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5 ideal team player skills you need to thrive at work

two coworkers are happily working together showing team player skills

It’s no surprise that team player skills are vital to building a company culture that is productive and positive. In fact, more than 80% of employers say the ability to work in a team is a key attribute when searching for candidates in the hiring process.

But, it can be difficult to articulate your team player skills on a resume or in an interview, let alone in a way that stands out. Even if you’re not searching for a job, many employers and employees agree good collaboration within a team can make a huge difference for the group’s productivity and morale. 

No team project or dynamic is ever the same, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to developing your team player skills. It’s up to you and the feedback you receive from others to decide how best to work within a team, build work relationships, and be a valued contributor. 

To get a sense of where the workforce is at when it comes to teamwork and how important those skills are, here are recent statistics on workforce collaboration: 

  • Time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more. [2]
  • 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees. As people become known for being both capable and willing to help, they are drawn into projects and roles of growing importance. [2]
  • 31% of employees report most or almost all of work is done in teams. [3]
  • 39% of employees report people in their organization don’t collaborate enough. [4]
  • 14% leaders report they are completely satisfied with their organization’s ability to communicate and collaborate. [5]
  • 86% of employees and executives list a lack of teamwork as the primary reason for project failures. [6]

Obviously teamwork continues to be a struggle for both businesses and individuals, even as work continues to be done in a more collaborative and cross-functional approach.

So, what makes a good team player? How can you show hiring managers, potential employers, or your current boss and team that you work well with a group? If you’re told that your collaboration skills need work, what are some steps you can take to improve and stand out? 

We’re breaking those answers down, along with sharing some key actions you can take to refine your team player skills.

Table of contents
What are the top skills of a team player?
Spoiler alert: Team players excel at work
How can you get started?

What are the top skills of a team player?

Let’s get right into the meat and potatoes: the must-have skills for being a good team player. These skills are: 

  • Communication
  • Flexibility
  • Responsibility
  • Problem solving
  • Positivity

Got the high-level overview? Now we’ll take a closer look at each of these skills. 

1. Communication

What it looks like

  • Providing regular updates to your boss about your individual work as well as any project updates done by a group.
  • Setting clear deadlines for projects and giving advance notice to all parties involved if those deadlines cannot be met.
  • Sharing what information, tools, or support you need to be successful with your boss and team.
  • Offering regular updates to your team about the status of your work for the shared project.
  • Asking teammates about their work, preferences, suggestions, and more.

How it shows up in a resume or interview

To show hiring managers you have communication skills, be sure to include your communication rhythms on your resume. For example, if you list a project you worked on under your experience, share what communication was needed to keep management and coworkers informed

In the interview, good communication is easy to show off. Be sure to make eye contact, ask if you don’t understand the question, and answer succinctly. Don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager questions, too!  

Quick tips to improve your communication skills

  • Listen to understand instead of waiting before you have a chance to speak.
  • Take notes during meetings and share the notes with the attendees after to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Write and speak simply and briefly so people can easily understand and not be distracted by irrelevant details.
  • Be honest. If someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, simply say, “I don’t know—but I will look into it and get back to you.”

2. Flexibility

What it looks like

  • Readily offering help or taking on additional tasks that aren’t necessarily part of your job description, but benefit the team.
  • Being open to other ideas and approaches for how to solve the problem.
  • Anticipating project adjustments and accepting any change with positivity.

How it shows up in a resume or interview

The best way you can demonstrate that you know how to be flexible is in the situational (“what would you do if…”) and behavioral (“tell me about a time when…”) questions recruiters and hiring managers love to ask.

When asked about difficult projects or circumstances, share how you pitched in to help take the load off of someone’s plate or how you adapted when the team modified the original project deadlines. These responses will show potential employers that you aren’t afraid of change and can adjust your approach to whatever is best for the team. 

Quick tips be more flexible

  • Ask for feedback often.
  • Keep an open mind when working with others. Remind yourself that old approaches and solutions aren’t necessarily the best ones and fresh perspectives can be helpful.
  • Anticipate changes and new developments will happen when working with others.
  • Stay positive (more on this a little later).

3. Responsibility

What it looks like

Responsibility is an obvious skill to be a good team player. However, there are two types of responsibility when it comes to working with a team. Both are important to have in order for a working team to be successful.

Sole responsibility

  • Putting heavy focus on your individual contributions 
  • Preferring to have control over your own projects rather than working with others
  • Owning up to any of your own mistakes

Shared responsibility

  • Preferring responsibility to be placed on a group rather than yourself 
  • Sharing success with the rest of the team and collaborating with others 

Both types of responsibility are important to be a team player. Having a strong sense of shared responsibility creates a bond within the team and encourages open communication and collaboration. That should be balanced with sole responsibility, which keeps individuals accountable for their own work within a group. 

