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How to Be a Good Team Member

Ms. Inglish is a successful employment & training pro, setting Midwest regional records with tens of thousands placed in gainful employment.

The Thunderbirds USAF Flight Drill Team

The Thunderbirds USAF Flight Drill Team

Some individuals work best alone, but others are best when at work with others on a team that communicates well, shares ideas, and offers camaraderie. Others have the best of both worlds -- These fortunate people are able to work in both styles during a day on the job!

Good Team Members Are Important

At work, at school, on a committee, or in a club or volunteer organization, you will likely find yourself as a member of a team at some point in time. Work teams are becoming increasingly more popular in the world of work.

In schools, youth are finding more and more assignments given them that must be done as a team project, with all members receiving the same grade, regardless of the individual effort.

What does this all mean, exactly, and how should you contribute to a team?

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.

— Michael Jordan, NBA star

You will likely find yourself as a member of a team at some point in time.

A vertical team in the U.S. Government: Executive Office for the United States Trustees.

A vertical team in the U.S. Government: Executive Office for the United States Trustees.

Characteristics of a Teams and Good Team Members

There are different sorts of teams and two types are dominant:

  1. Vertical teams and
  2. Horizontal teams.

The vertical (tall) team is a hierarchy arranged in a pecking order with the boss at the top of the heap.

This is a team in which the upper tiers give the instructions and the lower tiers of employees or participants follow them. Work may not seem like a team effort at the bottom of the hierarchy, but this configuration is indeed a team, because every member of this team is important.

Hopefully, upper tiers listen to the input and ideas of the downline players and major projects are accomplished with good results. One tier of participants out of step can stop the whole production, like a bogged down assembly line.

Roosters Establishing a Pecking Order

The pecking order is, literally, determined by pecking. Bigger, stronger, and more aggressive chickens bully their way to the top of the flock.

— Brian Barth, 3/16/2016 at

A horizontal team: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

A horizontal team: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

It takes two flints to make a fire.

— Louisa May Alcott, author

The horizontal (flat) team is a team that more people will likely accept, because it is more like King Arthur's Round Table, where everyone had equal status.

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This is a group of people on similar levels of status and authority, although supervisors can be on the teams as well as subordinates and outside consultants.

Regardless of the type of team operating at work, it is useful for team members to display and embrace these characteristics:

Integrity and Trust.

If team members are not honest with others and themselves, then the project is doomed. Teams must be thoroughly trustworthy and able to trust others as well. A team leader especially must be able to sense insecurity and ingenuineness. Members and the rteam leader must be dependable and able to discuss topics and issues freely with a mind toward solving problems and delivering an outstanding project result.

A belief, ala Star Trek®, that "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."

The team effort must come before any team member's own personal or professional agenda in the organiztion or group during the project. Members must commit to people ini general and have a desire to support and serve one another, the organization, and their end customer or client.

Mercury 1 Team

Mercury 1 Team

Respect for Authority.

Team members and the team leader must respect one another. Members must also accept the role of the leader openly and supportively. All should be polite and courteous to customers, clients, and others served by the project as well. There should be no gossip about team members oir the rteam leader withitn the team or outside of it with others. Gossip is ugly and make the gossiper look ugly as well.

Solid Competence.

All projects require certain skills. If team members do not have the required skills, they must be trained or replaced in the business world. Outside of work, it is not useful to volunteer for a team requiring certain skills if one is not qualified to serve and there is not enough time to learn.


Readiness to Share Knowledge and Ideas

Team members should contribute openly, with integrity and take care about others' feelings when communicating. There should be no competition that will destroy the project and no attention-getting behaviors. A team member freely contributes time, energy, and enthusiasm.

Readiness to take personal responsibility for some element of the team's current project.

These folks do not hide within a crowd in order to avoid work. They accept assignments or step forward and ask for them. They will encourage others as well.

Productive Contribution.

Good team members support the team leader with suggestions for and new ideas. This can lead to the leadership being shared later with those that participate more fully.


Teams allow individual skills and giftings to shine and be understood and used. The team leader and the other members want any single member to be energetic and eager to participate in the project at hand.


Follow Through and Delivering One's Commitments.

This person does not call in sick the day before an assignment for the team project is due. Members must commit to the success of the team. If they agree to carry out tasks, then they must do so. If anyone does not, the other members will lose confidence in the slacker.

If there is a problem, then the person who is having difficulty in meeting their assignments must admit it and ask for help before it is too late.

Productive Interpersonal Skills.

Effective communication is vital. Team members must be talented in listening, writing, and oral language skills. Conflict handling and negotiating skills are becoming more and more important in any group.

Welcome Constructive Feedback.

A useful team member asks for and accepts feedback, and readily works for continuous improvement.

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.

— Helen Keller


  • U.S. National Institute for Literacy. Equipped For the Future.
  • Inglish, P. Teamwork and Cooperation in the Workplace; class series written and taught at Private Industry Council; ©1995 - 2005.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


betteryou from London UK on March 09, 2010:

Thanks for sharing how team members can work together effectively. A very nice hub.

