A few months back I wrote about how to become a leader that others would want to follow. You can read that article here. I was telling a friend about that article and he challenged me to write about what makes a good follower. I’m adapting his question to reflect what I believe are 12 essential traits of a good team member.
In nearly 38 years as a leader in a Fortune 50 organization I had the opportunity to work with many talented people. As a general rule, they demonstrated the following traits:
Initiative – I always appreciated team members that demonstrated strong initiative. They didn’t wait to be asked to do something, instead they saw what was needed and just took care of it, helping the team in the process. Some may call this person a “self-starter” as well.
Relationship Building – Being able to get along and build and maintain strong relationships under at time stressful conditions is an excellent attribute for a team member to possess. This is especially true on the new small agile teams, working collaborately and in close proximity that many organizations are moving towards these days. When there is conflict on the team, productivity and morale suffers.
Communications – Excellent communications skills are essential in every facet of life, and are definitely essential for a good team member, both written and verbal. If you are not clear in your communications, team members can easily misinterpret your meaning or intention, and this could impact relationship building, collaboration, and ultimately the effectiveness and morale of the team.
Collaboration – I see collaboration as another word for teamwork. It is demonstrated when team members work well together to achieve a goal, and is a trait of a high performing team. Good team members should have the ability to work well independently and as a team.
Humility – It’s easy for egos to get involved in a team setting when team members are hoping make themselves look as positive as possible to leadership to influence promotions and salary increase decisions. But a better approach is for team members to demonstrate humility. Accept responsibility for errors and at the same time give credit to others when it is due. Similar to the concept of servant leadership, good team members should put the other members of the team ahead of them.
Commitment – A demonstration of commitment to the team shows that a team member will do whatever is necessary for the success of the team. Are they willing to work through lunch, stay later or work a weekend to complete important work? Although personal development is very important, it’s also important for team members to show that they are more committed to the team’s work than their own development.
Adaptable – Team members who are adaptable and flexible serve their team and leader well. Priorities are always changing, and work assignments may need to be changed. Having team members who accept this with a positive attitude and approach are good for the overall health of the team.
Competent – This trait could get overlooked, but it’s very important to a team. A team member could exhibit many of the traits listed here, but if they don’t know how to perform their work at a high level, it won’t matter. Team members need to know that their peers have the skills needed to do their jobs.
Dependable – Team members need to be trusted to complete their work on time and with quality. If a team member is known for letting their team down by missing deadlines, it will not only impact the results the team delivers, but team relationships will be damaged.
Attitude – I always appreciated team members who consistently demonstrated a positive attitude and approach. In fact, I’ve often said that I would rather have a less talented team member with a good attitude who could be trained to build up their skills, than a very talented performer with a bad attitude.
Courage – In the organization I worked at we called this “leadership courage”. It’s the ability to challenge leadership in a respectful way when you have an alternate approach, suggestion or something doesn’t make sense. This helps both the team member and the leader to grow.
Integrity – This aligns with some of the other traits, such as humility and being dependable, and includes doing what you say you’re going to do, not talking behind the back of team members or the leader, and keeping information confidential when asked not to share.
I have found these 12 traits essential for good team members. Do you agree? Why or why not? Are there any that you would add?