10 Tips To Be
A Team Player At Work

Hi there! If you work as part of a project team, you’ll no doubt know the importance of being a “team player”. In the ideal situation, all project team members work alongside one another, absolutely focused on delivering the project on time and on budget.

But that is seldom the case. Often, you’ll see a couple of miscreants who sabotage the team effort. We’ll hear words like “ that guy’s is just difficult” or “he doesn’t do anything”. This kind of project malaise will hurt the team and hurt you as a project manager.

If left unchecked, team morale can be lowered by the problematic team member, and will lead to certain disaster, with missed deadlines and low quality deliverables.

In this article, I want to show you 10 tips on how you can be a team player. I hope that you’ll apply them to your daily work and hopefully achieve more camaraderie amongst within your team.

Tip 1: Be Helpful

I think the most important tip of all is to simply be helpful.

If there’s a task that’s not done by anyone, and you have the capacity, volunteer to do it. If someone is dying under his or her workload, lend a helping hand.

I learnt early on in my career that one of the most delightful things you can tell your colleagues or clients is “How can I help you?”

Those five words can open many, many doors. The more you extend your help, the more others will see you as an asset to the team and company. And you’ll be accorded more responsibilities over time – which will pave the way for career advancement.

10 tips to be a team player at work 1 Be helpful and you will open many doors in your career

Tip 2: Don’t Complain

You must have been in a situation like this:

You’re quietly doing your work and typing up that 50-page report due by the end of the week. You’re concentrating and getting good content down, when you’re suddenly interrupted by someone going “ You know, that David always chucks work to us and leaves the office early. Yesterday, he was off at 4.00 pm! God knows where he went.”

This is usually followed by nods of agreement or someone else chipping in to join the “Complain Train”.

I don’t know about you, but I HATE complainers. Complaining doesn’t solve problems – it only distracts you. If I run into people like that, I feel all my positive energy being drained by them.

My advice – don’t complain about your work. You just have to do it and do it well. Avoid complainers like the plague.

Tip 3: Stay Energetic

No one likes to work with a dispirited, low energy guy who is sighing all the time.

Low energy implies you’re tuned out, not interested and can’t be bothered.

I’m not saying you need to be doing jumping jacks in the office, smiling like a mad man, but have positive energy and be ready to take on challenges – even if you’re internally very tired. It makes a huge difference to the perception of you as a good team player.

Case Study:Sometime back I was making a proposal presentation to some very senior management in a Thai Bank. These guys are like, the Board of Directors and CEO level, etc. – so you can imagine how serious it was. If we screwed up, no deal for us.

Well, there was huge check of the presentation which I left to one of my colleagues to present. Now, I don’t know if it was nervousness or what, the guy – just keep sighing every few seconds as he spoke! So he went like “ Bank these days are leveraging <sigh> social media to attract a new pool of customers. <sigh> In Thailand, what we see is …

No prizes for guessing how THAT proposal turned out. Sighing and showing a lack of energy is one of the WORST things you can do in the corporate world.

Tip 4: Stay Calm

In my line of work (consulting), there are times when the client throws a difficult question at me during meetings, or drops some nasty, rude email to wreck my otherwise lovely day.

My advice is – just stay calm. Be Zen-like. Be at peace.

My colleagues have always commented that I take things in my stride – that I have a “Zen-like” ability to stay calm and focus on solutions. I think that is a mark of a very good team player.

If there’s nasty stuff coming into our territory, make sure you stay calm and deal with it objectively. Shouting, complaining or otherwise breaking into a frenzy – doesn’t help you or the team at all.

Tip 5: Small Things Matter

I work in many high-stress consulting engagements in Asian banks. There are times when you’re crunching a spreadsheet and just can’t get data to reconcile, etc.

You know what cheers me up at that point? A team member coming in with some tidbits or ice cream for everyone. Someone asking if you want a drink, or asking if you’d like to have lunch packed for you.

Small gestures like these are really important. They keep the morale of the team up, and brings cheer to an otherwise moody environment. Team players know how to cheer people up by doing the small things right.

