Life tips: How to be a real team player

If there’s one thing most job descriptions have in common, it’s how they usually ask for someone to be ‘part of a team’ or ‘a team player’. Engineering jobs are no stranger to needing a heavy amount of solid teamwork. Being a team player isn’t something that always comes naturally, especially if you’re used to working in a more isolated environment. Here are some tips on how to be a real team player:


Be fully aware of the shared goal you all have

What’s your shared goal as a team? Is it to run an event smoothly, or to make a certain amount of money? Maybe it’s to get approval for a bigger project to go ahead. If there’s a target you’re all striving for, all of you need to be aware of it. Having a common goal is essential to being a good team player. When things go wrong it’s always useful to remember why you’re working together.

Be honest with your team

Hiding things from your team to avoid negative backlash is only going to harm the team’s success in the long run. Everyone makes mistakes; if you’re the one who’s made an error, be the first one to own up to it. The last thing you want is to be found out by someone else after you’ve tried covering up your mistake.

Set realistic boundaries

If for whatever reason you’re unable to work on a particular part of a project, don’t leave it to the last minute to communicate this. This point relates to the point above; if you can’t be honest with your team about your workload then you’re not going to succeed as a team. Be realistic about what you can actually achieve rather than setting yourself up to fail because you want to impress someone.

Enhance your listening skills

The ability to really listen is underrated – especially among extroverts. Don’t listen just so you’re able to respond to someone. Listen because you want to understand. If you don’t understand something, always ask questions – even if you think it’s a silly question; it’s usually the ‘silly’ questions that help us understand something a whole lot better. These basic communication skills become invaluable when it comes to being a successful team.

Help and assist your team

A lot of job descriptions tend to use the phrase: ‘be a team player’. This usually translates to ‘being happy to help others’. However I believe that this is a two way street. Asking for help is just as important as giving it. Even if something the team is working on isn’t in your remit and you’re asked to help out – it could be because you have the expertise needed for that task, or because an extra pair of hands is needed. It’s never a good idea to turn down requests for help because you never know when you might need it yourself. No matter how well you’re doing in your area, it could completely turn around at any moment.

Go against the grain once in a while

Being a team player isn’t about agreeing and going along with the views of those who you disagree with. If you have a differing opinion you should be able to confidently voice your concerns in a constructive manner. If someone doesn’t agree with you and can’t seem to phrase it correctly it’s down to you to make your point clearer without getting frustrated or annoyed. If this starts happening then the best (and only) thing you can do is to back off and revisit the situation at a later date.

Do take others’ feelings into account

Make sure you pay attention to the smaller things from time to time. In the long run this will make you more approachable when problems arise but also you’ll become a much-valued person in the team. All too often people are too busy thinking about their own agendas in a team that other peoples’ feelings get forgotten. If you sense that there’s a problem, the best thing to do is address it.

You can be a leader, a follower or both

Most people think they’re either followers or leaders; never both. This is a total myth in my opinion. You can almost certainly be both. It depends entirely on the situation, the particular project and the people you’re working with. If you find that a leader is needed in a particular situation it doesn’t mean you have to boss people around. Simply giving someone some guidance on something counts as effective leadership.

Be adaptive

Things change frequently in teams – especially in large projects where deadlines may be changed or funding is suddenly cut. The ability to swiftly adapt to changes well can turn you into a leader before you even realise it. It’s also an invaluable skill to have on your CV for future opportunities.

Being part of a team isn’t always everyone’s first choice when it comes to taking on a large project. However, there are many benefits of being in a team. You get to learn lots from working with other people who you perhaps normally wouldn’t work with. The skills you won’t even know you’re picking up can be invaluable in future jobs. Even if you have a negative experience of working in a team, you’ve still learnt a lot – not all learning comes from positive experiences!

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