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What Makes a Team Player? Top 10 Qualities and Tips

Learn what makes a great team player in this article. We cover the components, top qualities, and tips on how to become a better team player.

Jared Posey
Writer at Motion
Mar 25, 2024
Table of contents

Being a team player doesn’t mean silently going along with the majority. What makes someone valuable is using their skills to make their whole team better.

Not only do team players make positive contributions, but they also actively listen to and engage with others’ contributions.

This article looks deeper into how to be a solid team player. We include 10 must-have qualities and provide our 10 top tips to level up your place on any team.

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Why being a team player matters

First, let’s break down the possible benefits your company can gain when your team is working at a high level.

Better outcomes

A commitment to teamwork elevates the results an organization can accomplish.

A 2023 report by The Project Management Institute found that teams that are skilled in communication and collaboration experience improved project success and better maintain their budgets.

Team synergy doesn’t just improve outcomes. It also brings a resilience that can overcome adversity and turn setbacks into opportunities for innovation.

Think about a tech startup that experiences a product bug on the verge of its launch. Rather than throwing around blame or panicking, the team works together to fix the issue — and even adds a breakthrough feature to improve the app.

Growth and leadership

The skills that are polished through effective teamwork — empathy, communication, and conflict resolution — are essential for leadership roles.

Therefore, being a team player accelerates the path to career advancement. These individuals showcase their ability to contribute to the team, which is often looked back on when the organization needs leaders.

Positive work culture

A company that excels in teamwork creates an environment where employees want to work. Companies that don’t manage their teamwork well, on the other hand, struggle to keep talent around.

Two-thirds of knowledge workers aren’t happy with how their team works together. Over half are considering leaving.

On the other hand, employees stick around when they belong to high-performing teams that value their contributions. And it’s not hard to see why since teamwork helps them feel:

  • Valued
  • Motivated
  • Connected

What makes a good team player? 10 must-have qualities

Good team players are expert communicators. They’re also reliable and flexible. Let’s dig deeper into 10 must-have qualities of team players today.

List of team player qualities

‎1. They listen with empathy

A good team player doesn’t just hear. They listen. They tap into the subtle nuances of what’s said so they can understand the emotions and root causes at play.

For example, when strategizing, they might pick up on hesitation in a fellow teammate’s voice. Instead of moving forward, they’d check in with that employee and consider their concerns to improve the plan.

2. They solve problems

When team players encounter roadblocks, they don’t look to others to start solving them. Instead, they jump in with creativity and grit. They proactively draw on their own knowledge and the team’s collective insights to resolve the issue.

3. They inspire and motivate

In the face of adversity, high-quality team members encourage and uplift the team.

For example, if a team is bogged down in a grueling project, a team player would pick up on any doubt and fatigue they might be showing. They might send an email to all the team members telling them of a challenging past project that they got through and how that situation became a positive learning experience for them.

4. They speak up in helpful ways

Team players provide constructive feedback and helpful insights. They don’t shy away from offering their perspective, but they do so with respect.

They might, for example, notice a pattern of missed deadlines and suggest a new project management tool to improve the team’s level of organization.

5. They harness the power of diversity

A good team player knows that diversity is a huge asset. They see the value in bringing together diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills.

Team players help the team pull from these rich reserves to add unique insights. This leads to groundbreaking solutions the whole team can get behind.

6. They keep themselves and others accountable

Great teammates own their mistakes and work hard to correct them. They model accountability and, as a result, build trust.

Diverse group shows camaraderie

‎For example, a salesperson who missed an important meeting might send an apology directly to the client, taking full responsibility. They might then work extra hours to make things right and win back the client’s trust.

7. They show patience

Effective collaborators know the value of timing in decision-making and taking action.

Some tasks, like conducting research, building relationships, and mastering new skills, can’t be rushed. As such, team players complete these things in the amount of time necessary. They value quality over speed.

8. They transform collaboration

Team players pave the way for high-level collaboration via active listening and maintaining an open mind. They bring out the best in their fellow staff.

For example, a marketing professional might recognize their team is stuck on a campaign. As a result, they might organize an “idea marathon” where they encourage their teammates to bring forward unconventional ideas. This could transform the campaign and change its direction for the better.

9. They demonstrate emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence involves self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy.

Good team players manage their own emotions, of course. But they also recognize and respond to the emotions of others.

For example, they might feel that their stress level is rising and incorporate a mindfulness practice to remedy the issue. Or they might sense that a teammate is going through something challenging and offer to have a heart-to-heart with them.

10. They contribute to the company’s vision

Team players understand and align with the team’s overarching goals. They don’t get lost in the weeds. Instead, they see the big picture and integrate it into their work.

An example of this would be a software developer who doesn’t get so engrossed with coding that they forget about the company’s mission to create user-friendly software.

How to be a better team player: Our 10 best tips

Now that you know what a team player looks like, let’s discuss how you can get there.

1. Listen actively (including during virtual meetings)

Listening attentively has always been one of the best ways to be part of a team. It’s even more important when you’re working remotely because you have fewer nonverbal cues to work with.

An employee uses active listening virtually

‎Embrace the nuances of virtual communication. Paraphrase or summarize what the speaker says to ensure you’re fully understanding them.

