Career Success and Being a Team Player

As you probably know I launched a membership site in September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb.  You can join here.   I’m writing a book to accompany the site.  I expect that it will be available in January.  Last Friday, as I was on my way home from my consulting assignment in Spain, I wrote a chapter on the importance of being a great team player.

Being a great team player can really enhance your life and career success.  Here’s the first draft of my chapter on being a great team player – a sneak peek just for readers of this career advice blog…

Technical competence – you can’t be a fully contributing member of a team if you are not technically competent.  You need to be able to do your job and do it well.  This means keeping up to date on developments in your area of expertise.  I always suggest to my coaching clients that they become the go to person in their company in their particular area of technical expertise.  When you are a true expert, you are able to help your colleagues deal with their questions, problems and concerns.  When you consistently help your colleagues you will become known as a team player – someone everyone wants to work with and have on their team.

Sharing Orientation – good team players are willing to share their time and expertise.  We all need a little help every once in a while.  When you demonstrate that you are willing to help others in your company, they will be willing to help you when the time comes – and believe me, there will be plenty of times in your corporate climb when you’ll need help.

Good Interpersonal Skills – good team players understand themselves.  They use their self-awareness to better understand others.  When you take the time to understand others, you are more aware of how to help them – and your team.  Good team players listen more than they speak.  They focus on turning tense situations into opportunities for collaboration and creative problem solving.

Self Reliant – good team players take responsibility for themselves and their work.  They focus on doing their job to the best of their ability and trust that their colleagues will do the same.  Successful teams know that they can count on every member to carry his or her weight, and that the collective effort will yield great results.

Focus on Stakeholders – no team exists in a vacuum.  Most teams have several constituencies who are affected by their work.  Good team members keep a constant focus on the needs of their various stakeholders.  They encourage their teammates to do the same.  Satisfied stakeholders help you create a reputation as being a high performing team.

Welcome and Use Feedback – good team players know that they can always get better.  They seek out feedback from other team members.  They listen carefully to the feedback they receive and they incorporate suggestions into their behavior.  When you solicit feedback and use it, the people on your team will see you as someone who is interested in becoming a high performer and helping the team to become known as a high performing team.

Meet Commitments – good team players do what they say they’ll do.  People know that they can count on the.  If they find that circumstances are preventing them from meeting a commitment, they notify the people who will be affected right away.

Honesty – good team players tell the truth.  They are candid and courageous.  Their team members know that they can count on them to be truthful.  On the other hand, they never use honesty as an excuse for being hurtful.  Good team members don’t say malicious things in the guise of honesty.  They use the truth to help move the team forward.

Initiative – good team players look for things that need to be done – and then they do them.  They don’t wait to be told what to do.  They volunteer for the tough jobs and do them well.  They are one step ahead, anticipating needs and addressing them.

Trusting – good team members trust their colleagues.  They expect them to do what they say they will do.  This trust is generally rewarded.  When others feel trusted, they do their best to live up to their commitments.

Trustworthy – good team members act in a manner that lets their colleagues know that they can be trusted.  Besides meeting commitments, they keep confidences.  They don’t gossip.  They may argue about team decisions in the privacy of the team, but they publicly support all team decisions.

Consensus Builder – good team members look for ways to creatively resolve differences.  They focus on small points of agreement and use them to build creative solutions to problems.  They solicit the input to ensure that all sides of an issue are in the open and then they look for solutions that are acceptable to the entire team.

Empathy – good team players work hard to understand the views of others; especially those people with whom they disagree.  They focus on understanding the situations that give rise to others points of view.  They put themselves in the place of others so that they can better understand them.

Respect – good team members never dismiss anyone out of hand.  They believe that every human being has value and is entitled to their respect, regardless of where they stand in the hierarchy.

Commitment to the Team’s Success – good team members think “we” before “me”.  They commit to their team’s success.  They are willing to make personal sacrifices to ensure that the team meets its objectives and commitments.

Focus on Task and Process – good team members focus not only on what the team needs to accomplish, they also focus on how the team accomplishes what it sets out to do.  They pay keen attention to how the team works together and offer up suggestions for better working relationships within the team.

Humility – good team members realize that they are part of something greater than themselves.  This realization keeps them humble.  They keep a level head, even when they are singled out for their contributions.  They know that the entire team, not just them, are responsible for their team’s success.

Supportive – good team members are always willing to help and support their colleagues.  They offer their support in getting the work done as well as their moral supports.  Their team members see them as someone to whom they can turn when things get tough.

Active Listening – good team members really listen. They pay attention to the not only what is being said, but the emotions behind the words.  They ask questions to make sure they understand.  They realize that human communication is an imperfect process, so they work extra hard to make sure that they are receiving the same message that it being sent.

Flexibility – good team members realize that stuff happens; and that when stuff happens, the best plans might need to be changed.  They are willing to go with the flow and pick up the slack.  They are not rigid and react to sudden changes in a cool and calm manner.