Lake Ozark Vacation Rentals on January 21, 2010:

Team work is essential these days. Great hub!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 13, 2009:

Hi, Ultimate Hubber -- I recall NASA personnel and various management training insitutes' people in news and publications state that one needs to be an effective team member before one can be an effective team leader. I have seen this work in real life this way - the leader is SUCH an effective team member that he/she rises to the top of the pack very quickly for his/her vision and "difference" from the rest. In some instances though, I think such a person is discriminated against for being "too effective." What do you think?

Ultimate Hubber on August 13, 2009:

Nice article this is. I feel bad about not having read it before. Really a help. Let me confess that I haven't been a good team member but when it comes to leading a team, I am good at it.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 23, 2009:

However, the "Vertical Team" hierarchy is a standard practice and I don't know how to change that across the workplace. I suppose it could work in certain instances, but many workers feel that it's torture at the bottom.

Thanks for your comments!

Tony McGregor from South Africa on January 23, 2009:

Intersting Hub - just one thought, that a team is the opposite of a hierarchy. In a team all members have equal status, equal rights of input and equal demands are made of themk. They share accountability and responsibility. In a hierarchy the top dog makes the rules and takes the rap. So I don't think a hierarchy can be a team- they are on opposite ends of a continuum. Otherwise we just dilute the concept of teamwork, which is actually far more demanding than working in a hierarchy. In a hierarchy the person at the top will tell others what to do and they have to get on with it. Of course there can be teams within a hierarchical organisational structure - that is a different matter.

One of the most popular definitions of a team is "A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable." (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993). No hierarchy could be held "mutually accountable."

This dilution of the team concept is what my (much) more famous namesake Douglas McGregor had in mind when he said Most teams aren't teams at all but merely collections of individual relationships with the boss. Each individual vying with the others for power, prestige and position.

In addition to job- or function-related skills teams demand very high levels of interpersonal skills from their members if they are to be effective and not just remain a group of individuals.

Thanks for an interesting topic.

Love and peace


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 17, 2008:

thanks for the comments, RGraf. I think teams can be very productive and effective. Unfortunately, some managers consider it teamwork when they require one person to do all the work. So, that concept must be changed in the future.

Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on December 17, 2008:

I think that you just wrote the bible on teamwork. I see where very few implement mainly for selfish reasons. This is an excellent piece that I'm going to return and visit a few more and might even print out for future reference.

Thank you.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 02, 2008:

That's certainly a good example to teach at home. Thanks for the input!

GJCody from Pittsburgh on December 02, 2008:

Good hub and great incite ..we need more team effort to get any job done. I have tried to show my grandchildren the results of team effort cleaning up in the evening and setting the table for supper.

Thanks for putting all of this into a hub best to you!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 02, 2008:

Thanks, Debby - teams are great when they are working correctly.

Debby on December 02, 2008:

Great hub, Patty. We all need to work as a team to accomplish tasks.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 17, 2008:

I think you are very right, Andy Xie! Some group assignments can be good experiences in many way.

When I saw the first episodes of the first season of "Survivor" I said, "That's just like a work." and I could not watch more more.

Andy Xie from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 17, 2008:

Awesome hub, very thorough. Knowing how to be a good team member, I believe, is one of the most important skills one can learn. I grew up in China, and we were not exposed to these "group projects" at school. But I think working in groups is an important experience for children, which is why I'm glad my daughter has a lot of group assignments, she plays team sports... etc.

Welcoming constructive feedback (and giving it) for example, is reallly important because it lets you be better at what you do. Sometimes the truth isn't always the most pleasant thing to hear, but it tells you what you can improve on, which is at least a good thing to hear.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 17, 2008:

sri krsna - thanks so much for your insight!

Kids here in one suburb don't do much in the way of team work other than little league sports at times, but after the 5th grade - BAM! In the 6th grade, they have their own 6th grade building of about 200 kids and they are split into 3 teams and given team colors. Their grades depend in some parts of some subjects on the over all TEAM GRADE! Then in classes, they are put into teams for projects and they all get the same grade per team. Sometimes only one member does all the work because they don't want to fail the assignment. WHEW!

There must be better ways to teach kids about teamwork!

sri krsna from Philippines on May 16, 2008:

Nice advise for those who are working.... This will serve as a very very good topic for them....

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 30, 2008:

You're exactly right about that I think, john54. Sports that have been cut need to be put back into the schools, for boys an dgirls alike. I remember in elementary school they only taught teamwork to the boys. When I won a running race, I was told it did not count because I was a girl. Sports for all and teamwork training would lift the economy of the nation as well as individual and company success. 

Thaks for your observations. Always glad to have them!

Joanie Ruppel from Texas on April 30, 2008:

I think one of the big overlooked advantages of sports in school these days is the fact that it puts our young people in an environment that teaches them about being a part of a team.

This skill is critical in so many environments, and it seems to be lacking so much of the time.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 23, 2008:

Hi SweetiePie, maybe they could. Perhaps teachers have curriculum teams in the schools and other types of teams as well. That might be very useful.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on April 22, 2008:

Great hub on team work and very important for educators too. I think new teachers could get some good ideas from reading your hub.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 15, 2008:

Thanks for the comments!

ROB AND STEPHANIE from Higfhland Park on November 06, 2007:

hey there its nice reading about your site! please sign up for my fan club too.

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