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15 Qualities That Make You a Great Team Player

Do you play well with others? It's time to find out.

Source: baranq/Shutterstock

Undoubtedly, you've heard the phrase “There is no ‘I’ in team," meaning that to succeed, you need to forget who you are and work for the benefit of the greater good. However, no one ever points out that there is, indeed, a "me” in "team." In fact, in vying for attention, recognition, or greater resources, many of us may decide to put our own welfare above that of others and charge ahead regardless of how it affects colleagues, fellow students, or family members.

Surely you’ve been part of a team project, whether in school, at work, or while planning a family event, and felt that the other members of your group weren’t taking enough responsibility. I don’t have to remind you how annoyed you became at the slacker. Getting credit for what everyone else contributed probably didn’t seem to bother this person, but you fumed about it for days or weeks.

Or perhaps you’re the one to let others carry the load for you. It bothers you, but you figure that if they’re willing to cover for you, your time can be put to use in better ways. What’s more, if it really bothered them, they’d tell you, so until they do, you’re just as happy with the status quo.

According to Universitat de Lleida’s (Spain) Cristina Torrelles Nadal and colleagues (2015), teamwork “is now the main way of working and should generate greater profits for an organization than the work of an individual employee working alone” (p. 354). Workplaces built with open plans are increasing, and even if people aren’t physically connecting, they’re sharing their work electronically. More interior decorators are advising clients to tear down their walls and create open floor plans. You and your family members or roommates may each be involved in your individual pursuits, but it's easy to communicate when you need to without those physical barriers in the way.

With all this emphasis on teamwork, it’s clear that it’s a model that better suits some people than others. Apart from whether you would rather engage in solitary pursuits or not, the question is whether you can perform effectively in a group. Nadal and her collaborators, based on this premise, decided to assess what they call teamwork competence—the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to perform a task effectively as a group.

The Nadal group used the “360 degree” approach in which a number of people who know you all provide their own independent evaluations of you; in this case, along the dimensions of teamwork competence. The 55 people who participated in the study were rated by 218 observers, or about 4 people per target. They also rated their own teamwork competence, providing researchers the added advantage of seeing how much insight participants had into their own collaborative skills.

Among the 55 people who got the 360-degree treatment, slightly more than half were men, and the average age was 41 years old. All were college graduates. The researchers used the ratings to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the employees to determine which areas were most in need of building to improve teamwork competence.

Let’s take a look now at the 15 teamwork competence areas so you can see how you think you’d rate. The 15 areas are divided into 4 major dimensions.

Dimension 1: Identity

1. Having goals consistent with that of your team.
2. Feeling that you belong in the team.
3. Being able to adopt and perform in your role.
4. Having the ability to adapt to your team.
5. Contributing positively to the teamwork climate.
6. Feeling committed to the team.

Dimension 2: Communication

7. Being able to ask and provide information.
8. Getting along well with others.

Dimension 3: Performance

9. Being able to identify and plan the tasks that need to be completed.
10. Reaching consensus with your fellow teammates.
11. Doing what you’re asked to do and letting others know when you can’t.
12. Monitoring your own contributions to the group’s effort.

Dimension 4: Regulation

13. Detecting conflicts and collaboratively trying to resolve them.
14. Negotiating strategies and reaching agreements.
15, Suggesting, and then contributing to, improvement.

Looking across the ratings, it appeared that the employees (as rated by themselves and others) were strongest in Dimension 2: Communication. The greatest room for improvement in these employees showed up in the dimensions of performance and regulation. Unfortunately, the study didn’t show which areas produced the greatest divergence of ratings between self and others; this would certainly have been interesting to explore.

If the study is any indication, it appears that people find it easiest to communicate and, to a lesser extent, identify with the team and their role within it. The difficulties come, perhaps not surprisingly, in the areas of performance and regulation. In other words, if you’re like the average person in this study, you may feel okay about being on a team, and feel able to contribute to the sense of esprit d’corps, but you may not actually do what you’re asked to, or be able to figure out how to negotiate disagreements.

When you rate yourself on these 15 qualities, it might help to imagine how others on your team, whether in your family or at your workplace, would evaluate you. If you’re honest with yourself, you may realize that despite your good intentions, you don’t always follow through on your share of the workload. Or perhaps you’re great at getting things done, but you don’t like to ask questions and so you set off on the wrong path at times.

Being a competent team player may very well be one of the most important qualities you can have. As we live in a social world, and value our relationships with others, these can be most fulfilling when we do our part to make those relationships work.

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, "Fulfillment at Any Age," to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.


Nadal, C. T., Mañas, G. P., Bernadó, B. S., & Mora, C. A. (2015). Assessing teamwork competence. Psicothema, 27(4), 354-361.

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2015

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