10 Ways to Become a Star Team Player

Learning to Excel in a Team

Martina works in a distribution team for a national electronics supplier. She's dedicated to the organization, supports her colleagues, and always contributes to meetings. She knows that she's a good team player, but she also feels like she could do more to make the team successful, while developing her skills and using her strengths.

So, Martina takes a proactive approach and follows a few simple steps to boost her performance within the team. She tries to set a positive example for others, aims to hold people accountable, and works hard to be humble and willing to improve her skills. By doing this, she changes from a "good" team member to a "star" one, and everyone, including her, experiences the benefits.

Many people believe that successful organizations need inspirational leaders to thrive, but they also need highly effective team members like Martina. So, what qualities make a team member exceptional, and how can you develop them yourself?

In this article, we'll look at 10 top tips for becoming a star team player.

Gain a reputation as an exceptional team member.

What Is a Star Team Player?

Highly effective team members aren't necessarily the most outgoing or extroverted people in the group. However, they are committed and engaged, and they work well with their colleagues, toward team goals that meet organizational objectives. They encourage and support their fellow team members, listen to other people's points of view, respect differences, and take responsibility for their own actions and mistakes.

These individuals develop mutual trust with their co-workers, respect and value others, and put their own issues aside for the sake of the group. They understand the importance of building good relationships, including with their boss, and they make developing these a priority. This leads to better decisions, increased creativity, and greater productivity.

Tip:

For more on becoming a great team member, see our articles, How to Be a Great Team Player, Belbin's Team Roles, and Finding Time for Professional Development.

10 Ways to Be a Star Team Player

There are many ways to become a star member of your team. In their articles, Jon Gordon and John Reed of Robert Half Technology provide their top suggestions for how to be a star player. These are:

  1. Set an example. Instead of worrying about others' performance, productivity or commitment, it's a good idea to start by leading by example and focusing on your own hard work, passion and commitment. When you do your best every day, you'll raise the standards and performance of everyone around you.
  2. Use your strengths to help the team. The most powerful way you can contribute to your team is to use your gifts and talents to help it achieve its vision and goals. Your team needs your effort, focus and talent to succeed. You can do this by developing your strengths, so that you can help build a stronger team.
  3. Share positive, contagious energy. Research shows that emotions are contagious, and that your mood affects the people around you, whether it's good or bad. When you share positive energy and avoid negativity, you enhance the team's mood, morale and performance. For example, if you had a tough commute into work, try to leave your irritation outside and remember that your colleagues aren't to blame – put a smile on your face as you walk through the door. Read our article on emotional labor for more on managing your emotions at work.
  4. Put the team first. Highly effective team members always put the team first. They work hard, develop themselves, and serve the group. Instead of taking all the credit for success, remember to give it to the people who earned it, and to the whole team. As part of this, make sure that your ego doesn't get in the way of the group's mission and purpose – this can be challenging because we all have our own goals and desires, but it's an important step to improving your team's effectiveness.
  5. Build relationships. Relationships are the foundation that winning teams are built on. Highly effective team members take the time to connect, communicate and care, so they build strong bonds and relationships. You can be the smartest person in the room but, if you don't connect with others, you will find it difficult to work effectively. Take the time to get to know your colleagues, and try to build meaningful connections with them. Even simple things like asking about a co-worker's family or going out for lunch together can improve communication and break down barriers.
  6. Trust and be trusted. Strong relationships can't exist without trust. Highly effective team members trust their colleagues and boss, and they're trusted in return. You can earn this trust by demonstrating integrity, and by being consistent, honest, transparent, open, and dependable.
  7. Hold people accountable. Sometimes, people make mistakes and don't meet the team's expectations. So, don't be afraid to hold your fellow team members accountable. However, make sure that you build trust and relationships with them first, otherwise they may not allow you to challenge them.
  8. Be humble. Highly effective team members are humble, which means that they're willing to learn and improve. Make sure that you're open to feedback and suggestions, so that you can grow, build strong relationships, develop your skills, and put the team first. Be aware of the tremendous power in humility that makes you and your team more effective.
  9. Be a good listener. The most effective team members don't feel the need to make themselves heard all of the time. Instead, they feel comfortable participating through listening. As a result, they're usually highly aware, informed and knowledgeable. Of course, there are times when you should speak up, but it's a good rule to listen more than you talk. In a team environment, some people will always compete to be heard, but those who listen well are rarer – and are potentially much more valuable.
  10. Accept criticism. Highly effective team members understand that criticism provides an opportunity to improve the end product or service. This applies whether you are giving or receiving constructive criticism. Accept input with an open mind, and be open to exploring alternative solutions. Likewise, when you have to offer criticism or feedback to others, be direct and respectful, as this will likely inspire people to want to improve their work.

Based on material from Jon Gordon (see www.jongordon.com) and John Reed (see www.roberthalf.com/technology/blog). Reproduced with permission from Jon Gordon and John Reed.

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Tip:

Read our article, How To Manage Your Boss, to discover how to work as an effective team member with your boss. Also, if you're a manager leading a team, read our article, Avoiding Managerial Self-Sabotage to ensure that you give your team members the support they need to thrive.

Note:

You might have heard of "Followership," which is a new approach to being a highly effective team member. It focuses on being an independent thinker who doesn't accept a leader's decisions until you have evaluated them. Find out more about this controversial idea here and take a look at this Book Insight.

Key Points

Becoming a star team player can benefit you, your team, and your organization. You can learn more, feel fulfilled, help your team make better decisions, and be more creative and productive. And, your organization will benefit from highly engaged team members and motivated leaders as a result.

You can become a highly effective team member by using your strengths to benefit the team, building relationships with others, accepting criticism, and "checking your ego at the door." You, your team, and your organization will reap the rewards.

Apply This to Your Life:

  • Think about how you can lead by example. What behavior do you exhibit that could influence other people? Are you positively or negatively affecting them? How could you inspire them to improve their performance?
  • Take the opportunity to give someone credit. Has a colleague performed well or exceeded expectations? Let him or her know that you value his work, and praise the performance of the team as a whole.

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Comments (2)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi JCARobb,

    Thanks for the feedback! And, I agree. It is difficult for someone to behave this way all the time and in all situations. As much as organizations would like us to be rational in all instances, we have an emotional side. I like what you said about grace. The best leaders demonstrate grace under pressure and resilience.

    Michele
    Mind Tools TEam
  • Over a month ago JCARobb wrote
    I could not have said it better myself. Great advice and very rare that people can do all of these things well, all the time. Grace to your co-workers and to yourself also goes a long way for those moments of failure-it helps us and our team to pick ourselves back up and try again.