How to Be a Good Team Member

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As you develop your career, an important criterion by which your performance and evaluations will be determined is your ability to work effectively as a member of a team. All good companies are comprised of teams of employees working towards the common goal of a healthy organization. There are few, if any, functions within a company that do not require working within a team to get the job done. Being a good team member will be noticed by management and help to move your career forward at a faster pace.

In order to understand what it means to be a good team member, it’s important to first think about the attributes of a good team. Some of these are:

  • Everyone on the team is clear about the goals and priorities of the team. 
  • Everyone on the  team is clear about the role they play in reaching the objectives.
  • Everyone on the team needs to show and feel respect and trust for their manager and for other team members (Note that this does not mean just agreeing with everyone, but rather treating them as intelligent and capable individuals).
  • Everyone has to carry their own weight, but also be willing to carry the weight of others if they are in crisis.
  • Meetings move the team forward and everyone should be present and participate.
  • It is the responsibility of everyone on the team to preserve the team – do not undermine your team members or pursue agenda’s counter to the team’s efforts.
  • It is the responsibility of the manager to make sure the right people are on the team.
  • Individual egos must be subordinate to the team ego.

These do not just describe a team you might be on at work, but any team that you’re involved in in your personal life. Of course, these points describe the ideal and few teams live up to this ideal. The team that you are currently on will have its ups and downs and there are many things that will be out of your control. But let’s take the above list and look at what is within your control and how you can put your best foot forward as a team player.

  • Clarify the goals of the team with your manager.
  • Understand what is expected from you to meet the goals.
  • Be respectful and trusting of other team members and never undermine them or their efforts.
  • Don’t be afraid of constructive conflict. Good teams hash things out with energy that shows they care.
  • Show respect for the team leader. This may mean accepting and supporting a decision that you don’t agree with.
  • Commit to getting your part of the work done and hold others accountable for doing the same.
  • Focus on the advancements and achievements of the team, not on your own achievements. An individual acting independently to benefit their own ego and status undermines the cohesiveness and trust within the team.
  • If you manage your own team as well as being a part of a team of your peers under your manager, the welfare and goals of the higher-level team have to take priority over the welfare and goals of the team that you are managing. This is because the higher the level of the team, the more impact it has on the results of the company. For example, if the company loses a large account and your manager sets the goal of reducing costs, you may need to make decisions and take actions that are detrimental to the team that you’re managing, but that are important for the overall health of the organization.
  • Understand that your individual achievements are less important than those of the team. It’s a matter of simple math that many people can accomplish more than one person and that “two heads are better than one.”

It can sometimes be hard to accomplish these things when there is a difficult team member or a manager who is struggling to keep the team functioning well. You will need to focus on what is within your control and do your best to communicate constructively with your manager and team members. Being a good member of a cohesive team is one of the most satisfying and enjoyable work experiences that you will have. Being on a fractured team is one of the worst experiences. I’m sure that most of us remember those dreaded group projects when we were in school and what torture it was to get the assignment done with your classmates. Those teams had no real manager and very few attributes of a good team. 

Look for opportunities to join exceptional teams. When you are interviewing for a job, ask about the team that you’ll be working with. If you have the chance to join a good team whose goals inspire you, take it. It will help you achieve so much more than you would operating by yourself or on a poorly managed team and will help you develop your career in a direction that is fulfilling to you.

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