Workers are often told that employers are looking for employees who know how to be a good team player. But what you may not know is there are different types of team players. Each member of a work team has a unique way of contributing to the organization’s overall goal. Here’s how to discover your style.
Generally, the widely held view is that being a team player is a one-size-fits-all label, and that it means sacrificing for the greater good of the organization, complaining very little, and being a “good soldier.” Consequently, the phrase, “taking one for the team,” has a negative connotation. However, effective team collaboration does not have to be unpleasant grunt work, but rather a celebration of the potpourri of talents that exist within an organization.
Workforce consultant and author Glenn M. Parker says being an effective player on a work team means much more than just getting a job done. Each employee brings different gifts and talents to the table in an effort to achieve a common goal. It involves the active creation and exchange of new ideas delivered through different work styles.
Finding your style
So how do you know which type of player you are? Fortunately, Parker developed a survey, called The Parker Team Player Survey, to assist employees with identifying their unique way of collaborating in a group setting. (If you are interested in the survey, you can access it here or in the resource section at the end of Parker’s book.)
In the book Team Players and Teamwork: New Strategies for Developing Successful Collaboration, Parker proposes there are four different types of team players:
1. The Contributor
You’ll never have to worry about a task getting completed when you have a Contributor on your team. Contributors tend to be task-oriented. Their strengths lie in sharing information with the team and making sure every aspect of a project is taken care of. Contributors are thorough and detail-oriented.
“The Contributor is a task-oriented team member who enjoys providing the team with good technical information and data, does his or her homework, and pushes the team to set high performance standards and to use their resources wisely. Most people see you as dependable…people describe you as responsible, authoritative, reliable, proficient, and organized,” said Parker.
2. The Collaborator
If you’re the one who makes sure a project stays on track, you’re likely a Collaborator. Collaborators are highly goal-oriented and know how to keep their eyes on the prize. Very little can deter them from accomplishing what they set out to do.
“The Collaborator is a goal-directed member who sees the vision, mission, or goal of the team as paramount but is flexible and open to new ideas, willing to pitch in and work outside his or her defined role, and able to share the limelight with other team members…People describe you as forward looking, goal directed, accommodating, flexible, and imaginative,” said Parker.
3. The Communicator
Do you focus on making sure the overall process goes smoothly? You may be a Communicator. This team player is dedicated to ensuring effective process management.
“The Communicator is a process-oriented member who is an effective listener and facilitator of involvement, conflict resolution, consensus building, feedback, and the building of an informal, relaxed climate. Most people see you as a positive ‘people person’…People describe you as supportive, considerate, relaxed, enthusiastic, and tactful,” said Parker.
4. The Challenger
If you are always looking at the bigger picture and questioning how and why things are done, you may be a Challenger. Challengers dig deep and are reluctant to take things at face value.
“The Challenger is a member who questions the goals, methods, and even the ethics of the team; is willing to disagree with the leader or higher authority; and encourages the team to take well-conceived risks…People describe you as honest, outspoken, principled, ethical, and adventurous,” said Parker.
One point Parker makes is that a key ingredient to being an effective member of a team is flexibility. There will be times when you’ll have to collaborate with people who are very different from you or who work for organizations that do things differently. This will be become more of a reality as more companies are choosing to use a distributed or virtual workforce.
Said Parker, “a team is no longer simply a group of people working in the same area, on the same equipment, with the same customers, and with everyone eating in the same cafeteria. Now our teammates may include people outside of the organization, many of whom we see infrequently, such as customers and suppliers, people in other countries, people in other time zones, and people from other cultures,”