When Mario Gotze scored the winning goal for Germany in the 2014 World Cup, a lot of credit went to him. And for good reason. After all, he was the one who kicked the ball into the net. But he couldn’t have done it without the assists and passes from the other members on his team. And if it weren’t for the amazing goalkeeper who prevented Argentina from scoring, Germany would have lost.
So it would be unfair to give all credit to Gotze, just as it wouldn’t be fair to give all credit to the developer on your team who created that website—what about the designer who created the designs for the website? Or the Copywriter who wrote the copy for all the web pages?
You see my point. That website couldn’t have been created without everyone coming together as a team to make it happen.
Granted, some people work better individually, while others thrive in a team environment. But at the end of the day, when you are working with other people, you need to know how to work well with them. You need to know how to be a team player.
So with that, here’s how to become a team player every bit as awesome as the players on the winning team of Germany.
Chances are, you are going to work with people who have work styles completely different from your own. You might have some colleagues who are more organized, logical and data-oriented and others who are more disorganized and emotionally driven. Flexible team members are able to adapt to different styles seamlessly, whatever they may be.
Good team members are also accommodating and flexible to change. The other day, my colleague asked me if I would be willing to exchange time slots with her for presentations that we had been assigned to give to the rest of the team. She had a doctor’s appointment that she couldn’t miss and needed me to present earlier than anticipated. Did I have my presentation ready or know what I was going to present on? No. But I agreed, because in that situation, I was trying to be flexible and accommodate to her needs, even if it might not have been the best time for me. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here—but this is just one example of being a flexible team member.
Let me give another example:
The other day, Stephanie asked our colleague, Jordan, if he would be able and willing to move their call to another time and without hesitation (and even with full enthusiasm), he agreed.
Be a Good Sport
One reason that I admire Roger Federer so much is that, in addition to being a genuinely kind person, he is a great sport. He handles each loss with the same poise and elegance that he does a win. Meanwhile, I’ve witnessed other tennis players who throw their tennis racquets up in the air and throw complete temper tantrums when they so much as lose a point. How can you root for someone like that?
Being a good team player means being a good sport. Maybe your colleague will be the one to get that promotion you’ve been eagerly anticipating for the past year. Or maybe you’ll propose an idea that you think is brilliant…and it’s immediately turned down.
Good team players don’t get exasperated or storm out. They go with the flow and are able to be good sports when things don’t go their way.
Have a Positive Attitude
Whenever I think of positivity in the workplace, I think of one of my ex-colleagues, Tom. Each morning, he would always greet everyone with a smile, calling each person by name: “Hey, Mary! Hey, Avin! Hey Jordan!” etc. etc. It was a small gesture but one that helped to brighten each person’s day just a little bit—or at least mine.
Not everyone has a super jovial personality, like Tom, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you remain positive in the face of conflict. When a challenge arises, do you face it with a “can do” attitude or a negative, defeatist attitude? Hopefully it’s the former. If not, try to change that.
Positivity comes naturally to some people, but luckily, it’s also something that can be changed in those it doesn’t come naturally to. Even just exchanging a smile with a coworker can go a long way towards uplifting both of your spirits, as studies have shown that facial expressions affect the way we feel. So start smiling!
Express Your Opinion
Nobody likes confrontation. But sometimes, a little confrontation is necessary to progress. If your colleague did something to upset you, then have an honest and open conversation with them about it. You don’t have to attack them in an accusatory tone (in fact, that’s something you should not do). But you can let them know how you feel.
If you don’t like the way that your boss speaks to you, then tell them. Nobody deserves to be treated like a doormat.
If you aren’t happy with a particular process or the way that something is run at the company you work at, then speak up—and come up with a recommendation for how it could be changed for the better.
If your colleagues are talking about something and you have an idea or some constructive feedback in regards to the situation, then pitch in. Chances are, they will appreciate what you have to say.
Effective communication is a lot easier said than done. Truth be told, it’s something that I’m still working on myself.
So what exactly is good communication? It’s being clear in your messaging. It’s anticipating questions before they are asked. In each message you send, think about how the person on the receiving end will interpret that message.
If you are going to step away from your desk for a little while, let your colleagues know. If you are delayed on a project, keep them in the loop, and let them know before they have to ask you about it.
Keep Your Word
Good team members are reliable. They meet their deadlines and show up to meetings on time.