You can also jot down key points or questions to ask later during these meetings. Just make sure you’re truly listening and not simply waiting to respond.

Lastly, read between the lines and try to listen to anything that is being implied instead of said outright.

2. Cultivate openness to strengthen bonds

Openness isn’t just a means of communication. It’s a tool for relationship-building.

You can help create a space where honesty flourishes by candidly sharing your thoughts, vulnerabilities, and even failures.

You could also encourage obstacle brainstorming sessions, where the team thinks up possible issues that could spring up during a project. Putting these problems out in the open normalizes them and creates a culture where struggles can be overcome.

“Ask Me Anything” sessions among coworkers can be a fun way to promote openness, as well.

3. Celebrate achievements with a personal touch

Go beyond generic thank-yous to recognize your peers in meaningful ways. For example, mention specific challenges certain team members conquered or highlight the unique contributions they’ve made to a project.

That can be done through a handwritten note or a personal email. Or you might give them a book or a course to help them further develop in an area they’re interested in.

4. Transform feedback into partnerships

View feedback as a way of not just sharing advice but also forming a partnership where both of you can explore new ideas and improve your personal strategies.

Team players using feedback together

‎After feedback discussions, set group goals that multiple teammates can work toward. It’s all about creating a system that values growth over criticism.

5. Connect through shared experiences

Great team players know how to build connections. If you work in the office with your teammates, have a walk-and-talk meeting with a coworker or two. This is an invigorating way to shake up the setting and work on your team strategy in a new way.

If you’re virtual, coordinate a “global dinner party,” where team members from different cultures and locations can cook unique dishes and then tell the group about them.

A few other ideas include:

  • Sharing a weekly podcast and discussing it
  • Starting a group email for your team to share weekly highlights and any personal news they might have
  • Hosting virtual groups based on mutual interests, such as crafting

6. Promise and deliver with integrity

Every promise is an opportunity. By setting and achieving realistic goals, you demonstrate your reliability to the team.

This doesn’t mean you can’t pivot if you’ve overcommitted, though. Changing things up when necessary is a chance to show your integrity to your team. Own your mistake if you’ve overscheduled yourself or your teammates, and commit to a new deadline.

7. Navigate change with grace

Adaptation is essential in the workplace. Rather than resisting change, approach it with a positive, proactive attitude. Encourage your team to do the same.

Consider the implementation of new software as an example. Instead of complaining about the time needed to learn it or its shortcomings, work on becoming a master at it and share your insights with your team members.

8. Ignite a passion for learning and innovation

A good team player is curious. They’re always learning and sharing new knowledge.

Transform lunchtime with “lunch and learn” sessions where you and your teammates share new insights you’ve learned or skills you’ve developed. For example, you could discuss a new coding language you’re picking up or a productivity hack you’ve found useful.

You could also host an idea board in your workspace where you and your fellow team members can post ideas and anything that inspires you.

9. Transform conflicts with empathy

Effective teammates understand their peers and use empathy to diffuse tensions before they have a chance to boil over.

Team player helps diffuse a conflict

‎Act as an informal mediator if you notice conflict emerging between two team members. You may have to speak with them individually before suggesting that they come together to resolve the issue. Once you do, help them de-escalate the problem by speaking with respect and reminding them of their shared purpose.

10. Set an example with your actions

Demonstrate your commitment to the team through your behavior. You can do this by exemplifying dedication, resilience, and a positive outlook.

Inspire your colleagues to elevate their own performance and teamwork, too. That might mean offering assistance without being asked or taking initiative when you see a process that needs to be improved.

What does the future look like for team players?

It’s an exciting time for the future of team players. While technological breakthroughs are dominating headlines, it’s the human skills that will ultimately enable teams to benefit from the potential of these tools.

So, yes, employees will need to adapt to virtual meetings, harness AI tools for powerful insights, and use new remote working apps as necessary. As these technologies become universal, the differentiator will be found in how team players evolve their intangible skills.

The best team players will continuously upskill, reskill, and adapt to trends.

The core of team collaboration — soft skills and emotional intelligence — will become more critical than ever. The ability to empathize, communicate, and create a positive team dynamic will be indispensable.

A generational shift will impact teams, as well. For example, Gen Z will make up close to a third of the workforce within the next few years. This younger generation has a solid digital skillset and places more of an emphasis on well-being than earlier ones.

The concept of leadership itself will also transform. The traditional hierarchy will become more flexible and pave the way for shared leadership. The concept of “lead from any seat” will become more prevalent.

Being a team player in this new era will involve balancing tech skills with people skills — while keeping evolution at the core.

Maximize your teamwork with Motion

Now that you’ve learned the qualities that make a team player and gone through our pro tips on becoming one, there’s no time like the present to get started.

Focus on implementing one or two of these tips a week. Over time, you’ll be the type of coworker other team members love to work with and look up to for inspiration.

At Motion, we power productivity from the individual to the organizational level. Our AI-enabled app is an advanced calendar tool that can streamline task and project management.

Discover how you can be 137% more productive. Try Motion for free today!

Jared Posey
Jared Posey is a business, SaaS, and productivity freelance writer with a passion for conencting readers with high-quality content. When he's not polishing up a sentence or conducting SERP research, you'll find him making his kids laugh and his wife shake her head.
Written by Jared Posey