Are You Being a Team Player

Being a team player has less to do with the actual tasks you take on and more to do with how you interact with your team-including your manager-to get those tasks done.

Hone Your Listening Skills
What does listening mean to you? Is it just about the words or are you clued into the more subtle signals your co-workers are giving off? If you're only giving consideration to what's being said, you're missing at least half of the message.

When someone's speaking, pay attention to their tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. You should also pay attention to what's not said. If you or someone else on the team presents an idea and other team members don't engage with them, it should give you pause. Is there an issue no one wants to talk about but needs to be uncovered? Be alert for these cues that may point to opportunities to strengthen the team. Similarly, be aware of your own actions when others are speaking. If you're doodling on the meeting agenda or staring into space, team members may perceive you as disinterested, a non-contributor or passively critical.

Learn Constructive Criticism
Simply put, being a team player means working well with others, whether you're at the office, playing with your softball league or volunteering for a fundraiser. One of the key characteristics of a good team player is knowing the right way to disagree with co-workers.

When the pressure's on, it's easy to forget that the team shares the same goal, especially if you've got a team member who is flat-out wrong. Whether you're dealing with a black-and-white issue or some shade of gray, keep your criticism constructive by focusing on the flaws in the concept, idea or strategy-not the faults you see with the person presenting or executing them.

Leave Your Ego at Home
There's strength in numbers, but each member of your team-including you-has individual strengths and weaknesses. While individual contributions do count when it comes to furthering your career, constantly turning issues around to showcase your knowledge, skills or experience above others, may make team members less receptive to you overall.

Be willing to listen to other team members, consider their ideas, and compare and contrast them honestly with your own. No one can be an expert in everything-that's why businesses bring teams together. When someone else's idea is better than yours, support it. Likewise, if your ideas come under fire, especially by a team member who's making it personal, keep your attention focused on the goal and finding the best solution to achieve it.

Expect Conflict
Conflict carries a negative connotation, but handled well, it's a good tool for identifying and solving problems provided you're able to keep personalities out of it. The surest way to lower team morale, no matter what role you play on the team, is allowing conflicts to focus on individuals instead of the projects or goals.

This can be particularly challenging when you're working with team members who'd rather point fingers or say, "I told you so," than the further the team. Use conflict as a tool to lead by example and show others how it contributes to finding new and possibly better solutions to ongoing problems.

Demonstrate Commitment to the Team
Effective team players make an effort to show others that they're committed to the team. Demonstrating commitment not only helps boost morale-your co-workers will view you as someone they can't count on-but also shows your team members that you recognize the value that each of them brings to the team.

  • Don't be late for meetings or risk sending the message to the team that your time is more important than theirs.
  • Prepare for each meeting in advance and be prepared to actively participate in the discussion at hand.
  • Set a good example for other team members by admitting when you're wrong or have made a mistake, practicing active listening and calling out other members' good ideas or suggestions.
  • Always bring the focus of any discussion back to solving the matter at hand, the less personal you make it, the more likely other team members will respond positively and follow your lead. It's never about you, it's about the team.
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