In today’s workplace, being able to work effectively in a team context is critical to the success of your business.  It is also an important skill to develop that will assist your career.

So how can you become a better team player? 

1+1=3:  Terrible maths, but a great principle.  The premise here is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Steven Covey uses the word synergy to describe this idea. 

In essence, if you can change your mentality so that in everything you find a way for you to win and for every other member of the team to win, then you are thinking along the right lines.  Celebrate the differences in background, race, gender, opinion, personality, age, physical and mental capabilities and beliefs to help create a phenomenal team.

Understand your unique strengths:  If you are a part of a team of up to 15-20 people, then the chances are that there is a particular skill that you are better at than every one else in the group.  Knowing that this is the case, then your team needs you to find out what that attribute is and bring it to the group. 

If you don’t know what your strengths are, make it a priority to find out what they are.  There are many ways to do this, starting with asking those people who know you really well, especially if they are able to see the best in you.  Additionally, ask yourself the question, “What do I naturally do well that others find difficult or have to think about.”

Be slow to anger and quick to forgive:   The reality is that if you are working in close proximity to others, then at some stage someone will say or do something that is insensitive, disparaging or downright rude.  It may be accidental or it may be deliberate, but to have the capacity to not negatively react to every possible stimulus will allow the team to function well. 

Does this mean that you have to be bullied or harassed in the workplace?  Absolutely not.  But it does mean that you don’t need to fly off the handle every time someone does something that may slightly offend you. 

Forgiveness is also an important trait to think about when working in a team.  If someone has done the wrong thing by you, the worst thing that you can do is to hold on to the event forever, plotting your revenge and not finding a way to have a 1+1=3 relationship with that person. 

There’s an old saying, “argue with a fool for too long and eventually people won’t be able to tell the difference.”

Allow those around you to shine: If you are in a team environment, then it’s not all about you.  Just as it’s important that you bring your strengths to the group, it’s also critical to allow others to utilise their strengths.

Sit back every now and then.  Don’t dominate conversations.  Allow other people in your team to have their time in the sun with their ideas taking precedence over yours.  Applaud great work and always speak highly about your peers to third parties.

Understand Ubuntu:  Ubuntu is an idea that has its origins from South Africa.  I first heard about it from Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, but Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes it best:

  “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

What this is saying is you are only successful if the team is successful and the team is feeling good only if everyone in the team is feeling good.  This idea turned the Boston Celtics into NBA champions a couple of seasons ago and has dramatically impacted the thinking of teams that I have influenced over the past couple of years.

It requires patience, sensitivity and an openness to others, all necessary traits of a great team player.

Become a Deliberate Encourager: Most people like to think that they are nice and polite in a team environment, which by my way of thinking would make you a good team player.  To draw from an earlier point, this would equate to 1+1=2.  Great team players intentionally look for opportunities to encourage and build up their peers, going out of their way to positively influence the mood and energy levels of those around them.

Being a part of a great team is a terrific feeling and knowing that you have the ability to add significant value to those around you can be incredibly empowering.  If there are any of the above aspects that you currently don’t utilise, why not give them a try this week.

Let us all know how you go and if you have any other ideas on how to be a great team player, feel free to let us know about them.

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