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Is your project work always as calm and steady as you’d like? Mine is not. But effective team members can make all the difference. In this blog, I want to write about characteristics of the ideal team player that will boost your results and help you succeed – whatever the endeavor.

Over the years, I have worked with various teams, primarily project teams, needing to stay engaged and motivated when the energy for a project begins to fade. Most of us have been there. In the beginning, everyone is pumped but then, things start to go awry, hard decisions must be made, sometimes upsetting some feelings, and tempers can flare. Project work is not always as calm and steady as we might like. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it enjoyable most of the time.

Let me say up front that when I say enjoyable or even use the word fun to describe work, I’m not talking about ping pong tournaments, beer pong parties, or even drunken events featuring promiscuous behaviors that apparently are taking place at a few organizations.

I’m talking about creating a culture that is characterized by hard-working people doing work that they love and improving their organizations, and perhaps the world. To create that culture, you must start with the right people, or people who can become the ideal team player. What are the characteristics that you need?

Five Attributes of the Ideal Team Player That Will Boost Your Results #projectmanagement #team #teamwork #smartprojex Share on X

1. The ideal team player is humble

A worker with a big ego, who is more concerned about his or her advancement than helping others will never be your ideal team player. And as personality traits go, this is a hard trait to change. People with big egos almost never see it in themselves. And they likely don’t want to change.

I had a person like this years ago on a project team I was running. And the best outcome was for him to get a new and grander post in another company. YEAH!! 

2. The ideal team player doesn’t aim to control or manipulate others

If you have never worked with a teammate who is out to control and manipulates others for their own benefit, consider yourself fortunate. I suspect we have all been guilty of some form of manipulation on occasion. But there are some people who are so adept at manipulating others for their own benefit that they can create a toxic environment.

Indications of that kind of behavior include an organization characterized by dishonesty, threatening or verbally abusive language, or withholding important information from others. In the extreme you might see passive aggressive behavior or gaslighting, which I gather is the biggest word in 2022. If you have a person engaged in toxic manipulation on your project team, try to remove them from your team.

3. The ideal team player works hard, is disciplined, and knows when to quit

The point of being on a project team is to get real work that matters done. It’s not to sit in meetings and to carry on endless discussions with your colleagues or friends. It’s to build or improve products, places, ideas, services, or whatever it is you sell.

Accordingly, people on the team need to know how and when to work hard. They need the ability to effectively prioritize work tasks so that they are working on the item that has the highest value to the client, the team, or the organization. They need the discipline that is required for deep work. But just as importantly, they need to know when to quit.

In using the word quit, I’m referring to knowing when to pack up and go home for the day. I know there are effective workaholics, but it’s rarely sustainable when families are involved.  I’m also referring to knowing when to stop working on a task that you may be overworking. It can be tempting to spend extra time on that research or the beautiful graphics, but are those efforts the best use of your time? And, as I’ve written about before, I’m also talking about knowing when to abandon an entire project early.

The point of being on a project team is to get real work that matters done. How does having the ideal team player help? #projectmanagement #team #teamwork #smartprojex Share on X

4. The ideal team player is happy in their life

Everyone has happiness swings. Let’s face it: some days are better or harder than others. We go through loss, sickness, trials, and tribulations. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the person who is seriously unhappy with their life, who they are, or how they are living. When someone’s own sorrow or unhappiness begins to impact their work life, it’s nearly impossible for them to be a good team player.

This may or may not be a situation that a team member can change. But I’d suggest you try, perhaps with the help of your HR department. It may require some therapy or other supportive behaviors from your organization. But if you can help an employee recover some joy in their personal life, you might wind up with a committed ideal team player with loyalty to your company.

5. The ideal worker knows how to build a sustainable, balanced approach to their work and life

I was talking with a young person recently who started his current job several years ago, and almost immediately, the pandemic hit. He and all his colleagues were forced to change, and change, they did. Quite successfully. The organization is doing well. But now they are trying to emerge into some sense of normalcy. He is struggling with how to be an effective team player – getting his own work done, helping colleagues who need help, and still be there for his family. In short, he has failed to build a sustainable, balanced approach to his life and work. 

I’ve written before, and I’ll write again about what businesses need to do to create a sustainable, healthy work environment, but individuals also have a responsibility.

How can individuals build this approach? It’s a never-ending journey for many. I believe it starts with knowing your value system and priorities. Once you understand what is most important to you, I recommend Sunsama – and this blog outlines five ways that Sunsama has improved my productivity and my work-life balance.


Do you believe an ideal team player can boost a team’s results? Are you looking for ways to become that ideal team player? If so, I recommended you check out my new book Herding Smart Cats: Project Management Reimagined.

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