“A strong team player.” It’s likely that you’ve read a variation of that phrase in a job description. Everyone wants a team player on their roster. But has the definition of a team player changed in the past couple of years? Yes and no.

“The foundation of being a good team player is timeless. What changes are traits and qualities need to come forward and be emphasized, depending on the latest understanding in skills and the efficacy of a team,” says Rob Volpe, thought leader, empathy expert and author of Tell Me More About That (TMMAT): Solving the Empathy Crisis One Conversation at a Time.

“Team players have demonstrated their value in 2022, in many instances serving as a powerful facilitator of workplace culture,” says Julia Armet, people and culture consultant and founder of the Higher Playbook. “Team players are well-suited to lead virtual meetings, create shared experiences for their culture, connect interpersonally with team members, and use the power of their communications to influence team members.”

From empathy to presence, below are the qualities that will take the guesswork out of being a strong teammate and make everyone want to work with you.

1. Collaboration and contribution

“A team player remains someone who is collaborative – open and able to work well with others and willing to use their strengths to round out the skills of the rest of the group, which enables success that individuals may be able to achieve on their own,” says Volpe.

A team player knows that contributing and making the most of their strengths helps their team get things done. According to Volpe, in any community or group, whether we’re talking about a neighborhood, a workplace or even an entire society, members of the collective contribute their unique skills and insights to create something greater than individual components.

Team players never lose sight of this.

2. Flexibility and adaptability

“Flexibility is critical because of the way our work life has evolved. The stress put on team members due to the pandemic and other current events is changing the way we work and what we need from our leaders to be successful in a team,” he adds. “In a virtual or hybrid environment, we need to be more adaptable to people’s schedules and rethink how we approach meetings and the collaborative tools we use as a team to get things done.”

A team player will take the lead when a teammate who suddenly has to deal with a positive Covid test or a sick child has to miss work. They will suggest ideas when hiring is slow or when a company is dealing with supply chain-related delays. They are always willing to adapt and pivot as necessary, and that’s part of what makes them so great to work with.

3. Empathy and open-mindedness

Empathy and open-mindedness are also critical. “We’re needing to be seen, not just by our leaders but by our teammates as well. As we move out of the ‘zero-sum game’ and ‘winner takes all’ philosophy of the past into a more collaborative future, it will require us to be able to see and respond to the point of view of others,” according to Volpe.

The benefits of empathy in the workplace have long been documented. Who wouldn’t perform better in a culture where they are treated as a human being? But integrating empathy into their day-to-day reality is still something companies are struggling with. A strong team player embodies that quality, which makes everyone enjoy working with them.

4. Presence and positive energy

On that note, don’t underestimate the power of a team player’s presence. Being engaged and spreading positive energy has so much more impact than you could imagine. “A team player’s presence impacts the business ecosystem in both tangible and intangible ways, influencing morale, productivity, well-being, and retention,” says Armet.

“During 2022, where many employees are heavily siloed and geographically separated, the team player helps to enhance the everyday workplace experience. By simply being present, they instill a sense of connectivity across the team.”

5. Passion and purpose

Finally, the best team players have contagious passion and purpose.” The team player is deeply passionate about the company mission, and their energy activates and inspires those around them,” adds Armet.

“The team player is motivational and has a way of rallying people around shared causes. Their charisma helps to drive forward initiatives and elevates the morale in the company culture.”

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