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Last Updated on August 10, 2020

13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work

13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work

It may sound obvious, but most people prefer to work with those who are team-oriented. A survey found that 79 percent of employers look for this attribute in job candidates.[1]

The words “team player” are often bandied about (on resumes, in particular). But what does it mean to truly be a team player?

It means recognizing that when the whole group meets its goals, everyone on the team shines. You, individually, may not be singled out for your contributions, but your team will be praised. Together, you rise.

Teamwork is required for almost every industry. If you have ever been on a team in high school or college, some attributes of being a team player at the office will come naturally. But whether you’re an athlete or not, great team behavior can be learned.

Here are 13 ways you can be a true team player at work.

1. Compete, But Keep the Competition Friendly

There is nothing wrong with a little intra-team competitiveness. In fact, it can keep everyone on the team sharp. After all, top management has set high benchmarks, and it’s perfectly normal to feel that your team will best all the other teams in the office.

As your team leaps over interim goals, a little friendly boasting about it keeps everyone on his or her top game. Just don’t let the bragging rights get out of hand. You want your team to win, of course, but at the end of the day, your company wins when all the teams are working well together.

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2. Develop a Team Mentality

It’s a cliché to say, “There’s no ‘I’ in the word ‘team.’” But what does it mean? It means that there is no “star system” at the office. You and your teammates need to honestly evaluate each idea and develop the best one, regardless of who on the team suggested the idea.

It may be humbling, but sometimes, the intern has the best idea. Other times, the boss does. By keeping an open mind and staying title-neutral about the origins of ideas, you and your teammates will learn to sift through ideas, finding the pearl that wins the new piece of business.

3. Go All In

Once the team settles on the winning idea, commit your all to it. Sometimes, you will love the idea so much that you wish you had thought of it. Other times, you may secretly think that the team did not rise to the occasion. The best idea may not be chosen, but once the decision is made to get behind an idea, being a team player means that you put your all into executing it with panache.

Consider how people on creative teams in the advertising or entertainment industries are often called on to execute ideas that weren’t their personal top choice. Particularly if the winning idea was not your favorite, your clients will appreciate your enthusiasm in giving full attention to the idea they selected.

4. Respect Other People’s Ideas

There are subtle ways in which we all cut down other people’s ideas. One way is when we dismiss an idea before we thoroughly understand it. Another tactic is to claim that the brainstorming meeting is running long, and you’ll all take up the idea in a future meeting.

Talking over someone who is explaining an idea you don’t like is another way of showing little respect. You and your ideas will be taken more seriously when you accord respect to other people’s ideas. You don’t have to love the ideas. But it’s only polite to listen to them.

5. Volunteer Your Time, Energy, and Your Technology

Treat your team members like family, meaning that you are willing to do whatever it takes for the team’s overall wellbeing. That could mean running out to buy a pizza for a team member who has to work late into the evening or stepping up and take a share of a stressed-out team member’s workload to get through the crunch.

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If you are the techie on the team, be ready to solve or instruct on any computer glitches to keep productivity at its pinnacle. Think of a medical setting where team members never balk at another member’s request as they work to address a patient’s injury or illness. Their sole focus is on working collectively to increase the chances of a positive outcome for the patient.

6. Be Transparent About Facts, Figures, and Timelines

The best team members commit to collaboration over competition. This means freely sharing all information openly so as not to undermine the work or performance of anyone on your team. Together, you cultivate an underlying trust that each will share whatever information he or she receives that will inform and support the team.

In any customer service role, when multiple team members may be assisting with meeting the needs of a customer, openly briefing others on the situation will improve the response. Customers can perceive when a company they’re doing business with doesn’t have a strong team spirit and will just take their business elsewhere.

7. Meet Your Deadlines

Great team players help each other complete work on time. No one wants to be the one who lets down the rest of the team by failing to hit a deadline. Not only does being a team player help make you accountable when performing time-sensitive tasks, but it also helps you adapt to and appreciate others’ work styles.

A team preparing a market research report will rely on individual team members to provide their separate elements—data analysis, report narrative, layout and graphics, editing, and so on. Keeping everyone on task so that the deadline is met means learning how to honor a timeline, whether you’re someone who paces your work or a last-minute procrastinator.