Tip 6: Clarify Expectations

When you work in a team, it is crucial to be upfront about expectations. I’ll give you some examples:

  • If you’re on leave next Tuesday and Wednesday – communicate it to your Project Manager and / or stakeholders immediately.
  • If you are overloaded and cannot deal with another piece of work, let the team know.
  • If you are unsure about what your deliverable should look like, discuss it with your Project Manager or stakeholders.

The problem I see in many teams is that not everyone is upfront about things like that. For example, if you just joined a team, you may be thinking that communicating about your leave plans next week is “not very nice”, or somehow shows you’re a lazy bum.

Don’t think that way – communicate leave plans, etc. as soon as possible so that the team can schedule other resources to help.

10 tips to be a team player at work 2 Learn to be upfront and clarify expectations

I always think that Asians (e.g. Chinese and Indians) are prone to be less communicative about their needs, and hence poor at clarifying expectations. If you’re a Caucasian new to Asia, please make sure you triple check with your Asian team members if they have any issues. Very often, they “keep things insider” and to themselves – which may cause trouble to the project later on.

Tip 7: Be Mature

Oh, I love this one. PLEASE, PLEASE – always behave in a mature way in a team environment. That means no stupid high school or college, pranky kind of behavior.

Case Study:When I was working in a British bank, I had this colleague of mine who had a “stress ball” – you know, the sort you can mush up in your palm, supposedly to lower your stress levels.

Well, guess what this individual liked to do with that ball? He THREW it across the room to another colleague who gamely played along. I was appalled – coming from a consulting background, I was used to proper, professional behavior in front of my clients. I found the “ball throwing” to be pranky and extremely immature.

Don’t EVER do immature things in the office - people on your team will hate it and give you looks of disdain.

Tip 8: Respect for All

Always treat your team members kindly. I think this is especially the case for Project Managers, who may think that they are the “King of the team” and somehow control everyone.

When you speak with someone, don’t speak in a harsh tone, or rudely. And if you have to reprimand or give feedback for poor behavior, do it privately. Don’t do it in public (I still don’t understand why some people have NO SENSE of tact or EQ and continue to lash out at their teams in public).

I’ve give you an example. I once heard this lady colleague of mine (a Senior Manager) saying this to an Associate: “Wait, wait , wait … what did you just say? No, no your last sentence … what did you say? WHAT?! I specifically told you to do it this way and you did it that way. I cannot believe you …”.

This was done in a room which was dead quiet and with like, 10 other team members in earshot.

I have NO RESPECT for people like that. Even if her intentions were good and she wanted to coach the Associate, she should have done it in a private room. Lashing out like this in public shows EXTREME disrespect for the other person and also VERY POORLY developed EQ levels.

10 tips to be a team player at work 3 Always show respect for your colleagues

Tip 9: Document Simple Procedures

What do I mean by document “simple procedures”? One trick to make yourself useful to your project team, is to take up tasks which are important but no one else is doing.

Documenting “simple procedures” fall into this category:

  • Creating a list of names and contact numbers of all team members
  • Creating a “cheat sheet” of how to get your printer set up and start printing documents
  • Compiling a list of important Intranet URLs for the team to access
  • Compiling a common travel / leave schedule and dumping it into the team room for all to see

Things like these sound administrative, but are HIGHLY important. When you’re one hour away from a major meeting and need to print something, you’ll be glad you had a “cheat sheet” showing you how to get a printer set up. Good team members are always on the lookout for information that can be readily re-used by others.

Tip 10: Show Up.

Perhaps one of THE most important tips I have in this list. Often, I find my team members NOT SHOWING UP. Not just in terms of reporting for work – I mean that they don’t go the extra mile to e.g. meet up with other team members in social gatherings or drinks.

Remember – you need to show up. The more you show up at company events, or speak to your boss or senior management, the more aware they will be that you exist. And when opportunities arise, they will remember you and help you land the juiciest clients and projects.

Wrapping Up …

I hope the above has helped you understand some of the key tips for being a team player at work. If you apply just some of the above tips to your daily work, I guarantee you will see results pretty soon.

And if you ask me which is my favorite tip, I’d say “Be Helpful.”

Just remembering and applying that one tip alone will do wonders for your career. Everyone likes someone who can help and chip in. No one likes a complainer or someone that works against the grain.

Do yourself a favor and contribute to the team!

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