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Are You a Team Player?

It’s pretty much a given that employers want their staff members to be “team players.” What hiring manager is going to say, “Team player? Nah, I’d really like to add some selfish backstabbers to my group”?

In a job interview, we want the people who hire us to know we are indeed team players. But what does that really mean? That we are nice to our co-workers? That management can dump someone else’s work on us and we won’t complain? That we are willing to bake cookies for the company picnic?

It’s a bit more complex than that. In a time when companies are moving toward a leaner, more agile business approach, team effectiveness is coming more and more into focus. Effective teams have common goals, trust, and ground rules, and they allow for healthy conflict. So how do you show a team-player mind-set in such an environment?

  • Ask “What can I offer my team?” Diversity is critical for success, and positive team contribution goes beyond whatever technical skills you possess.
  • Understand and be clear about the support you need from other team members. If people have defined roles, it’s easier to identify and eliminate gaps.
  • Collaborate on a team action plan for success. Inviting opinions from your colleagues is just as important as voicing your own.
  • And perhaps most importantly: Understand how your individual style affects the team, both positively and negatively. After all, dysfunction often requires a group effort.

Understanding the strengths, challenges, similarities, and differences that make up a team is the most critical component of team development. If we all displayed unfiltered self-awareness, this understanding would probably emerge organically. But we don’t have unfiltered self-awareness; we have biases and tend to think that our way is the right way.

The best way to get at this information on a team-level is to engage an outside facilitator. As an Organizational Development consultant who has facilitated many such team-development engagements, I like to start by collecting and reviewing personality assessments on each team member and then overlaying the results. These findings help the team understand why one person, for example, tries to dominate discussions while another tends to take on too much work and miss deadlines. Or why someone else has great ideas but can’t bring them to fruition.

By uncovering who is most creative, or organized, or who is best at building relationships, individual team members become more aware of their strengths and limitations and can target their contributions for maximum benefit. And if you don’t have access to a facilitator or a personality assessment, you can still improve your team-player image by asking the question above: “What can I offer my team.”

And really listen to your teammates’ answers.

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