How it shows up in a resume or interview
To show hiring managers you are responsible for yourself and can be a good collaborator, highlight the deliverables you’re accountable for on your resume. For example, if you were part of a project team, list your role in the team and what work you did for the group on a weekly or monthly basis. Then, share the overall project outcomes you and the team were able to achieve.

This two-part approach highlights the individual responsibilities you held, while showing you are able to collaborate with others to meet a goal. Similarly in the interview, be sure to talk about the work you’re accountable for in your role, both individually and within group settings. 

Finally, sometimes the simplest things are the best for demonstrating responsibility—like showing up on time and ensuring you’re adequately prepared. 

Quick tips to be more responsible

  • Follow through with commitments and meet deadlines.
  • Complete the tasks based on what is most important, not in order that they’re given.
  • Own up for any mistakes and look for solutions.
  • Understand how your actions impact your whole team.
  • Ask for help from teammates when you need it.
  • Celebrate milestones and accomplishments with your team.
  • Praise and thank teammates for their contributions. 

Typically, a person leans more to one type of responsibility than the other. It’s important to understand what your default is. Then, when dividing group work, it’s easier to assign roles based on each person’s strengths. 

An F4S assessment can help you and your team members understand what your motivations are and how they fit within the context of the entire team. Remember, knowledge is power. 

4. Problem solving

What it looks like

  • Asking questions often
  • Being ready to offer a solution (or two) when an issue comes up
  • Planning for the unexpected
  • Considering all possible options when looking for an answer
  • Proposing new, more efficient ways of working 

How it shows up in a resume or interview

A common phrase employers like to see on resumes is analytical thinking—but many people don’t consider themselves analytical, even if they have those problem-solving skills in reality. While you can certainly list analytical thinking or problem solving in your resume skill section, a more effective and impressive approach is to share solutions you proposed and implemented in previous positions.

Maybe you found a more efficient way to do a task in your daily role or maybe you suggested an idea and the team actually pursued that direction. Include these experiences on a resume or share them in an interview with a potential employer. Both are great examples of problem solving skills. And even better? They prove that you can walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

Quick tips to be a better problem solver

  • Brainstorm solutions to problems and ask for feedback from your team or manager.
  • Actively consider what might become a problem and take action to solve it.
  • Think backwards. Consider what an ideal scenario would be and work backwards to know where to start.
  • Find a solution and then find one or two backups just in case the first solution falls through.
  • Ask questions of team members and other stakeholders to see if there are areas that haven’t been fully thought through.

5. Positivity

What it looks like

  • Being respectful and assuming good intent from team members.
  • Avoiding negative reactions when a problem arises.
  • Looking for the good in every situation.
  • Expecting issues to come up and planning to respond calmly.
  • Having good rapport with colleagues.
  • Celebrating team wins.

How it shows up in a resume or interview

Positivity is an important skill, but it can feel tricky to demonstrate within the confines of your resume or a typical hiring process.

One of the biggest things to pay attention to is the small talk you have with your interviewer. For whatever reason, many of us have the tendency to go negative with our small talk—as if those shared, less-than-desirable experiences unite us. We complain about the traffic, the weather, or the fact that it’s a Monday. Instead of falling into that trap, chat about something positive.

It’s a small change, but it makes a big difference. Many hiring managers will hire for attitude over traditional hard skills, so demonstrating that you can stay positive will help you stand out from other candidates.

Quick tips to be more positive

  • Focus on long-term objectives instead of fleeting disappointments.
  • Build good relationships with team members.
  • Give yourself and coworkers grace when either of you makes mistakes.
  • Fake it! Even fake positivity (not done sarcastically, of course) can help train yourself to think positively and create a constructive environment with your team.

Spoiler alert: Team players excel at work

If someone perfectly executed the skills listed above, they’d be the ultimate coworker, right?

In the end, it all comes down to respect. While no one is perfect, the more you make an effort and work to develop your team player skills, better relationships with coworkers and management will hopefully follow. 

As mentioned earlier, nearly one-third of value-add collaboration comes from a small percentage of employees. This means employees who can work in a team and do it well will thrive.

Management will see the value you bring to the group and continue to draw you in for more projects and more important work. If you can master being a good team player, you’re far more likely to set yourself on the fast track to develop your career.

How can you get started?

If you’re not sure where to start to improve your team player skills, ask a friend, coworker, or your boss for feedback on areas you could develop. Additionally, look into development programs at your workplace to see what resources are available, such as a mentorship program or training.

F4S also has tons of free resources, including personalized coaching to help you hone in on the skills you want to level up—and actually take steps to improve them.

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