Example – good team members set a positive example for their teammates.  They conduct themselves with integrity.  They respect their colleagues.  They always do their best.  They help their teammates and the team be better than they think they can be.

These are my thoughts on what it takes to be a great team player.  If you are a great team player you will build the strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that help you in your corporate climb.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Career success is dependent on being a team player.  Good team players exhibit several characteristics:  Technical competence, sharing orientation, good interpersonal skills, self reliant, focus on stakeholders, welcome and use feedback, meet commitments, honesty, take initiative, trusting, trustworthy, consensus builder, respectful, resolve conflict positively, committed to the team’s success, focus on task and process, humble, supportive, active listening, flexible, set a positive example.  Work hard to develop these characteristics.  If you do, you’ll become a valuable team player and be on the road to the life and career success you want and deserve.

That’s my career advice on becoming a team player.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As this post is a draft of a chapter for a book I am writing, I am particularly interested in your feedback.  Your comments will help me improve my latest book.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I value and appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site on September 1.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  To celebrate the grand opening, I’m giving away a new career advice book I’ve written called I Want YOU…To Succeed in Your Corporate Climb.  You can find out about the membership site and get the career advice in I Want YOU… for free by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.

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  1. Bud, I am a long time lurker first time poster. I do agree with your comments. I made sure you covered being positive and you did. That is a biggie with me. One thing I would add is to commit to top quality production. You touched on it with the integrity comment but I feel it’s worthy of it’s own bullet. I say this because I have a very high level of quality expectation which occasionally takes a beating when managers and co-workers opt to compromise quality and integrity for timelimes and cost. This means I have to be my own quality cheerleader which I am committed to do.

    I would love your op on something. I have been in a professional setting since 1988 so I am not a spring chicken. Occasionally I get e-mails from co-workers and/or managers thanking me for stepping up and delivering in a pinch. Yesterday I sent an e-mail to a co-worker thanking him for pinch-hitting for me last week. His response basically was to say ‘hey it’s just my job’ and I was very disappointed by his comeback. It is the end of the year, review time, and e-mails and letters like that can be taken to the performance review and used as leverage. My e-mail was intended to be a blessing and I felt like it was minimized. Perhaps I am out of touch. Am I wrong to send e-mails of thanks and gratitude? Have they lost value in the corporate environment? Thanks in advance. Ruthie

  2. I said ‘pinch hitting’ but I meant ‘pitch hitting’ – my dyslexia kicked in on that one.

  3. I left a comment earlier but it’s gone. What happened?

  4. Ruthie:
    Thanks for your comment. I really apprecaite it.
    I think you are right about qaulity — it can suffer from expediency, and that is a problem.
    Regarding your question — I agree that your coworker was less than gracious. I can see where you can take his response as minimizing your thanks.
    On the other hand, maybe he was a bit embarrased to receive your email. In my opinion, we don’t recognize one another as much as we should. When you’re not used to recognition, it can be hard to know how to respond properly.
    On the other hand, he may have seen stepping up and filling in for you as “just his job” so it was no big deal.
    In Spanish, the typical reply to the word “Gracias” (thank you) is “de nada” (it’s nothing). Maybe he felt that way.
    Regardless of his motivation, you did the right thing by thanking him for helping you out. You can take satisfaction in that. You did the right thing.
    Happy Thanksgiving,

  5. Ruthie:
    I approved your comment — and I replied to it.
    Not sure what happened, and why you’re not seeing it.

  6. Bud I see the comments now.

    Thank you for responding. Twice I have commented on bloggers columns and they do not respond to my comments which makes me wonder if they are being read, or maybe they don’t want to network with their readers. I always strive to leave positive comments or ask questions that I think would help others. So thank you for caring enough to respond to my question.

  7. You’re welcome Ruthie:
    I look for comments every day, and usually respond to all of them.
    I appreciate you taking the time to comment — and for making sure you received a response.
    If you send me an email ( with the best email address for you, I will send you the eversions of a couple of my books.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  8. I myself am currently in a Supervisor position. I have always based my focus in my position as being a “team player”. I find myself recently involved with several employees who are quick to point out flaws of other employees. THese employees they are judging our people who, our older and have been in these positions for years. I feel we all will be in this predicament one day, when we aren’t as quick on our feet as we would have been in our thirties. I don’t walk on water, so I try not to be so judgmental with others. I feel this could really be a negative aspect for our whole department if it isn’t addressed. Ever been in this situation?

  9. Thanks for your comment Polly.
    I have seen situations like this before. It is toxic.
    Two thoughts here — first, it is never appropriate to criticize people behind their back. As a supervisor it is incumbent on you to put a stop to malicious gossip. You need to explain to the employees who are critical of their peers that this behavior is not appropriate and you expect it to stop. Second, regardless of a person’s age, he or she should be able to do the work associated with his or her job. If someone is not performing at an appropriate leve, as a supervisor it is up to you to address their performance deficiencies.
    I don’t know the type of work you supervisor, so I can’t be more specific here.
    All the best,

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