“Effective team player” — it seems like every company on the planet wants them.
And every person looking for a job wants to be one.
But obviously, not everyone is equally good at it. I’m sure you’ve been on a team already with someone who made the experience very difficult. (I know I sure have!)
Thankfully, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with many individuals who are excellent team players.
And through all my experience, I’ve realized that the difference between these two types of people boils down to 8 personality traits.
Let’s have a look at what they are.
1) You’re willing to learn
Every team has a unifying goal, whether it’s hitting a sales target, putting together a presentation, or any one of a myriad types of tasks.
To accomplish your goal, each member of the team needs to have certain skills to carry out their part.
That’s why one of the key personality traits of an effective team player is a willingness to always keep learning.
No matter how many years you’ve been doing your job, or how masterful you feel at it, there is always something for you to learn.
Maybe an unexpected problem pops up that you haven’t dealt with before. Or simply the dynamics of this particular team are different from the others you’ve worked with before.
Regardless, you will for sure need to adapt to something new. This is true whether you acknowledge it or not — but you will only work well with your team if you do.
2) You own up to your mistakes
Let’s face it, even the most professional and put-together looking company has a lot of ish go down behind the scenes.
Things go wrong, deadlines are pushed back, or problems come up in places that you didn’t even know they could exist.
This is basically inevitable. So now there are only two options.
People on your team try to point the finger at someone else, or ignore the problem to avoid having to admit they did something wrong. (As you can imagine, this usually just makes the problem 10 times worse!)
Or, people speak up about their mistakes immediately, in time to still do something about them and minimize the consequences.
Of course, the second possibility is the one that makes the team work effectively together.
Remember, it is human to make mistakes — and it is your reaction to those mistakes that determines what kind of human you are.
3) You’re adaptable
Have you ever had something go 100% according to plan?
If yes, you must have some sort of magic spell — because as we all know, life is unpredictable, and the same goes for any project or task.
Things change, and when they do, how do you respond?
Do you resist, stubbornly clinging to your original plan? Or do you adapt, adjusting your sails to meet the shifting winds?
This is the next trait that makes an effective team player.
Take the case of a team working on a marketing campaign, and suddenly, due to unforeseen circumstances, the budget gets cut by half. Now, the original plan won’t work.
An adaptable team player doesn’t dwell on what can’t be done. Instead, they focus on finding a new solution to make the best of the current situation.
4) You’re reliable
Reliability is a cornerstone trait of any great team player. This simply means that you do what you say you’ll do.
Sounds straightforward, right? But it’s a trait that can be surprisingly hard to come by.
Let’s say your team is working on a big project. Each member is assigned a task to complete.
If you promise to have your part done by Friday, but come Monday, it’s still not finished, this throws off the entire team’s schedule. Not only does it delay the project, but it also creates a domino effect of setbacks for other team members.
On the other hand, if you consistently follow through on your commitments, it creates trust within your team.
Everyone knows they can count on you, and this makes for a positive and productive work environment.
5) You’re a great listener
Here’s a personality trait that makes you not just a great team player, but also a great partner, a great parent, a great friend, and basically just great overall.
Great listeners don’t just hear words, they understand, empathize, and respond in ways that add value to the conversation.
Imagine a team meeting where everyone’s busy pushing their own ideas, talking over each other, and no one’s really hearing anyone else. It’s chaos, right?
In fact, I wouldn’t even call this “teamwork”, but rather a bunch of people trying to work individually together.
Now picture a different scenario where each person takes the time to listen, understand, and then speak. It’s much more peaceful and productive, and actually collaborative.
So, how can you become a better listener? Practice active listening. It’s not just about being quiet, but being present, showing empathy, and trying to understand other perspectives.
6) You’re respectful
This one should be obvious, so hopefully I don’t even need to say this — but it is also too important to leave off the list.
Any great team player is always respectful, period.
I know a manager at an important bank who once told me about another manager he works with. This individual unfortunately must be going through something terrible, because he was not respectful to his teammates at all.
He cursed and raised his voice during meetings and refused to listen to other people to the point he talked over them.
I don’t know the specifics of the meeting, but I know that no matter what the topic under discussion was, this kind of behavior is never acceptable.
And this manager completely lost the respect of his colleagues in return.
Unsurprisingly, he didn’t last at the company for much longer — because it is impossible to work in a team with a person like this.
7) You genuinely want to help others
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche that there is no “I” in team — but this is something helpful to remember, because being a team player is in fact not about you but about everyone else.
You’re not on the team just to get your own tasks done. You have to make sure that your role fits seamlessly in with everyone else’s.
It’s about your attitude towards the work you all share.
You step up when another member is struggling and extend a helping hand, even when it’s not your own assigned task — and even when it’s inconvenient for you.
You offer help because you genuinely care about the team’s success.
I recall an incident at my previous job. We were racing against time on a project, and one team member fell ill. He had a critical task to complete, and now it looked like our entire schedule could be delayed.
A colleague who normally had a completely different role already stepped in to help. She put in extra hours, learned the ropes of the new task, and made sure we stayed on track.
Her selfless act not only saved the project but also boosted our team’s morale. We all felt a renewed sense of camaraderie and drive.
8) You’re a great communicator
Above, I mentioned the importance of being a great listener for teamwork — well, we cannot forget the other side of the coin, which is communication.
Because listening helps you understand other people’s perspectives. But if you don’t share your own, you’re not actually contributing to the team.
The foundation of this is to clearly share with your team updates on your own tasks, and any problems or setbacks that come up, so that everyone is on the same page.
But it’s more than that — it’s also about sharing observations and insights for how to prevent possible problems in the future or ideas how to make things more efficient.
And let’s not forget the importance of expressing appreciation and gratitude to other people on the team. A good communicator forms an emotional bridge and a sense of togetherness.
To communicate well, you need empathy, so you can evaluate different situations to understand which information is necessary for the team to know at the moment, and how to best deliver it.
It can take time to develop this trait, but once you do, you’ll be sure to see your team benefit from it.
Want to level-up your teamwork skills?
You’ve just learned 8 personality traits that make you an effective team player.
Did you recognize any of them in yourself? Maybe you can even relate to all 8 — which means you’re a truly exceptional team player. Congrats!
But hey, even if it’s just a couple, or even none — don’t feel down. When I started my career, I could identify with at best 2 of these.
But over time, I worked on developing the others, and as I worked with different teams, I saw my abilities improve until I became one of the best team players.
And that means that you can do the same! Remember, you can always work on yourself in any area you like to uplevel your skills and become the person you dream of being.