Posted on: July 27th, 2016 by
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How do you answer the question, “Do you work best as an individual or as a team player?” As you may have guessed, this is a trick question forcing you to choose between the two. The best answer is: “I’m a high contributing individual who works effectively within a team setting”. Nevertheless, you need to understand the characteristics of a true team player. Why do some teams succeed and others fail? How is a high performance team different? Some insights:


To be considered a team, you must have:

  • Clear performance expectations
  • Small numbers – from 6 to 10
  • Committed to a common approach
  • Team-developed strategies (not given to them by someone else)
  • Team-assigned tasks and time lines
  • Complementary skills between members – technical and functional
  • Problem solving and decision making ability
  • Highly developed interpersonal skills

All members need to be committed to a common purpose and performance goals. Team members must see the goals as achievable, with the freedom to perform and have control over their results. No one else should be accountable for your team results.


Some teams succeed while others fail. What’s the difference between the two? Failed teams:

  • Lack enthusiasm, purpose or identity
  • Don’t share information or fail to shift leadership depending upon the tasks
  • Have ineffective meetings and/or progress
  • Mistrust between members, bosses or support
  • Finger-point when they have short-falls


Many times there are forces that work against a successful team effort. It could be ingrained individualism that works against team success. At times the organization itself is hostile toward teams: Past history, practices, management comfort and style, leadership incongruity. There may be a lack of conviction, personal discomfort or risk aversion (on team members, senior management or the organization) or weak expectations for team performance.


How are high performance teams different? High performance teams are rare.

  • Each individual has a personal commitment to make it work
  • Success comes early and continuous
  • High performance teams emerge on their own – it can’t be forced or dictated
  • The “we” is more important than the “I”


Excellent examples are in the military: Special Forces, Delta, Navy Seals, Marine MARSOC. Each member is interdependent upon the other. Each life depends upon the other. They don’t leave a team member behind.


So how do you rate yourself as a team player? Management is always on the lookout for individuals who can’t work effectively as a team member. Their careers usually stall early.


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