8. Take One for the Team

Every so often, the powers-that-be in the company may ask your team to change direction. Maybe the bosses loved the team’s idea the first time they heard it, but have gathered new intelligence since then. When that’s the case, being a team player means knowing that you may have to work longer hours than you anticipated to see a new idea through.

Offer to stay late and get in early. Show that you can pivot seamlessly.

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9. Stay Flexible

Ideas evolve, but when you are on a winning team, you don’t have to thrash out every single facet of the idea by yourself. You have a whole team to do that. Over time, hopefully, the idea will improve and sharpen. It may encounter a few revisions, but team players know that revisions often improve an idea.

10. Communicate Continuously

Good team members can communicate effectively with the group, keeping in mind that effective communication involves active listening.

Ask questions to clarify anything about which you are unclear. Consult the other members and invite input before coming to any decisions. Also, take time to make sure that others understand what they need to know, making sure not to talk over the heads of other team members with jargon or confusing acronyms.

For example, if you are the software developer on the team, do your best to communicate technical information to team members who may not be as technically proficient.

11. Orchestrate Effectively

Teams have to orchestrate in such a way that they pull all the pieces of their work together simultaneously. This means understanding how all the individual tasks must come together to make a whole.

Think of the kitchen staff at a high-end restaurant that must ensure the steak is grilled to order, the vegetable side dish is perfectly sautéed, and the baked potato is piping hot—all at the same time. If one member is unable to synchronize with the rest of the team, the result goes from pleasurable to substandard.

12. Draw on the Team’s Synergy

Honor the individual skills within the team and how they come together to create a full complement of proficiency. This is an important attitude to have if you want to be a great team player. Understand how this mutual reliance is what makes the sum of your team greater than its parts. Acknowledge and appreciate each other’s contributions toward refining plans, improving the end product, and achieving a common purpose together. Together, you rise.

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13. Keep Each Other Motivated

While each team member is responsible for completing his or her part of the larger assignment, working as a team means you don’t have to work in isolation. You have your team members to consult when you encounter any obstacle or prefer not to decide on your own.

Knowing you can rely on your team to help you and provide support and guidance will keep you motivated to do your best work.

Final Thoughts

Teamwork gives employees a sense of connection and a shared purpose, which are key components for creating a culture of engagement at work. A cohesive team that trusts in each member’s abilities allows employees to find joy in their work, and is a sure formula for retaining talented staff.

That’s why it’s important for you to learn these 13 ways to be a great team player so you can realize your potential and maximize your output at work.

More Tips on How to Be a Good Team Player

Featured photo credit: Hannah Busing via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible 13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work How to Decline a Job Offer Gracefully (With Email Examples) Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work)

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Published on September 28, 2020

9 Essential Tips for Starting Your Own Business

9 Essential Tips for Starting Your Own Business

Starting your own business is the dream of every would-be entrepreneur. While it is a huge undertaking, the rewards of owning a business have proven to be worth it for millions of people all over the world. In this article, we will talk specifically about how to start your own business and how to make it successful.

We have all heard the statistics about the high failure rate of new businesses:[1]

  • Roughly 20% of small businesses fail within the first year.
  • Roughly 33% of small businesses fail within two years.
  • Roughly 50%of small businesses fail within five years.
  • Roughly 66% of small businesses fail within 10 years.

As these numbers suggest, starting a business and having a successful business are two vastly different things. Knowing how to start your own business the right way can mean the difference between long term success and failure.

There is an old saying that people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. There is a lot of truth to this. Starting a business is more than just coming up with a good idea and jumping in. You need to have a plan for success, and that means you have to know how to set and achieve goals.

From the time you get that (Eureka!) moment up until you open the doors, every decision you make will impact the business. So, it is important that you carefully evaluate every aspect of your business.

1. Evaluate Yourself

The cold hard truth is that good business ideas are a dime a dozen. Realistically, the chances of your idea being so unique as to be revolutionary are slim to none.

This does not mean that you should abandon it. It just means that you will need to do more than just bring it to the market. The phrase “If you build it, they will come” works better in movies than real life.

Be Honest – Doing honest self-evaluations are notoriously difficult. Humans just are not particularly good at accurately evaluating themselves.

Here is a quick little experiment you can do with any group of 10 or more people. Ask them to hold up a hand if they know how to drive a car, virtually 100% of hands go up. Then, ask them to keep their hand up if they are better than average drivers. 90-95% of hands stay up.

