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10 ways to be a star team player

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 12 Oct 2020

skills

Are you match fit? In the first of our new Skills for Success series, we look at 10 ways to improve your teamwork skills.

1. Understand your common goal

A goal that everyone understands (and buys into) is crucial to effective teamwork. Are you clear about the objectives and expected outcomes? Do you understand your role and responsibilities? Helping your team keep the goal – and the deadline – in mind, staying focused and resisting distractions from the sidelines will help you achieve a great result.

2. Play to your strengths

We all have things we excel at – and those we’re not so good at. Knowing where your strengths lie will help you make the best contribution (and you’ll be happier and more fulfilled as a result). You might be a natural leader, great at coming up with new ideas, or prefer just to get things done.

A football team wouldn’t perform well with too many strikers and not enough defenders; in the same way, the most successful teams have a blend of personalities whose strengths and skills complement each other.

3. …But be flexible too

While knowing how and where you perform best is really valuable, it’s also important to be flexible when things change. The goalposts can often move over the course of a project, so be prepared to switch positions if you need to. Instead of resisting change, try to see it as a positive opportunity for growth – getting out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to learn. And don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty: taking on the tasks no one else wants will mark you out as a positive, can-do person and ultimately get you noticed.

4. Be a good communicator

Good communication within a team is essential for success, so keep colleagues updated on your progress and don’t be shy to speak up to challenge others’ thinking or show your support. And it should go without saying that listening is just as important as speaking: actively listen to what others say, ask thoughtful questions and respond respectfully.

5. Don’t be afraid of disagreement

Working within a team means there will always be differences of opinion or opposing ideas. Disagreement is not necessarily a bad thing – it can lead to new ways of thinking and creative solutions – so try to be comfortable with it. The key is to create a supportive and respectful atmosphere where everyone’s views are heard without judgement. 

Even if you *know* your idea is best, don’t dismiss others out of hand – collaborating well means listening to your colleagues, avoiding talking over them and being willing to compromise.

6. Be reliable

The best team players are those who are fully present and committed: who show up and do what they say they will, when they say they will. Whatever task you’ve been assigned, complete it to the best of your ability, on time. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and be consistent. Accountability is important too: if you make a mistake, take responsibility for it and try to find a solution.

7. Don’t hog the ball

It’s easy to fall into the trap of hogging the ball in the hopes of personal glory, but try to focus on the bigger picture. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how well an individual plays if the team loses the match. 

Good team players share – whether that’s information, resources, skills or experience – and support each other, so offer help to colleagues where you can and share the credit. Championing teammates and celebrating their successes as well as your own helps keep everyone motivated – remember that if they succeed, so do you.

8. Accept help

Supporting teammates is great – but allowing them to help you is just as important. None of us has all the answers, so if problems crop up or there’s something you don’t know, don’t be afraid to raise your hand. Be open to input and ideas from colleagues, and try to see it as an opportunity to learn something new. The strongest team players are receptive to feedback and actively seek constructive criticism to make the next project better.

9. Show respect

Chances are you’ll work with a variety of personalities over your career, all with their own strengths and limitations, and their own individual ways of working. Despite your differences, always treat teammates with courtesy and respect, and try to appreciate their work styles. 

Taking the time to get to know your colleagues as people and being sensitive to their feelings makes for a stronger team. Resist getting involved in gossip or office politics, and never play the blame game. If you come up against conflict, it’s always best to address it directly with the other person, in person.

10. Be positive

Last but by no means least, a positive attitude and willingness to get stuck in will take you far. Being a positive team player doesn’t have to mean Tigger-like enthusiasm and cracking jokes – it’s about supporting others, looking for solutions rather than problems, and remaining calm and cheerful under pressure. Be a positive force for your team, and you’ll find others will follow.

Professional development is one of four parts of the ACA. Our professional development ladders prepare you to successfully handle different situations that you’ll encounter throughout your career.

Find out more about our professional development ladders