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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

How to be a Better Team Player

Have you worked for teams where everyone pitches in, and you all work together in perfect harmony?

Do you always play to your strengths in a team, or are there times when the group you're in just doesn't gel?

Either way, team-working is such a vital way of completing projects that it's worth developing and refining the skills that will help you make a valuable contribution to whichever type of team you're in. Team player is probably one of the biggest buzzwords in HR and recruiting. In 9 out of 10 job descriptions, you will find the requirement of being a team player. Managers want to have true team players in their team. Strong team player skills are used in performance reviews. But, what does being a team player really mean? Yes, a team player performs well in a team, but if we break that down, what does it really consist of?

A good team player is transparent and shares openly

Good team players share the information, knowledge and experience they have and take the initiative to keep the rest of the team informed. Good team players don´t keep important information to themselves just so they can individually progress. They don’t consider information as power and therefore keep it to them.

A good team player is always ready to help

Collaborating is working with the rest of the team to achieve a job. Good team players collaborate by nature. They might have different opinions or different ways of working than the rest of the team, but they will find a way to overcome these differences and work together. Good team players offer help when they see somebody needs it and always respond to requests for support.

A good team player is flexible

Teams always have to deal with change, a good team player can deal with constant change and finds new ways of working together. A flexible team member can evaluate different opinions and compromise when needed. A good team player doesn´t stick solely to their own point of view, especially when the team needs to get a job done.

A good team player communicates constructively

Great team players are not afraid to express their opinion and ideas but always does so with respect and in a positive, confident manner.

The most successful teams don't just combine different technical skills; they also allow members to take on more general roles that cross traditional functional lines. If you'd like to know more – or to help you discover which roles are best for you – then Belpin's Team Roles are a good place to start.

The Belbin model says that people tend to assume "team roles" – and there are nine such roles that underlie the team's success. These roles are as follows:

  • Shapers – people who challenge the team to improve.

  • Implementers – the people who get things done.

  • Completer-Finishers – the people who see that projects are completed thoroughly.

  • Coordinators – people who take on the traditional team leader role.

  • Team Workers – people who are negotiators, and make sure the team is working together.

  • Resource Investigators – people who work with external stakeholders to help the team meet its objectives.

  • Plants – people who come up with new ideas and approaches.

  • Monitor-Evaluators – people who analyze and evaluate ideas that other people come up with.

  • Specialists – people with specialist knowledge that's needed to get the job done.

Assessment of team role

The team roles describe a pattern of behaviour that characterises one person's behaviour in relationship to another in facilitating the progress of a team. This approach enables an individual or team to benefit from self-knowledge and adjust behaviour according to the demands being made by the external situation.

It should always be remembered that the tool helps to describe an individual's 'preferred' team roles and is designed to indicate how you would ideally operate in a team environment. Strength in one team role is often at the expense of what might be seen as a weakness in another context.

An ideal team should ideally have a healthy balance of all 9 team roles. Strong teams normally have a strong co-ordinator, a plant, a monitor evaluator and one or more implementers, team workers, resource investigators or completer finishers. A shaper should be an alternative to a co-ordinator rather than having both. In practice, the ideal is rarely the case, and it can be beneficial for a team to know which of the team roles are either over represented or absent and to understand individual's secondary roles.

Team roles tend to develop and mature and may change with experience and conscious attention. If a role is absent from the team, then it is often filled by someone who has not recognised this role as a dominant one. The team should share their team roles to increase understanding and enable mutual expectations to be met.

If you want to learn more about Dr Meredith Belbin's Team Roles Model, click here.

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