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So, what does this tell us?

Because it is statistically impossible that everyone is “above average”, it illustrates the phenomenon called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect,” which is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills”.[2]

Because of this Dunning-Kruger Effect, it can be helpful to consult others about what they see as our strengths and weaknesses. Just assure the person that you are interested in their actual opinion and you won’t be hurt or offended if they give it to you.

Some of the things you will want to include in your self-evaluation:

  • Are you a self-starter? Unlike being an employee, there will be no one standing over your shoulder telling you what to do or when to go to work. If you are someone who requires a lot of structure, starting your own business may not be the best option.
  • How organized are you? Planning and organizational skills are important, especially in the early stages of launching a business. Entrepreneurs that “fly by the seat of their pants” rarely succeed.
  • How do you handle risk and failure? The fact of the matter is, going into business is a risky proposition. Success is never guaranteed. Smart business people take calculated risks, but they are still risks. If you are someone for whom the thought of failure or losing money would be devastating, entrepreneurship is probably not for you.
  • How well do you get along with people? How are your communication skills? Most of us consider ourselves “people persons”, but business owners take communication to an entirely new level. When starting out, the business owner is a jack of all trades. You need to be able to interact with clients, business partners, industry partners, suppliers, staff, accountants, lawyers, regulators, and a host of others both accurately and decisively.
  • How disciplined are you? Resilience and perseverance are two of the biggest factors that will determine your success. As we stated earlier, mistakes will be made and some of them will be costly. You need to have enough resilience and perseverance to continue getting up after being knocked down. The only sure way to fail is to give up.

If you are satisfied that you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur, it’s time to move on to the next step.

2. Evaluate Your Business Idea

Again, being able to honestly evaluate your own business idea is key. However, this step is generally not as hard as the self-evaluation because the criteria used in the evaluation process is more objective than subjective.

Identify your target market – Who are the people that will be buying your product or service? For this step, it’s important to alter your mindset. Instead of thinking like a seller, start thinking like a customer.

Can you articulate answers to the following questions?

  • What is the problem addressed by your product or service?
  • How does your product or service solve that problem?
  • Why is your solution better than the competitions’?
  • Are people willing to spend money on a solution to the problem?

You will also want to gather as much information about the people in your target market as possible. At the bare minimum, you will want to know the following about your potential clientele:

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  • Age
  • Location
  • Income
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Marital Status
  • Ethnicity
  • Number of Children

All of this information will help tweak your product or service to better suit their needs. It is also helpful in developing a marketing strategy.

3. Evaluate the Competition

Generally, you can divide your competitors into three categories:

  • Direct competition – These are companies that offer the same products or services to the same target market as your business. You can think of Burger King and McDonald’s as direct competitors.
  • Indirect competition – These businesses will offer products and services that are similar to the ones you provide without being the same. Another type of indirect competitor can be one that markets the same product or service, just to a different clientele or market segment. Subway and McDonald’s would be indirect competitors.
  • Substitute competition – These are businesses that offer different products or services to the same clientele in the same market segment as you. An example of substitute competition for McDonald’s would be the local mom and pop diner.

Once you have identified exactly who your competitors are, you will want to gather the following information:

  • What is the range of products and services they offer?
  • Are they expanding or scaling down their business?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What do customers see as their positive/negative attributes?
  • Can you identify any competitive advantage they have?
  • What is their pricing strategy?
  • What is their advertising/marketing strategy?

The purpose of the analysis is to identify your competition’s strengths and weaknesses to better compete.

For example, if your competitors sell largely to companies with more than 100 employees. You may decide to target smaller companies with less than 100 employees. This means that your pricing and marketing strategies will need to be more in line with what the smaller companies expect and can afford.

4. Evaluate the Financial Feasibility of the Business

In developing a financial feasibility analysis, you need to have answers to the following questions:

  • What will it cost to get your business off the ground and become profitable?
  • What initial expenses will you have?
  • What ongoing expenses will you have?
  • What is the source of your start-up capital?
  • What is the earning potential of the business, and how long will it take to achieve?
  • How will you keep the business open and pay your bills until it becomes profitable?

Once you have this information in hand, you will need to build in an extra “cushion” for all of the extra “surprise” expenses that pop up. Additionally, most people are overly optimistic when it comes to estimating the profitability of the business and the time frame needed to achieve it.

