5 Tips to Improve Your Teamwork Skills

Nilda Melissa Diaz By Nilda Melissa Diaz, Career Advice Contributor Last Updated: May 25, 2023
7 professionals pounding fists over work table

5 Tips to Improve Your Teamwork Skills

In the modern working world, we often hear common words and phrases used to praise high-value employees. In one classic example, employers across almost every industry seem to place a high premium on “teamwork” and “team skills”. But what exactly does this mean? And what concrete steps can you take to establish yourself as a team player in your own workplace? Keep these tips in mind and make it clear that others can count on you when the going gets rough.

1. Know the difference between a team win and a personal win.

If the team scores, you score. If you and your partner submit a project to your boss and the project goes over well, the team wins. If your company gains a new account, the team wins. But if you find yourself bickering with your coworkers over who gets credit and who contributes more, and as a result you collectively lose the account, nobody wins. Don’t compete with those who are on your own team. Share victories, share blame, and focus on the larger goal. You’re in this together, win or lose.

2. Practice speaking and listening.

The next time you sit down for a conversation with your team or partner, think carefully about the process. There’s a rhythm to an effective conversation; listen for the rhythm. When the other person talks, are you really listening, or just waiting for your turn? When your turn arrives and you begin to speak, are you being generous, open, and honest about what you really think and feel, or are you holding back and only sharing what you think others want to hear? Conversation is a high art, and no matter how experienced you are, you always have more to learn.

3. Elevate the discourse.

Too often, team projects and group conversations go astray and get lost in the weeds. Practice keeping the conversation on track and in motion to a larger goal. Don’t let the group get sidetracked by minor details, personal agendas, sideline arguments, bias, bullying, or general derailment. Diplomatically take the wheel. If you see the loudest talkers getting the most attention, redirect the spotlight toward those who are being shouted down.

4. Emphasize fairness.

Sometimes an idea is suggested by Person A, only to be reworded by Person B, who takes the credit without looking back. Keep your eye on the ball and recognize what’s happening in the room, even if nobody else is. Team dynamics shift quickly, but if you make sure your best contributors get the credit they deserve, they’ll keep contributing… and everyone will win.

5. Pass the ball.

You’re holding the ball, and you have a chance to toss it into the net and win a point for your team. But your teammate is standing closer to the net and stands a better chance of scoring if she takes the shot. Should you try to score from where you are, and make a grab for personal glory? Or should you hand the ball off to your teammate and let her send it into the net? This overused sports metaphor applies to corporate life more often than you might imagine. And under most circumstances, the answer is almost always the same: pass the ball and make this sacrifice for you team…later you’ll be glad you did.

Sports Seasons End…and Jobs do Too.

…But teamwork skills last a lifetime, and once you’ve learned how to act as a team player, these lessons will help you succeed no matter where your career takes you. You won’t be playing on this field with this team forever, but the moves you learn here will prepare you for the next game, the next season, the next workplace, and the next rung of the ladder. Visit MyPerfectResume for job search help and career support.