Being a Good Team Player Can Help Your Personal Success

By Samantha Chang

Q.  I work in a company where we do a lot of group projects. I’m concerned that working in a team might keep me from being noticed for my individual efforts. How can I stand out in a group without being labeled a bad team player?

A. Anyone who’s a fan of hit reality TV shows such as “The Apprentice” and “Survivor” understands how navigating murky team dynamics enables a person to achieve individual success. Of course, work is hardly a reality show, but some of the same principles can apply.

Most companies are looking for good team players, experts say. As impressive as your individual accomplishments might be, employers are concerned with how a prospective worker will fit into their company—its culture and its people. In fact, a recent Stanford University study indicates that the one attribute successful business executives have in common is their ability to work well in a team (the other trait they all possess is their capacity to function well in a crisis).

“Teamwork is so important that it’s virtually impossible for you to reach the height of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it,” according to Brian Tracy, author of The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success. So if you’re concerned about personal success, make sure you’re a good team member, experts say. Following these tips can help.

Be Dependable

When you volunteer for or are asked to take on a role within a team, be responsible for your tasks and get them done right and on time. Consistency is key. If something goes wrong, take responsibility and don’t shift blame. This looks shady and irresponsible. Remember that other people are relying on you to do your part so they can do theirs.

Be Flexible and Helpful

Volunteer to pitch in and help others complete their projects if everything is good on your end. Your efforts and generosity will come back to you, says John C. Maxwell, author of The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player. “You cannot…help people and add value to them and think of them first without there being a major maximum return for you down the road,” according to Maxwell. “You don’t do it for that reason, but there is always a major reaping if the sowing is correct.”

Be a Good Listener

Good communications is a crucial part of any effective team, according to Kevin Eikenberry, author of Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a Time. Therefore, good team members always try to improve their communication skills. “This pays off in their individual work and in enhancing the overall team’s effectiveness as well,” according to Eikenberry.

Be Positive and Upbeat

One naysayer really can drag down an entire group, so even if there’s a ton of work to be done or a thorny task to complete, stay committed to your collective goal of getting the project finished and don’t express negativity or doubt. And don’t backstab or gossip behind each other’s backs, since this destroys morale and distracts everyone from the goal. Effective team members provide a positive outlook to meetings and tasks, says Eikenberry. “They do what they can to improve morale. These things make good team members good followers. And good leaders.”

Seeing the Big Picture

As you may have already learned through your own experiences, work interactions provide a forum for both individual achievement and group accomplishment, but since many jobs involve some aspect of collaboration, it’s important to be conscious of your shortfalls and try to improve on them. After all, someday you may be the boss and will want others to follow your lead.

Additional reading
How to Get That Promotion
Dealing With a Difficult Co-Worker