Making it work

Are you an effective team player?

By Gerald McGroarty,

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The old sports adage is true: There is no “I” in team. However, there is an “I” in effective and that’s the only type of team player you should want to be.

Are you an effective team player?Teams thrive or become dysfunctional based on the value each member brings to the table. Whether at home, on the job or for pleasure, teamwork is an essential part of our day-to-day lives.

Some of us do it well, while others have a more difficult time navigating through team dynamics. In the workplace, I find it interesting that many companies assume their employees understand effective teamwork. Of course, we all have some level of team acumen based on our life experiences, but the complexities of a team and its potential for effectiveness are often misinterpreted, poorly communicated or misdirected by those who lead us.

I’m not focusing on team cohesion here, but rather zeroing in on how effective individual team players can be. And the best place to start answering that question is with you.

On a scale of one to 10, how effective are you on your team? The high end is 10, and a one means you aren’t very effective at all. Even better: Ask your teammates how effective they think you are as a team player. It’s easy to judge others (most people do it), but it’s a lot tougher to take a long, hard look at yourself and offer up an honest opinion of your performance.

To help you reflect on your own effectiveness, here are seven keys to becoming a better team player and seven takeaway tips to help you get there.

1. Put your pride on the side

It’s imperative that you check your ego at the door. This doesn’t mean you always have to compromise your identity; it does mean you have to recognize that what’s good for the team will be good for you in the long run.

Takeaway tip: Live by the motto “It’s all about the team.” Use this phrase to remind yourself that it’s team first and everything else second. If you believe it, you will become a more effective team player. If you struggle with it, you simply need a bit more work.

2. Stand and deliver

It’s one thing to have talent, but to add real value to a team you need not only to be competent, but also to give 100% effort all the time. Consistency is key, and it takes a certain mindset to give your best regularly.

Takeaway tip: Your expectations of your own performance should align with your expectations of anyone else’s. You expect a surgeon to be at her best all the time. A server in a restaurant just doesn’t cut it if he mails it in. No one wants to hear excuses from someone who serves up a lackluster performance. So, expect nothing less from yourself — 100% with no excuses.

3. Focus on results

The DNA of effective people always includes the ability to meet the objectives of the team. When you have a roadmap for where you want to go, you will get there a lot quicker.

Takeaway tip: Keep your eyes on the prize. Make sure team goals are clear, measurable and prioritized. With clarity, the light at the end of the tunnel will shine brighter.

4. Communicate

Sharing information is critical for any team, so each team member shoulders the responsibility of ensuring that happens.

Takeaway tip: Be open and honest in the transfer of knowledge with your teammates. No one on your team wants a surprise, unless it’s a party to celebrate a win. Otherwise, share information formally and informally at meetings or in casual conversations where appropriate.

5. Flex your adaptability muscles

Be flexible and adaptable and you will be treasured by your teammates. Change is constant, so be quick on your feet. Change is actually much easier than you might think. What messes most people up is the amount of time it takes to decide to change.

Takeaway tip: The next time someone says, “Hey, we’re going to make a change,” be the one who says, “Great! What are we changing?” By becoming a change champion, you will add an incredible amount of value for the people you work with and will help the team constantly move forward.

6. Be supportive

Know your role, do it well and make sure you give your team as much support as possible. Support comes in different forms: Lending a helping hand, co-operating and being collaborative and reliable are all great ways to make a major impact on your team.

Takeaway tip: Regardless of their personalities, approach all teammates with the intention of making them as successful as possible.

7. Trust

The foundation of any team is built on trust. But if there’s mistrust among members, then it’s guaranteed that some form of dysfunction will rear its ugly head.

Takeaway tip: Respect your teammates’ differing points of view and use them as building blocks for solving problems or generating better ideas. Effective team players give lots of respect and as a result, they get the respect they deserve.

How well did you score? If you think there’s room for you to raise your game and become a more effective team player, test-drive a few of these tips and see how far they will take you.

More tips for teams:

Working well More bright ideas for managing your career and making the most of your benefits.

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