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What does it mean to be a “team player”? This is a common term that describes a set of invaluable characteristics. Essentially, being a team player means that one is able to work well with others and collaborate on projects. Employers are actively seeking this quality in candidates with the hope that they can assemble a staff full of team players.    Fortunately, becoming a team player is a skill that can be developed. 

Before we dive into a few ways to be a better team player, it’s important to elaborate upon just what a “team player” is and is not. Being a team player doesn’t mean holding back from challenging ideas or avoiding disagreements for the sake of being liked. You shouldn’t fall behind on your own commitments because you didn’t want to disappoint others. To a degree, being a team player is about your ability to get along and be agreeable with others, but this doesn’t mean sacrificing your own contributions. 

Embrace Curiosity

Curiosity is a great mindset that guards you against complacency and encourages growth. In addition, it stops you from blaming others and helps foster accountability. The best way to develop curiosity is to simply ask more questions to others and to yourself. Ask questions that will challenge your point of view. For instance, ask, “What else here is true?” “What are my blind spots?” “How am I part of this problem?” Being curious will allow you to better value your fellow teammates’ contributions and feedback without it feeling like criticism.

Have a Dual Focus

Pay attention to individual team member needs as well as what the whole team needs. A dual focus will deepen your relationship with each team member, and by helping them with their personal goals, you’ll deliver value to the team as a whole. Your dual focus strengthens your team by developing your teammates, which is also a prized leadership trait.

Be Flexible in Your Communication

Your colleagues will likely have a different communication style than you. It is valuable, then, to temporarily adjust your communication style during important interactions. The best way to figure out how others communicate is by observing them. What kind of communication do they prefer? Do they tend to focus on the details or share the big picture? Do they prioritize data and logic or relationships and people? Being flexible in your communication can help you to better understand your teammates, thus allowing you to better collaborate with them.