How much of a cushion do you need? No one can say for sure. Some people will tell you to double or even triple your estimates. At a bare minimum, you should add 50% to the estimates you made.

It can be disheartening to learn that your business idea really is not financially feasible, but it’s much better to make that discovery now rather than after the money is spent.

5. Have a Professional Business Plan

If you haven’t done so already, get yourself a professional business plan. When I say “professional,” I don’t mean that you need to go out and hire someone to do it. I mean that you need to know what a professional business plan looks like and take it seriously.

Too often, new entrepreneurs neglect to create a business plan in favor of flying by the seat of their pants. This is not a good strategy. Without a plan, you won’t know where you are headed.

“It can seem a daunting task when you’ve never been faced with writing a business plan before, but it’s a crucial task which will enable your venture to start and continue on a solid foundation. A business plan is also necessary when you’re looking to secure funding or investment. Essentially, a business plan is your vision for how the business will run, what you expect to achieve, and how you will achieve those things.”

-Mike Gingerich[3]

6. Use Common Sense Money Principles

Successful start-ups keep a tight rein on expenses. As an owner, you should know exactly where every penny is spent. In all businesses, expenses tend to go up over time. But in the initial stages, you can count on having more expenses than income.

In the earliest stage of being a startup owner, you will deal with an array of challenges. You have to familiarize yourself with the selected business landscape and look for options to expand the business venture while saving the operating costs.

During this time-frame, trimming the operating costs is not optional; defacto is a matter of life and death for your startup. You can’t keep moving in a specific direction. It is mandatory to drift your business towards one goal with smart planning.

7. Start With a Narrow Focus

All too often, I see new business owners get into trouble by overreaching their goals. What happens is that people take on work outside their expertise.

For example, a website designer will take on a client who wants SEO optimization in addition to the design

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Assuming that the web designer is not an expert in SEO, there are several potential problems with this scenario:

  • Pricing – Without knowing or understanding the scope of SEO that’s involved, the chances of underestimating and losing money on the project go way up.
  • Quality – They may be the greatest web designer on earth, but that’s still only half of the job. Clients rightly expect the entire project to be done right.
  • Reputation – There is no second chance for a first impression. These first projects need to be done well if you want any chance of referral business. They will also determine if your first few clients become repeat customers or not.

Remember, Amazon started out just selling books. They slowly expanded their business until you can now get virtually anything on their site.

Be like Amazon. Start with a narrow focus and expand from there.

8. Search Out and Use Specific Resources

There are a lot of free resources out there that every new business owner should take advantage of. They are a great source of information, help, and most importantly, networking opportunities. Some of these resources are general, while others are targeted to specific types of entrepreneurs. Both are worth checking out.

Here’s a partial list of resources:

  • The Chamber of Commerce – Their slogan is, “Designed for business owners, CO—is a site that connects like minds and delivers actionable insights for next-level growth.”
  • U.S. Small Business Association – They offer free business consulting services, SBA guaranteed business loans, certification for federal government contracting, and more.
  • Women’s Business Club – It is specifically for women to network and exchange ideas, but it also useful if you are marketing specifically to women.
  • BLACK ENTERPRISE – Similar to the Women’s Business Club, Black Enterprise is designed specifically for African American entrepreneurs. They bill themselves as, “The premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans. Since 1970.”
  • Hispanic Small Business Resource GuideThis guide is filled with resources and networking opportunities for the Hispanic entrepreneur.

9. Just Do It!

Okay, I borrowed the phrase from Nike, but it’s good advice. It not only means taking concrete steps to start your business but also to get out of your own way.

A lot of entrepreneurs (and regular people) are afflicted by a condition called analysis paralysis. It is when someone overthinks about a decision too much that a choice never gets made, resulting in inaction.

If you are a perfectionist, you need to be especially careful of analysis paralysis. Perfectionists tend to wait until everything is perfect before launching their business, and many never get off the runway.

Final Thoughts

Accept that you will make mistakes, that you won’t make the right call all of the time, and that unforeseen obstacles will always pop up.

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If you are truly committed to the entrepreneurial lifestyle and your business, then take the plunge. The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to build a business that changes lives.

More Tips on How to Start Your Own Business

Featured photo credit: DISRUPTIVO via unsplash.com

Reference

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