Over the years I have worked with a lot of amazing people. I have also worked with a lot of not-so-amazing individuals. One of the things that have consistently separated the good from the great has been one’s capacity to work as part of a team. You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your coworkers, so learning how to work really well with others (even those you don’t agree) can make a huge difference to the culture and company.
In fact, learning to work well with others can make the difference in achieving wild success in corporations and industry.
Are you contributing as much as you can to your team? There are 6 practices of great teammates, but feel free to leave additional ones in the comments as there are many more.
Willing and able to lend a hand.
Average employees will help others when asked; and sometimes when asked they will even just do the work.
Great teammates on the other hand, not just are willing to help when requested, but will notice if someone is stuck and volunteer their expertise. They know the balance between doing for others, and teaching their knowledge and know-how to others. And they also do so without making the other person feel stupid for the questions, or bad for taking their time.
Taking it up a notch: Next time someone asks for help make an effort to teach them the answer. Be patient and helpful. And if you don’t have time at that moment, instead of being hasty or quick, let them know when you can be available to help – don’t let your work, or interactions with them, suffer as a consequence of timing.
Knows how to take lemons and make lemonade.
When handed obstacles or difficult situations or problems, they are able to remain positive about themselves, and about those around them. When faced with challenges or problems a good teammate seeks to find solutions. They are willing to dive into any problem and roll up their sleeves to get the job done.
Taking it up a notch: Working on tasks that don’t excite you? Focus on the purpose and the goal and be willing to do whatever it takes to make the team successful. Make an effort to see the best of situations and give people the benefit of the doubt when they slip up. We all make mistakes, so be patient and helpful to those around you.
Focused on the long term.
Great teammates focus on relationships and business priorities, not on getting their way and doing what is important to them. They are open minded and always willing to entertain ideas that are not their own (and may even be in opposition to their own). They realize there is seldom a right answer for technical problems – just pros and cons of various solutions. When others present them with critical feedback they are able to internalize it and not be defensive or combative.
Taking it up a notch: Next time someone is arguing a point, or being difficult, don’t let it ruffle your feathers. Seek to understand their side first by asking questions. Aim to steer disagreements to be about the pros and cons of each side, and not about the points themselves, this will help to make it less personal and more collaborative. If someone offers you constructive criticism, resist the urge to explain or justify your actions, instead look for the truth in it and modify your behavior accordingly.
Stands behinds their values.
A great team member knows where they stand, and they are willing to offer their opinion and stance on issues. They are not afraid to say “no” or dissent even when that stance isn’t the popular opinion. They don’t engage in negative talk about others, and you won’t find them commiserating if it is not productive or helpful in moving the discussion forward.
Taking it up a notch: Even when you disagree with a position or direction, voice your opinion but be willing to disagree and commit if the decision was not your preference. Be willing to see it as a learning opportunity to be more persuasive and present better data or information for your case in the future.
Sets an example to others.
Regardless of the task they give their best effort. When they are needed they will make themselves available; they are consistent and reliable. When things do wrong they remain calm under pressure, keeping their cool when things heat up. They are trustworthy and patient in their interactions with others.
Taking it up a notch: Always look at your actions and words through the lens that someone else might see it. Strive to do your part on all assignments. When you notice holes that need to be filled, be the first to pick up a shovel – even if it is not always convenient to do so.
Realize that work, is more than work.
They are empathetic and understanding to those around them. Taking responsibility for problems and without casting blame onto others. They are kind and take the time to know their teammates as people. Respectfully they listen to ideas, ask thoughtful questions, and often take interest in others’ passions and hobbies outside of work. They seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Taking it up a notch: Try to remember 1-2 things about each of your coworkers that you can ask them about when you bump into them in the hallway or water cooler. Things like vacations, kids, and personal interests are all great things to ask about to get people to open up.