11 important things all great team-players know

See the big picture, don’t hog the limelight and nine other important things all great team-players know

If you keep in mind that the purpose of a team is to come together to do or achieve something, you’ll never go wrong. Unless you’re selfish that is. Selfish people don’t do well in teams. In fact, selfish people don’t do well any place where the needs of others must be considered.

If you’re the sort that tends to look out for number one and likes to get ahead of others whatever it takes, you won’t last long in any job where teamwork skills are prized.

Teamwork is about working for a cause greater than yourself. However, few people realise that teamwork remains important whether you work with others or alone. Most of us are still part of a team even if we don’t physically work with others.

Great team-players know how to keep the big picture in mind

Recently, a friend of mine had a sales man over to quote to replace some windows. The sales man was quite nice until my friend said, ‘Give me a couple of days to think about it.’ Well, that got that sales man in a right huff and puff when he realised he weren’t getting the sale there and then. He became rude and stormed off. My friend called the head office who were very apologetic. The customer services lady, who was both kind and clued up, said, ‘He’s forgotten that this isn’t just about him; a whole lot of other people depend on him including fitters, surveyors and helpline staff.’

That sales man had forgotten that although he works alone he is still part of a team, and his behaviour affects each member. Our behaviour affects both team members and colleagues – they can miss out too. Great team-player skills go a long way.

Great team-players know not to hog the limelight

People who walk into group interviews or join companies and then try to make themselves stick out at the expense of others don’t do well. Great team-players know they’ll get rejected if they do that.

Sports teams can teach us a lot about team spirit. While waiting in a business reception area where the television set was on I watched the England Rugby team members lift a player high into the air and then cheer loudly when he managed to grab the ball. Those players had nothing in mind but their common aim. They forgot about being individuals and acted like a single entity. It wasn’t about any one person hogging the limelight.

Great team-players know how to:

  1. Work his best to get his part of the task done
  2. Work for the good of the whole and never for himself
  3. Listen to the views of other members
  4. Help other members of the team even if it’s inconvenient for him
  5. Avoid actions that impose upon or reflect badly on others
  6. Congratulate another team member who does well
  7. Encourage and motivate fellow members who aren’t doing well
  8. Share ways he can help other members work effectively or shine in their area
  9. Guard against egotistical and know-it-all attitudes

Finally, great team-players know how to avoid making the same mistake as that window sales man mentioned earlier. He or she understands that teamwork is, in a nutshell, about considering others. Demonstrate this on your CV and during interviews and you will do well.

How to cultivate a positive attitude and win at work

The single most important step you can take when starting out on your graduate career is to cultivate a positive attitude.

One of the first things an interviewer or employer will notice about you is your attitude, so having a positive one is key. This is particularly true for graduates, who often have little technical experience to offer and so are more likely to be employed for their soft skills and attributes.

Think of the typical scenario where Candidate A walks into the job interview room, offers a firm handshake, a warm smile and then enthusiastically answers all questions. Candidate B walks in, offers a limp handshake and is glum-faced right the way through. Even if he answers the questions just as well, it’s the first candidate that the interviewer is likely to warm to.

So, no matter how well you answer interview questions, if your attitude is negative you will harm your chances of winning the job.

Your best bet for winning over an interviewer or boss at your internship or volunteer placement is to develop an attractive positive attitude. It will keep you at the forefront of the decision-maker’s memory.

What is a positive attitude?

But what is a positive attitude? It describes an inner state of being constructive, optimistic or confident. As a noun, it’s a desirable or constructive quality or attribute. Hear that? It’s desirable. I think we can learn something from the field of electronics where positive energy denotes the production of an electric charge. In similar fashion, positive people energise those around them, while negative people sap your energy. Stay around a negative person too long and they will sap your will to live.

The more you practice being positive the more positive you will become. Like any other type of energy, positive energy sustains itself. A positive attitude produces the force that moves you to action. And action is, of course, crucial to success.

How to cultivate a positive attitude

You cultivate a positive attitude by looking for the good, even in setbacks. It’s a bit like the boy who strode into his backyard carrying his baseball and bat and exclaimed, ‘I’m the greatest baseball player in the world.’ Then, throwing the ball into the air he swings and misses. He tries again and misses. Undaunted he repeats his affirmation, ‘I’m the greatest baseball player in the world’, tosses the ball, swings the bat, and misses again. He pauses for a moment to examine the bat and ball in his hand. Then he throws the ball into the air again, swings the bat, and misses. “Wow!’ he exclaims, ‘what a pitcher!’

