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Being an Effective Team Player for Professional Success: Six Skill Sets

Being an Effective Team Player for Professional Success: Six Skill Sets
Vicki Larson, ASHA Fellow
July 23, 2007



This article is the second article of a two-part series on effective teambuilding. The first article(Effective Teambuilding for Professionals)focused on the general issues that need to be considered when being a team leader and when selecting team members to participate. Productive teams result in a synergy being created that produces outcomes far greater than a single individual can produce. In reality, we also participate on teams in which the team members are not selected but rather are required members. This article will focus on six skill sets of the team player, whether the team players have been chosen for the team, or whether they are required members of a team because of the roles and responsibilities of their jobs.

Before discussing the six skill sets, let us briefly review the definition of a team. A review of the literature (Blanchard, 2001; Brounstein, 2002; Katzenback & Smith, 1993; Robbins and Finley, 1995) reveals a working definition of a team as a group of individuals who are being organized so they will work together to achieve common goals for which they will collectively share responsibility. This is easily said but difficult to accomplish. There are three critical aspects that should be noted in this definition: (1) putting people together to do work; (2) having an overall common purpose (i.e., the same outcome or result is needed); and (3) being mutually accountable (i.e., every team member is equally responsible for getting the job done). The bottom line is everyone must work together to achieve a common outcome or to accomplish a common purpose (Robbins & Finley, 1995). The key words are together, common purpose, and accountable. A true team is a living, constantly changing, dynamic force in which a number of people come together to work (Heller, 1998b). It is that collectivity and collaboration that makes a team a team.

Six Skill Sets for Being an Effective Team Player

Although numerous skill sets may be desirable to be an effective team player, six skill sets that have proven to be some of the most powerful in getting teams to function in a productive manner (Brounstein, 2002) have been selected. They are: (1) effective interpersonal communication; (2) systematic problem solving skills; (3) effective planning and goal setting; (4) skill in resolving conflict; (5) skill in making decisions within the group; and (6) effective participation in team meetings. These skills can be learned and should be perfected over time to be an effective team player.

Interpersonal Communication

It has been said by Goleman (1995, 1998) and Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2002) that communication is the one skill that often separates mediocre leaders from exceptional leaders/team players. Communication is critical. There are five areas worthy of consideration for interpersonal communication:

  1. listening,
  2. speaking,
  3. nonverbal communication,
  4. reading, and
  5. writing.


The first consideration is that of being a good listener during the team processes. It looks easy but is hard to do well. Are you a passive listener, selective listener, attentive listener, or active listener? The best listeners are active listeners. Listeners can cultivate a good conversation by stopping what they are doing and giving eye contact, maintaining eye contact, looking interested or concerned as appropriate, nodding one's head, looking patient, leaning forward slightly, and maintaining a relaxed but alert posture. A good listener asks open-ended questions or makes open-ended comments of the speaker, such as: what, how, tell me more, describe, and explain. These questions/comments encourage good conversation. Using paraphrasing, such as "so what you mean is...; in other words...; as I understand your point, it's..." to capture content sustains dialogue and encourages the speaker to continue. As a listener, dodge the following pitfalls of criticizing, reacting defensively, debating, giving advice, and shifting the focus to you (Brounstein, 2002).

vicki larson

Vicki Larson

ASHA Fellow

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