How to Become a Team Player


Leverage the Benefits of Being One

Part 3 in the “What Do They Mean When They Say…” Series


There are at least three things that can get you tagged as not being a team player. Last week we outlined one of the most common reasons you might be tagged as not being a team player; working in a silo.

Other reasons that will get you tagged as not being a team player are:

• lack of cooperation and collaboration
• not delegating

When you are not willing to cooperate with others it suggests you don’t quite understand or care about the overall goals of the organization or department. It says that you have their own agenda and only interested in your own success and not the success of the team as a whole.

Not cooperating is often used to exert a display of power; they don’t cooperate because no one will hold them accountable for not doing so. But whether there are any immediate repercussions from withholding cooperation or collaboration, you will develop a reputation of being difficult to work with. You will force colleagues to find ways to work around you or complain to key stakeholders that you are thwarting their progress. This will eventually damage your professional brand and certainly impede your ascent up the ladder. Not to mention that at some point, usually sooner than later, you will require the assistance of others in order to accomplish something important to you.

Not Being A Team Player is a Dead End Designation

Not Being A Team Player is a Dead End Designation

(One of the things that I am always amazed and amused by is that people don’t understand that the universe is reciprocal. What goes around comes around is a fundamental truth that is not in any way dependent on whether you believe it or not.)

There is usually nothing to be lost by cooperating with others to help accomplish goals and tasks. Cooperating with colleagues provides you with an opportunity to share your knowledge and perspective and to gain the same in return.

Every now and then I am asked how to handle colleagues who take credit for ideas or work that are not their own. Dealing with people who lack integrity is a longer conversation, but the short answer is if you are presenting ideas, try not to meet with the idea thief alone, only provide an outline or make sure to copy someone on the email that is outlining ideas or recommendations. (Also, those who claim as their own that which they know is not, are bullies. Bullies are vulnerable and are scared to death someone will call them out.)

Cooperation and collaboration are critical components of effective leadership. Demonstrating how effectively you can collaborate will serve you long and well. Now to be clear, cooperating and collaborating is not the same as taking on everything somebody dumps on you. There is a difference. Dumping is when someone asks for collaboration and/or input but does not participate in the development of the work.

To Delegate or Not to Delegate?

Then there are those who lead teams or supervise others who are unwilling to delegate. Not being willing to delegate will get you tagged as not being a team player. This is usually a sign of control issues cleverly disguised as not having confidence in team members or it being easier to just do it themselves rather than stop and take the time to explain what is needed.

Teams producer richer results.

Teams producer richer results.

What does it mean not to delegate effectively? It means you pass work on to team members without clear and concise direction, expectations, the timeline and most importantly, the why. Without these elements, you are essentially dumping the work.

Neither of these scenarios are indications of strong leadership skills. If you are unable or unwilling to delegate, you will remain saddled with all of the work and limit your own opportunities for growth. If your team is not growing stronger under your leadership, it is a reflection on you and your ability to lead and teach.

If you lead a team, one of your primary goals should be that members of your team are stronger when they leave the team than they were when they arrived. Effective delegation helps team members to stretch and grow beyond their current competencies. As they grow and move up, it will be a positive reflection on you and your leadership.

There is more power in a team.  The collective brainpower can yield better ideas, more creative problem solving and richer success.  Being apart of that is much more valuable than a solo act.

What do they mean when they say you are not a team player?  They mean you need to give up the solo act and combine your skills, expertise and talent with others to increase and enhance your success.


Your questions for the week:

1. What steps can you take today to increase your level of cooperation and collaboration?

2. What projects or initiatives have you been excluded from because you are perceived as being uncooperative?

3. What can you do to repair and reverse that perception?


Have a super and productive week.

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Deborah Gray-Young, CPC, ELI-MP
Certified Personal and Executive Coach





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