it’s like you’ve transformed into a bigger, better worker, like some sort of office Voltron. By sharing your abilities with your coworkers, you can focus on what you excel at and they can do the same. Everyone wins.
Being a part of a team and working together builds trust. When you trust the people you work with, you’re building a relationship. A workplace in which people get along, care for one another and generally behave well is the place to be.
When you’re part of a team, there’s more buy-in to the job. You feel responsible for your teammates, even proud to be working with them, and are therefore more likely to put in more effort. Your work life becomes more fulfilling and promotes a wider sense of ownership (sounds pretty Zen).
This doesn’t mean that you and your team are always going to get along. There will be conflicts, like fights over fridge space and office snacks, but, again, working together professionally prepares you to peacefully resolve issues, rather than holding onto resentments that can poison relationships and your work.
Finally, being a team player will make you more daring because being on a team encourages risk-taking. It’s less likely that you’ll take as many chances when you’re working alone because if you fail, there’s no one to blame but you. However, with the support of a team, you can blame anyone you want, and you have the freedom to think outside the box and take healthy risks (yes, the clichés keep coming, but they’re rooted in truth).
Examples of Being a Team Player
Okay, you should be convinced now that working in a team setting is good for you and everyone involved, if not, you’re probably destined to be a lone wolf, scavenging alone on a windy prairie. But let’s say you’re not a lone wolf, and you want the warmth of the pack. How do you be a team player, practically? What are some best practices?
You Might Be a Good Team Player If…
We discussed some attributes that make one suitable to work in a team setting, but what about real-world scenarios of being a team player?
If there’s a request for volunteers, does your hand go up or stay by your side? Team players don’t sit on the sidelines and let someone else shoulder the burden. Team players step up and participate. This includes office chores. Volunteer to take the trash out, refill the printer, or tell the new guy to blow his nose so it doesn’t whistle on EVERY SINGLE INHALE AND EXHALE.
Another good teamwork policy is providing help for your fellow team members when they need it. If your teammate is bogged down, provide actual help, don’t just say that you’ll help and never follow up. And, if they’re out sick or on vacation, you should take on some of their duties, so when they return they’re not behind. Then, ideally, they’ll do the same for you.
You should also advocate for your team members. Remember, you’re a team. That means you all stand together. One for all and all for one, like the Three Musketeers. Public support for one another will help bond the team and make everyone work even better together.
Do you do more than what’s asked of you? You should. Going above and beyond sets an example that no individual is more important than the whole. It also helps to mentor people younger or less experienced than you. It sets the right tone and improves the overall professionalism of the team.
Don’t Let Toxic Environments Poison You
Not all jobsites are created equal. Some places are a pleasure to work at, while others are never going to be fun. There might be a boss who is abusive, or maybe the organization is run in an irritating fashion. Of course, you could leave, but that isn’t always an option.
One way to deal with a negative work environment is by committing whole-heartedly to your team and your work. It neither serves you nor your work to just go through the motions. Don’t take the work culture personally (It’s not always about you, Marsha).
While you might not be able to change the way things are done at your office, if you are a good team player and focus on the job at hand, chances are the bad boss or toxic climate will become less corrosive. Once you stop pushing against a negative force and work towards making things more pleasant, you’ll find that you’re treated better.
It doesn’t always work out that way, of course, but conflict is a two-way street. If you’re not in conflict, if you’re not angry or fighting back constantly, but simply doing the best job you can, then trouble is less likely to impact you. Plus, you have support from your team to act as a barrier and blunt the bad vibes.
Technology Can Help
Everyone loves technology nowadays (middleschoolers, trolls, your grandma, etc.), and there are plenty of great project management tools out there that can make your work easier. But did you know that you can leverage the tools you use every day to be a more helpful and productive team member?
49% of millennials support social tools for workplace collaboration, according to a research paper by the talent management platform, ClearCompany. Many millennials, who are on track to comprise most of the workforce, were willing to pay out of pocket for social collaborative tools because they know the positive impact of technology on productivity.
People who avoid collaborative tools like Slack, Skype, or even social media, can often be perceived by their teammates as standoffish, rude or unhelpful. So if you’re not familiar with communication tools, it’s time to make an effort. They foster conversations and keep teams in contact even when they’re not physically together.
So, learn the etiquette of online chat. You know how tone is lost on emails, and that a short directive can feel curt. Observe how others are using the tool, join the group chat and be open to new ways of connecting, even if it feels unnatural. You might learn to love emojis and memes. And that’s no cliché.
If you want to become a team player, good for you! Now you need to equip yourself with the tools to foster communication. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management tool that gives your team a platform to chat and share easily. See how it can help you collaborate by taking this free 30-day trial.