Years ago, as a world famous archaeologist, I directed a project that took place in the dead of winter. During the project, I pumped water from a nearby stream and used it to water screen the excavated deposit through 2 mm mesh screen.

One day the hose froze and I needed to clear the ice before we could start excavations for the day. I thought that if i had the crew hold the hose absolutely straight while whacking it with hammers, I could break up the ice and flush it out with pressure from the pump. I needed my crew of 20 to hold the hose.

One fellow on the crew had something more important to do. He wanted to tale pictures of a feature he uncovered the night before. (He was also the person assigned the task of draining the hose the evening before.)

It took several minutes of negotiation, brow beating and threatening to get him to join the rest of the crew.

Even though he went on to earn a PhD, I did not consider him to me a team player.

 I often think of this situation and how I handled it as a director when I compose someone’s resume. I write:

  • Capable of working both independently and as a member of a team

I think this is an important attribute, as employers want team players to help them achieve their corporate goals.

 While it looks good on paper, what does it mean? How would someone answer the question, “In what ways can you demonstrate that you are a ‘good team player?” in an interview? Better yet, how can you prove it?

 Most of my clients would answer these questions by saying that they have some mouldy gym strip in the trunk of their car and  are willing and able to pull it out, put it on, and shag a few flies between the question, “Tell me a little bit about yourself” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

 Fortunately, you can be saved from all that impromptu exercise by understanding that you can prove you are a good team player by answering the questions with examples of the communication qualities that make a good team player.

 Joni Rose (2002) outlines some of the qualities a team player would have.

The candidate would have good listening skills.

“For example, if an employee is part of a project team, they listen to the ideas and concerns of others. Good team players are patient and respectful of the voice of other team members and understand that to be a team player; they have to be open minded to other points of view.”

Suppose you were a Care Aid in a nursing home or hospital, and you noticed a patient in the process of falling out of a chair. The patient is big, and you are worried that you might either hurt him or yourself  if you attempt to reposition him yourself. You call other care aids who are immediately at hour side. You effect the repositioning rescue by assigning each member a position and saying, “We lift on the count of three: one … two… three … Lift.” The rescue is complete, and you have also demonstrated your leadership skills by assessing the situation, taking charge of the rescue, and accomplishing the rescue.

Clearly Communicate Important Information

Team players are good at sharing information amongst the rest of the team. They give it to key people and become involved in discussions about how to respond to that information. They want to make sure everyone is on the same page.

 Work Cooperatively – not Competitively

Team players prefer to co-operate and not compete with other staff or departments. They may be motivated when they see others achieve but instead of competing with the achiever, they emulate and align with them. There is an inherent excitement that comes from each team member working synergistically towards a goal.

Optimistic and Happy

“To be a good team player means you have to be the type of person others want to be around. Happy, optimistic people are attractive. They draw their team mates to them and encourage recognition of achievements. Good team players celebrate the successes and learn from the set backs. They focus on the positive and take the negative in stride, not letting it get them down. Good team players understand that complaining and making excuses frustrates others and fosters negativity. They choose to be happy.” (Rose, 2002)

Smile a little in your interview. Actually, try to have a good time at your interview

Adaptable to Change

“Flexibility is a mandatory trait when working with others. If you are rigid in your approach to new concepts or change, then others will be negatively impacted as they too must adapt. Be a change agent and demonstrate adaptability when faced with a new direction. Lead new initiatives by being a champion of change.” (Rose, 2002)

Good Negotiator

“A team player that knows how to negotiate means that situations that could become tense instead become a win-win. They expertly know how to compromise and dissect situations to find the commonalities in points of view instead of emphasizing the differences.” (Rose 2002)

Tell the interviewer how you defused a situation with an angry customer and turned him into a repeat customer.


Joni Rose (Sept 29, 2002) “How to be a Good Team Player: Qualities Employers Look for when Hiring New Team Members, Suite 101  http://soft-skills-development.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_be_a_good_team_player

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.



  1. Rose A. Valenta Says:

    Excellent article Mike, well worth the wait. Thanks!

  2. energywriter Says:

    Great job, as always, Mike. Funny example. Still want to hear about the fence.

  3. Mike Broderick Says:

    The saga of the fence is still ongoing. While it is up around ther perimeter, I need to attach a dck to it. That is this weekend’s project. I’m expecting the sun to come out this week, which means I’ll have an opportunity to paint the pool – before the bears come back. They were here in Wednesday evening before Canada Day. Happy 4th to all my American readers, by the way

  4. Lisa Moon Says:

    Great article – I’ve passed it on to our team at Champions.
    Well done – thanks!

  5. Joanne Ahern Says:

    Hi Mike,
    Great article on the importance of being a team player. I enjoyed reading it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: