By Margaret Steen
When it comes to choosing a candidate for a new job or a promotion, employers consistently say they want a team player.
This means someone who can "put the team goals and the team accountability ahead of their own individual situation," says Steve Kass, president for the Great Plains district of Robert Half International (RHI).
But how, exactly, do you go about showing that you're a team player? Experts offer the following five suggestions for concrete ways you can show your dedication to the team.
1. Meet Your Deadlines
When Accountemps, a division of RHI, surveyed senior executives at large companies about what it meant to be a team player, the most common reply was "meets deadlines."
When you're doing one part of a larger project, as is often the case when you're on a team at work, you can hold up everyone else if you don't get your work done on time. A good team player is someone other team members know they can depend on.
2. Be Candid
Glenn Parker, a team-building consultant in Princeton, New Jersey, and author of Team Players and Teamwork: New Strategies for Developing Successful Collaboration, believes companies used to have a one-dimensional view of a team player: someone who worked hard and didn't ask questions. "But the world has changed," he says. "The idea of just supporting things is not as valued as it was."
Indeed, in the Accountemps survey, "supports his or her manager" was low on the list of qualities a team player should have. This doesn't mean managers want to be undermined -- but many do appreciate suggestions and constructive criticism.
3. Adapt Quickly
You may work with teams whose members are in different locations. It's likely you'll be a member of several different teams at work, too, each focused on a different goal.
Today, with advances in technology, increased globalization and more diversity in the workplace, team players need to be "more complex, adaptive, creative and flexible," Parker says.
One way to demonstrate how adaptable you are is to offer to change the way you work if it seems like it would help your teammates, Kass said.
Attitude is important, too. People used to assume that trust among team members had to be built over a long period. In today's fast-paced business world, there may not be time for that. So, Parker says, successful team members begin by assuming that their coworkers are capable, dependable and engaged.
4. Appreciate Others' Work Styles
One person may be good at facilitating communication; another likes to challenge the group's assumptions. The best teams will have a mix of these styles and members who appreciate each other's contributions.
"The really good team player, regardless of style, is somebody who can understand and appreciate and work with people whose style is different from theirs," Parker says.
5. Avoid Politics
In Accountemps' survey, avoiding workplace politics was second only to meeting deadlines when it came to defining a good team player. "This means that you don't let yourself get distracted by issues that aren't crucial to the team's mission," Kass says.