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7 Skills of a Great Team Player at Work

Team Player Skills

Remember the Aesop fable with a bundle of toothpicks? You can chew a single one to a mangled existence but ten of them together will be tough enough to leave your gums sore!

Aesop may have had a more solemn story originally, but the concept remains the same – teamwork rules!

It is management utopia to have a team that understands the value of working together. Employers seek employees who are not a project in and of themselves, to handle. They don’t lack in social training and can fit in like a glove, without creating a mess. So quite naturally it has become an important requirement in the hiring process – the ability to teamwork.

In fact, it is one of the most common questions that is asked in any job interview (Read Common Interview Questions). Responding with a “Yes of course. I am the best team player ever.” is an easy tell that you are clearly not. No “I’s” in team, remember?

The concept of workplace teamwork is a combination of certain qualities. Qualities that have become quite important in the essential soft skills (Read List of key skills Employers are looking for) that managers like to see in their team – namely willingness to learn and being able to work well with others.

In fact, according to a report from the International Association of Administrative Professionals, OfficeTeam and, 67% of HR professionals claim that they would prefer soft to hard skills while only 9% prefer technical to the touchy feely expertize.

It’s true that the world doesn’t revolve around HRs and it is possible that the hiring manager may certainly want to see you being able to perform well, technically, but your relationship stats with your colleagues finally hits the nail in the head. After all, companies definitely involve too many cooks who better work well together.

As an employee, you need to understand the value of coming across as pro-team. The big secret is that once you are in, your job will seem easier too.

So here are the trademarks of a team player. Do you already see yourself in them? If not, feel them and enhance your soft serve.

7 Qualities of a great team and its players


1. Recognizes each talent

There are batsmen, there are spinners, great fielders and the all rounders. As a manager, or even as a member, you need to recognize the strongest suits of an employee.

What are the individual skills?
What kind of work would make them happiest?
Can there be experts to handle different tasks?
Can there be measures to delegate duties efficiently – keeping the person-to-work factor in mind?
Have plans for transfer of skills in case more work force is required?

Now how practical would it be if work is divvied up indiscriminately irrespective of capabilities? Counterproductive, isn’t it? When the deadline sword is hanging on your head, you better be doing what you are confident in, while your buddy, next cube, could be handling the other (not necessarily better) half. A very saathi haath badhaana style.

So when you are part of a team, don’t just know who your teammates are, really know who they are – what they like, what are they good at, what makes them laugh and cry. Not only does it make for lively lunches together, but work too gets done well amidst all the sharing, and caring.

2. Respects each member

Here’s a story with changed names, ‘coz we don’t want you go berserk on fact checking. There once was a good manager, Nayak , who was known for his encouraging, supportive and approachable managing skills. His team was generally considered happy and productive. As fate would have it, he was transferred and replaced by Khalnayak.

Not only was he a taskmaster, he never really had a kind word to say to his team. What started off as working out of fear slowly transformed into screw it, I don’t want to be here. It is a well known fact after all that people generally tend to leave managers, not their jobs (Read How to get your Boss to like you?).

It is obvious that a well oiled productive team has members that don’t rely on desecrating each other’s work but rather on respecting respective contributions.

Think of it like a healthy marriage where the definition of happiness comes out of mutual respect. And if anyone disagrees with this value, say your word now or forever hold your peace!

3. Encourages to Grow

Respect is certainly a must. But so is encouragement to develop. One way to look at a job is simply a task that needs done. While it is quite another to be motivated by new learnings in the course of achieving the job goals. A great team provides the perfect environment for nurturing its members towards expert professionals.

What could start off as pockets of expertize can be structured to slowly disperse among the team members thus making it possible for each employee to gain out of that job experience. And that is what really counts, right? Your resume needs as much volume in experience pertaining to your current skills as it does in new ones.

And if you and your fellow teammates are able to do that for each other, there is quite a good reason that such a team will also attract eager talents who want the same. And of course the company won’t complain ‘coz happy people think happy thoughts and do happy things. So do you feel like clapping your hands everyday at work?

4. Where there is Trust

…there is no evil. You must have heard or even experienced micromanagers in your career lifetime. If not, you are probably specially blessed. Part of the reason which makes people all controlly and squirmy about another’s decision is the lack of trust. Micromanagers do that and sometimes even your colleagues can too. And that is not a team.

It’s a kahaani office office ki – full of deceptions, drama, politics, may or may not have romance, sabotage plots and agonizing head turn shots colleague to colleague. You get the idea. A team full of mistrust is better off not being there as no one, not even the most controlling member gets anything positive out of it.

In the end it becomes an unproductive mess as employee confidence takes a dive and no one feels motivated or invested in seeing a great outcome. And if there is a certain employee who has been especially untrustworthy, you can either talk about it with him or let the managers do the talking, only if you have been unable to resolve the issue. Escalation is usually the last resort.

5. Is Supportive

Like any relationship, a good team should be there for each other in sickness and in health. That means filling in for each other if and when another priority shows its face, encouraging and listening to each other, solving issues with diplomacy and consideration, and perhaps watching each other’s back and warning everyone to switch off the Candy Crush game when the boss is getting off the elevator.

A good support system, at work, can identify and fill the gaps in employee development. It can even lead to lasting relationships and a strong network (Read Professional Networking Tips) for future career growth.

6. Is Mature about Conflicts

Wherever there is creativity, different working styles or even different ideas and opinions involved, there are reasons for tensions and conflicts to brew. And sometimes even the best of teams face difficulties that are hard to resolve. But what sets good teams apart from the bad ones is that the good ones don’t let the conflicts persist.

Maturity is almost a given in the characteristics of a great team player. When faced with adverse situations, they usually come up with diplomatic solutions, compromises and first of all dialogue it out with the ones conflicted with. No matter what the circumstances are, they always find honesty to be the right way to deal with the difficulty.

For instance you have a team member constantly vetoing your suggestions. If it has become a pattern and you have faith in your ideas, request a one on one and attempt to discuss the apparent hostility.

Maybe it is rooted in not your suggestions but something else. You can then evaluate if there is a solution to the antagonism at all or is it better to agree to disagree and take it on from there.

7. Is Appreciative

A team has many hands and brains involved, by definition. And part of what a good team does, to keep each member satisfied, is appreciate the ones who have contributed – giving credit where credit is due. If someone is stealing the team’s glory unfairly, call him on it and let him recognize the significance of each individual who has made the said halo appear over his accomplishments. Merits grow with credits.

Once you have the whole team thing down, your work life will definitely be a positive influence which affects both your professional and personal development. And when you step into the interview room with the hiring manager bombarding you with soft skill questions, take them on like you know what you are talking about. Here are some common ones.

  • How would you resolve a conflict with a colleague?
  • What would you do if you have a difference of opinion with your manager?
  • In what ways are you a team player?
  • Can you give examples when you have coached a team member?
  • What kind of a manager would you like to have?
  • What kind of a manager would you be?

You get the idea. These, and countless other permutations, are directed to test your ability to work with others. They aren’t so dramatically different from any situation, in your life, which calls for a social approach.

But here, particularly in the professional world, your collaborative ease accounts for your sustainability. It tells your employer whether you can snap under pressure or whether you can demonstrate a capability to unite with your team and face the challenges head on.

Here’s concluding with a slightly morphed 80s throwback.

Mile skills mera tumhara, toh team bane humara!

Learn more about the list of top skills you need to cultivate for professional success.
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Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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