Team player – In search of a unicorn

Team of Laurel Speedway

Table of Contents

This article was not planned in the beginning. However, because of all the great comments and messages you sent me about an interview, I want to dedicate this post to exploring the team player subject further more. You will take a look at what the top qualities a team player are and should have. Understanding this will be a big a help for any future hiring for your company and will lower the chance of missing an opportunity or hiring someone who is not the right fit.

Top qualities of team player

Factor often used to spot a team player is involvement in team sport. It is simple. If you do any team sport, you are more likely to be a team player. Well, not exactly. Even though this may be the example of team player, there is bunch of other people who are also great at working in groups. The problem with those people is they just don’t like playing sports or games. For them it is just wasting of their time. They know they can invest this time into something meaningful and with more impact, so why bother with sports or games?

Little confession from my side … In fact, I am one of them. I don’t give a crap about football (soccer), hockey or basketball or whatever. I also don’t like to go out in the evening to a bar with friends while talking about what happened that day. It’s only waste of time and life. On the other hand, I love to create things, help people, work with others dedicated to make a change and contribute to something meaningful.

Will I be interested in watching the game with you in the evening? No. Will I be interested in putting together a group of people and work together on something pretty interesting? Hell yes! Chances are you and me are on the same boat. If yes, don’t worry. You don’t have to be an avid [fill in any sport] fan to be a team player. What’s more, just your interest in this whole subject shows that you might actually be a great team player, just in doubts. For that case, below are some qualities team player should has. Do you have them?

Team player is reliable

First and most important trait of any team player is reliability. If your team cannot rely on you or count with you, what’s the point of you being the part of it? What I think is that “Great team player is a man of the word.” If he (or she) says something, you can be dead-sure he will deliver on that promise. Some serious accident must have happened to stop him from fulfilling his commitments. Otherwise, he will do his best.

Team player communicates

Next trait is ability to communicate, specifically communicate constructively. This means expressing thoughts and ideas clearly, honestly, directly and with respect for others. Team player will not conceal something because it is bad or he is afraid of having different opinion. Good or bad, if it needs to be said, he will say it. When pointing out a mistake, team player will do it in positive manner with respect and probably in private. Often he will also suggest an option to fix the mistake without need for recognition.

Team player listens

Communication is happening in two directions. One person is speaking while another is listening. However, this is not everything. Good communicator (and team player) must listen actively. This means being one hundred percent present in the moment and fully focused on speaker. You are not thinking about your dinner or what the other person is wearing. You are listening and absorbing the message of your partner, so you are able to follow up later on with questions, suggestions or information related to the subject.

Team player is an active participant

One of the quickest way to spot team player is to look for people actively participating in the activity. This can be sharing ideas, opinions or coming up with alternative options. It can also be giving a feedback on what was said by another person. No one is asking for this. For a team player is natural, when being part of a group, to be active contributor. He knows that his ideas can help the team and push it forward. For him, cooperation is something natural and more a please than pain.

Team player is committed

This comes in hand with reliability. Team player is committed to the team, its vision and goals and cares about it. He is willing to help others and keep them going during hard times. You know he will deliver his best performance on the regular basis, not just sporadically. However, he also expects the same from other team members as well.

Team player respects others

The last quality I want to mention is respect for other people in the team. Team player knows and treats all his colleagues as equal. No one is put on pedestal or criticized by him. As mentioned when he want to correct someone, team player will do it in private and with respect. He will lower or ridicule the other person, the opposite is true. He will encourage his colleague and try to offer acceptable solution.

Defining the right fit

I was surprised no one mentioned one thing so far. What is actually the “right fit” for your company? Almost everybody is looking for a great team player, someone who has all qualities listed in the beginning of this article and the name of company probably tattooed on his arm. No matter how good this can sound to you (or scary), you have to understand your company, its needs and type of business you are in first before starting hiring process.

Certainly, there are professions where team spirit are not so important or even used at all. I don’t think that your accountant, receptionist, janitor or even programmer has to be a great team player in order to do his work properly. Sure, empathy, being comfortable around other people and willingness to share ideas and help are a big plus, but personality beats it anyway. What’s more, some of the most successful people in the world were not the best example of team players, considering the top qualities.

For example, would you think about Steve Jobs as a team player? If you are familiar with his style communication and feedback probably not. Would he be the right fit for your company? That depends … He had an obsession for excellence, amazing drive, vision and perseverance, among other personal traits. In some cases it is better to taking risk with someone who is not showing team spirit right on the spot, but can be a huge benefit for your company.

Are questions important?

Before closing this article, I want to warn you to base your decision solely on questions and answers you will receive during the interview. It is easy to change the answers to suit the situation. In other words, the person in front of you can be telling the truth or not. He might be only saying what you want to hear. You can’t avoid this and putting people on lie detector is also not the best thing to do. However, listening carefully and watch person’s body language will help you recognize potential lies so you can modify the questions to find out if the person is just nervous or really lying.


Finding a team player is not an easy task. It requires time and often willingness to taking some risks from your side. The only way to recognize a real team player is by testing the person in a field on real examples. However, keep in mind that with every new hire come time is necessary for that person to become comfortable in new environment. This is also reason why you should hire slow. What traits and qualities do you think are important for team player?

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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