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Being A Team Player

8th November 2018

Team Player. It is possible that these two words occur most commonly in the CVs we read. From people seeking their first role to senior executives considering their next career move, everyone wants to be considered a good team player.

But it is such an overused word that it has become meaningless, a much-maligned buzzword that we encourage our candidates to avoid.

It is much more powerful to dig deeper, to understand what it actually means to be a "team player", and include these actions and behaviours in your CV instead. This will really help to differentiate you from other job seekers because you will be demonstrating the team working skills that employers are looking for.

Teamwork suits some personalities better than others but there is no getting away from it, teamwork in today's world of work is a critical path to success for organisations and how well you play your part in the team can determine your own success.

Our top 10 qualities for an outstanding team player are:

1. Self-awareness

Become more self-aware. This involves having a very good understanding of your own personality, what motivates you, what your strengths are, your weaknesses, your attitudes and how people might perceive your actions. It is so important that you are aware of how you treat others and realise how you interact with others if you are to continually improve the relationships you have with people in your team. A few tactics to help you work on your self-awareness include:

  • Ask people you trust for feedback (being open to anything they say!)
  • Reflect at the end of each day on a conversation or situation and how you could have handled it more effectively.
  • Try keeping a journal – writing is a great way of releasing a whole bunch of frustrations on paper, rather than at someone. It also brilliantly captures your progress towards goals, captures your ideas and just gives you time to think.
  • Continually try to stay "in the moment". For example, if you are in a meeting physically but clearly somewhere else mentally you'll be sending out huge "I'm not really invested in this" signals.
  • Undertake psychometric analysis. They are an incredibly insightful way to learn more about your motivators, strengths and how you perform under stress – identifying areas for personal development that you can work through.

2. Commitment

A really effective way to quickly build trust from the people you interact with is to be committed to the work that has to be done. Be the person who can be counted on to be productive, meet deadlines and consistently produce quality work. You'll gain additional kudos by being able to prioritise your work too. And another simple act that shows you are committed to the team is to turn up to meetings on time – everyone has a schedule they try to stick to.

3. Participate

Don't be passive. Be generous with your time and advice, going beyond what is included in your job description. That could involve showing a colleague how to do something that they've never done before to taking on more responsibilities, sharing your ideas, problem solving or working on company initiatives that are not work related.

4. Flexibility

This is a tough one because many people will admit to finding change difficult to deal with. But life is constantly changing in the world of work and it is important that you can adapt to new situations, new roles and new team members. One of the best ways to demonstrate your flexibility is to look to one of the other qualities we mentioned – number 3, get involved and participate.

5. Open Your Ears

There is a big difference between hearing something said and listening to something said. A really important quality for a team player is to be able to consider many different points of view, listening carefully to perspectives that might be completely alien to them. Not only might you learn something new but you will most certainly better understand the person who is speaking to you.

Asking for feedback from peers is another approach to improve your team working – how did you perform on a project? What could you do to be better? [Remembering that you don't have to be bad to be better!] Accepting the constructive criticism through active listening is a skill all of its own.

6. Communicate

There are many dimensions to good communication – that would be a blog post in itself. But, to boil it down to some fundamentals:

  • Try to always be transparent, open and honest.
  • Keep your peers informed about the progress of your work, taking time to give credit to the people who help you as well as making sure you let the team know when deadlines might be slipping.
  • Share. Whether it is your knowledge, resources, network contacts or even what you are doing on a weekly basis.
  • Talk things through to try to reach agreement.
  • Always avoid the "blame" game and office politics.

7. Work Styles

In our multi-generational workforces there are many different work styles. Understanding how your colleagues respond to difficult situations, what motivates them and what their working style is will help you become a better team player because you'll be able to adapt your communication style to work more effectively together. Some organisations invest in psychometric analysis as this tool reveals working styles and provides insight to the strengths and weaknesses within each member of a team – facilitating co-ordinated, more effective working.

8. Team Goals

When you are striving to do well in your own job it can be easy to develop a type of tunnel vision, but to really distinguish yourself as a good team player it is important that you can put the team's interests before your own, working with your colleagues towards common goals. You'll find this is a much more inclusive way to work and it'll have a positive impact on productivity.

9. Positivity

This is another tough one as some personality types are very comfortable taking a position of "doom" (if you are a Bake Off fan you'll recognise this in the winner Rahul Mandal). But negativity is a major energy drain within teams and over time colleagues will actively avoid you.

10. Recognise When You Are Wrong

Admit when you are wrong and if you find yourself in a situation where you think the team is taking a bad course of action state your case but don't become a stubborn bore (remember the team goals point). Never take the "sloppy shoulders" approach. People will always think much more of you if you can admit your mistakes, learn from them and use the experience constructively in the future.

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