At the other extreme, we need only think of the responses of people like Anne Frank and Viktor Frankl, both victims of the Holocaust, to see how choosing the sort of attitude you are going to face the world with is both possible and effective at helping you to better manage the challenges that come your way.

You’ve got to keep at it!

Yes, it takes energy. Especially if you aren’t used to thinking that way. But out of this comes the energy to win. The extra energy required to sustain the effort you need to try another approach and remain focused on the desired outcome, is the secret to winning. Best of all, you will lay down a neural pathway and pattern of thinking that will make being positive easier.

Another way to develop a positive attitude is to practice gratefulness, which simply means to be thankful for the things in life. Start listing things to be grateful for and you’ll soon notice things you would usually overlook. It changes your perspective and puts you in a positive mood because your mind is not thinking on all that appears to be going wrong. You will naturally feel a whole lot happier about your life.

From a career perspective, being in a positive mood helps you work at your best. With your mind more relaxed, it will be easier to be creative, find solutions to problems and get along with others. Your employer will like that.

Graduate, graduate, what have you seen? Here’s how it could help you clinch the deal!

Have you witnessed a flop or success that could be useful to a future employer? Telling him/her what you saw could help you clinch the job.

Recently, I met up with a mate of mine who landed a top level executive position because of the things she had seen.

Her new employer was more interested in what she had seen than where she had worked.

The company was growing and looking for someone to set up a new human resources project. Employing someone and training them up would take too long. Employing someone with the right skills would be better but they decided to go one better.

They chose someone who not only had the right skills but who had also been through the experience of working at a growing company that had something similar to what they wanted to do. A person like this would know the challenges, changes and risks that lay ahead as the new project got underway.

Sell your skills in context

My mate had worked at a company that had grown from four employees to over a hundred, because of what she had seen.

This got me thinking: what have you seen that could be of use to a future employer?

Could that strengthen your pitch in an interview? We often speak of our skills but bringing those skills into the context in which you acquired them, especially if the context is similar to the new employer’s, could make your pitch stronger.

If that employer is looking to go where you’ve already been, what insights could you offer?

Perhaps you are only a few years into your career or still at university. That doesn’t matter. Even with the little experience you have, it is still possible to find examples of situations that your future boss has never experienced either personally or in his/her company.

Work at a small company

One area where this is most likely to be the case is if you are going for a job with a start-up or SME, the latter of which tends to employ the majority (58%) of the UK’s private workforce. Small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2016. This means you are more likely to find a job with an SME than a large multi-national. I believe (and always tell those I coach that) it is wise to consider a smaller company as an option when looking for a job. Most graduates go straight for a larger company and end up taking longer, if ever at all, to land a graduate level position.

The reasons for considering SMEs are obvious and include:

  • Recruitment procedures tend to be less formal and to have fewer stages
  • Opportunity to develop vital employability skills are higher
  • They are usually more willing to employ those with less experience
  • They can offer more flexible working hours or arrangements
  • They tend to offer on the job training so you learn as you work
  • They generally have less politics going on, and a friendlier working environment
  • You will have more opportunity to do the sort of tasks you wouldn’t in a larger corporation so you’ll learn and advance faster
  • New decisions and innovation happen quicker

Flop or success, it’s all valuable

Now, back to my point. What have you seen that could be useful to the overall aims of a division, department or company?

This can be deemed positive, such as rapid growth following the launch of a new product or service; or negative, such as a project flop or major breakdown in customer relations. It doesn’t matter if it had nothing to do with you directly. If it affected the whole company, you’re good to go with it.

Sit down with a pen and pad and do some thinking. Scour your last few volunteer jobs, internships, employments (even if in a non-related field), sporting tournaments, amateur band tours, and the like.

As a primer to aid your thinking, during a recent coaching session I asked my client about his interest in rowing. From this young man who thought he had nothing much to offer a future employer, I discovered how he beat all odds to achieve his rowing blue in his first year. He rowed so hard it made him sick but he completed it. He demonstrated perseverance, determination, resilience, team-working and more, each of which could be easily transferred to any position where the company requires toughness.

So, once again, what have you seen?