7 ways to be a good team player
To be a top performer who gets noticed, you must know how to play well with others at work.
Want to give yourself an edge the next time you’re up for a raise or promotion? Prove you’re a team player. That’s right—to boost your own profile (and reap the rewards), first you must help others succeed.
“In today’s workplace, you have to be able to work with a diverse group of people,” says Joyce Russell, dean at the Villanova School of Business. Indeed, 78.7% of hiring managers seek job candidates who demonstrate strong teamwork skills, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2019 survey.
That’s because teamwork isn’t just good for company morale, it also sets you up for greater success at your job. Teamwork brings together different points of view and allows for creativity and fresh ideas to flourish. Plus, you have trusted people you can fall back on for support, which means there’s less stress resting solely on your shoulders, which means you’re freer to take smart risks.
So how do you go about working well with others? Check out these seven ways to be a great team player.
1. Meet your deadlines
To earn your co-workers’ goodwill, you have to be reliable, says Denise Dudley, career coach and author of Work it! Get in, Get Noticed, Get Promoted. Put simply: You want to establish yourself as trustworthy—someone who produces high-quality work in a timely fashion.
“If you say you’re going to do something, you do it and do it well,” Dudley says.
Reliability is especially important during group projects; after all, if you miss a deadline, your mistake can negatively affect the entire team.
2. Be open-minded
Part of being a team player is being open to other people’s ideas and perspectives, Russell says. That means honing your listening skills and being receptive to feedback from co-workers. So, instead of getting defensive when you receive constructive criticism, see what you can glean from their advice.
In fact, the strongest team players solicit feedback from their co-workers, Russell says. For instance, after completing a group assignment, Russell recommends asking peers for suggestions on how to improve on your next project.
3. Appreciate other people’s work styles
Figuring out how to work well with a variety of personalities can be challenging, particularly in today’s multigenerational workforce, since Millennials and Gen-Xers often have different work styles than baby boomers. However, understanding how each of your colleagues works best can make you a better team player.
Tailoring your communication style to different personalities can help you avoid issues with co-workers and collaborate more efficiently. Take our quick quiz to determine which one of these four common types of employees describes you best, and how you can work well with the others.
4. Adapt quickly
Not everything you do as a team is going to result in success; there will be plenty of flops along the way. But getting hung up on mistakes only throws a wrench in the gears of progress. That’s why flexibility is one of the key traits of a team player, Russell says. So, the next time you encounter a problem at work, make sure you respond judiciously.
“Instead of being upset that something didn’t work out,” says Russell, “step back and say, ‘Okay, I know we have to go in a different direction. Let’s figure out what we’re going to do.’”
5. Avoid office politics
Office politics can create a toxic work environment, but you don’t have to be a part of it. “You want to keep your nose clean,” says Dudley.
To achieve this, always treat co-workers with respect, and don’t become an office gossipmonger. If you have an issue with a peer, try to address it with the person directly before bringing it to your boss or human resources.
6. Focus on the team’s goals
While you want to distinguish yourself as a top performer poised for greatness, it’s still important to focus on the bigger picture when working on a group project.
“The ultimate foundation of being a team player is a person being willing and able to put the team’s interests above his or her own,” says Patrick Lencioni, author of The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues. You may have done a stellar job on the part of a presentation you were responsible for, but that matters very little if the overall project fails to achieve what you needed it to do.
7. Celebrate your peers’ successes
One of the easiest ways to build authentic relationships with co-workers is to give credit where it’s due, says Lencioni.
“Ideal team players are humble,” he says. “Humble people are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually.”
For example, at your next department meeting, take a minute to publicly thank that co-worker for helping you put together last week’s client presentation. By celebrating a co-worker’s success, says Dudley, he or she will likely do the same for you in the future.
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