How to be a team player

We spend a substantial portion of our lives at work and positive relationships with our colleagues not only enhance our enjoyment of our jobs, but they help to boost our overall wellbeing. And while it isn’t always simple to maintain harmonious relationships with colleagues, it’s crucial if you hope to hit deadlines, get the right kind of support, and meet departmental targets. Even if your role requires you to work on your own for the majority of the time, the following tips will help you to build good relationships at work and get yourself known as a supportive team player who works well with others.

1. Get to know your colleagues as individuals

Before we can become effective team players, it’s necessary to get to know our teammates as individuals. Understanding how each person works, what their strengths are and where they might welcome support will help you to figure out how to give your best to the greater cause. Get to know your teammates by suggesting meeting for lunch or having a coffee on your break. Starting the process of building positive relationships with all of your teammates is essential for understanding how best you can contribute.

2. Be open to new things

We’ve all been asked at some point to do things for our team or department that are out of our comfort zone or range of experience. Be honest with your team and ask for their support early on if you need it. You’ll come across as willing to play an active role whatever the task and you’ll learn something new in the process.

3. Acknowledge your limitations

If you’re struggling with a request, admit that you don’t feel confident and need some help. There’s no shame in not knowing how to do something, and in fact it can really affect a team’s end product when someone steams ahead regardless and ends up delivering something of poor quality. There will be times of course when learning how to do something new might not be possible – when tight deadlines are looming for example. In these cases, speak to your manager and see if you can take on another aspect of the task. You’ll feel more confident, your team’s end result will be better, and you’ll also make it possible for one of your colleagues with the right skills to shine.

4. Ask for help and advice

It can be really off-putting to ask someone for help when they themselves never seem to need anything from others. When we’re in this position, we might fear being ridiculed for not handling things ourselves or we might worry about being seen as not being up to the job. You yourself may rarely need input from others but make a conscious effort to ask for help and advice from time to time. A big part of being a great team player is being able to ask for help when you need it and appearing human to others. None of us live in a bubble and asking for guidance or additional resource isn’t weak. It’s a sign of someone who values other people’s opinions.

5. Learn from a pro

We’ve all worked with someone we consider to be a great team player. Think about what makes them so outstanding. Are they helpful, flexible and enthusiastic about their team’s success? Do they go the extra mile regardless of what’s been asked of them? If you’re still in touch with the person ask them specifically what advice they can offer. Few of us are born natural team players and chances are your expert learned from a pro themselves.

6. Put your heart into it!

It might not be easy to show enthusiasm for a project you’ve been asked to help out with but avoid being negative about it. Pointing out to others that you’re not keen will only make your colleagues question the quality of the end product. Resolve to make the best of things and remember that being enthusiastic and feeling positive about a task makes everything much easier and won’t feel like such a drain. Find something – even one thing – about the project you enjoy (and there will be at least one!). Complaining about things also wastes time which would be better spent getting stuck in.

7. Don’t try too hard

While it’s tempting to try and please everyone we work with, accept that this isn’t always possible – or even healthy. Building good relationships at work takes time and care and should never involve you saying yes to everything just to prove that you’re worthy of admiration. A good team player is honest and never overpromises. Be yourself and let people know what you can and cannot do. It’s perfectly reasonable to let people know that you’ll be unavailable while you’re on annual leave for example, but consider offering your team an alternative. Perhaps you can help with preparing the final report or proofreading a document when you return to the office.

8. Don’t rely on technology alone

Most of us email colleagues before picking up the phone – usually in the name of saving time. But be aware that over reliance on technology can make it very difficult to build good relationships with others and can make us appear remote or unhelpful. Good team players make a point of telephoning the person they want to speak with or better yet, if possible, walking over to their colleague’s desk for a face-to-face discussion. Not only does face-to-face contact strengthen team bonds but it also enables creative solutions to problems.