If you tell another team member that you will get something done by a certain time, then do it. Follow through. And if you can’t, then communicate that ahead of time.
Go Above and Beyond
Good team players don’t just do the bare minimum that’s required or asked of them. They go above and beyond to get things done.
For instance, if your colleague asks you for a simple design, go ahead and provide them with multiple options. If you are asked to review an email before it’s sent out, then do a full proofreading of it, as well. If your colleague asks you how to do something, why not provide them with a how-to video that they can refer to later?
That’s what going above and beyond is. It’s doing everything that someone asks of you—and more.
When your colleagues are talking, do you take the time to really listen to what they are saying or just use that time to think about what you are going to say next? Good team members do the former.
Listening is also about being emotionally intelligent and understanding your colleagues. If you can tell that they are having a bad day, then maybe it’s not the best time to push them for that design that you need completed.
We all make mistakes from time to time. It’s part of being human…hello! The important thing is that you are able to admit when you’re wrong. If you screwed up, then don’t blame it on someone else or even push it under the rug. Own up to it. Remain accountable for your actions.
Even if it’s not required of you, set career goals for yourself. Determine where you want to be in one month…six months…a year.
Finally, take charge of situations, and assume some responsibility. Not only will this make you feel more confident in your own abilities, but it will turn you into someone that your boss and other team members can trust and rely on, as well.
Cooking is one of those things that takes a lot of patience. First there’s the preparation: You have to go out and buy the ingredients. Cut everything up. Wait for the water to boil or the oven to preheat. And then comes the actual cooking part. Followed by some cleaning up.
Just like cooking, working on a project with other team members often requires a lot of patience. You have to prepare. Wait for responses. Then execute. And you’ll often have to clean up—or make some changes to—the final product.
If you rush through cooking, chances are, the end result won’t be as good as it would be if you took your time. Likewise for your work and the projects that you take part in. You should aim to work efficiently, but not hastily. As the adage goes: slow and steady wins the race.
The same goes for collaboration. When you’re explaining something to a coworker, don’t rush through it (doing so will probably only result in more confusion anyway). If your team member has a question about something, take the time to really help them understand.
Think About the Big Picture
Some people are more about the big picture, while others are more about the little details. Both have their advantages and an ideal team would have a mix of both types of people.
Whatever category you fall into, make a concerted effort to think about the big picture. Consider how your actions will affect things long-term—both individually and within your company. If your colleague or boss gives you some negative feedback, instead of jumping on the defense, think about how you can use that feedback to become a better team player down the road.
Be a Servant-Leader
At SUCCESS agency, we all try to be servant-leaders, or people who will help out other team members when the need arises, even if the tasks don’t full under our job description.
One of my old team members at SUCCESS agency, Pete, was a great example of this. When I first joined the team, there were little things that I didn’t know how to do (like crop a photo, I’m embarrassed to admit). Even though it wasn’t his job, Pete would always patiently answer any questions I had and would jump on a call if need be to clarify things. He even went out of his way to make numerous how-to videos for me, walking me how to do various things step by step.
Proactive people don’t wait for things to happen to them. They take action before it even happens. They plan ahead and take initiative.
A proactive team member will recognize a potential problem before it arises. For example, if you are sending out an email, there will probably be a lot of things that need to get done in order to send out that email. At the very least, you will need to make sure it’s properly set up and formatted, and you will need to have someone QA the email before scheduling it. If you wait until the last minute, then there could be issues with the formatting of the email or you might find that none of your colleagues are available to QA the email. Then you are stuck.
If you are proactive, you will consider these challenges before they arise and do whatever you can do avoid them (like setting up the email and having a colleague QA the email well in advance).
In order to be more proactive, stay organized. If your notes are all over the place, something is bound to fall through the cracks.
Also, prioritize your to-do list. Look at your calendar at least a week in advance to make sure you’re staying on top of things. And for each task on your to-do list, determine what needs to be done in order to complete that task, making sure to collaborate with your colleagues ahead of time. Don’t ask them to do things at the last minute. Always give them advance notice on what you need done.
We pride ourselves at SUCCESS agency as a team that is always growing. One way we ensure that is through our “Intentional Learning” or ten hours a month that we each devote to learning something new that can help us move forward in our career.
By continuously growing, each one of us is able to ensure that we are better team members each and every day.
So, as a next step, I propose this: Pass this blog post onto your team members—so that you can all keep growing too.