If you want to build a great team, you need great team players.

Below, I discuss the indispensable qualities of an effective team player.  As you interview candidates, you will do well to look for the following attributes. The Indispensable Qualities of an Effective Team PlayerYou should also focus on encouraging your team to develop them.

Calling

Good team players have a sense of calling to the team; They are mission-conscious and mission-driven. Your team will enjoy working with a person who has a calling that is bigger than himself. Calling-driven people will be self-motivated and have no need for the leader to constantly motivate them to act. If you hire someone who doesn’t feel called to your team, you will have to spend the rest of your life motivating them to do their job. You don’t want that. Caution: that calling must be fulfilled by working in your organization. This point is crucial. You don’t want a person who has a calling whose fulfillment lies outside your organization. Such people will use your organization as security (from the paycheck etc) so that they can pursue their true calling. Their loyalty lies not within your organization. Look for people with a clear sense of calling.

Charity

The foundation of character is love (charity), which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere trust. Character is the foundation of all leadership. Good team players genuinely love people and are selfless because they care. One key characteristic of love is that it is selfless. Love gives itself away for the benefit of others. You want team members who genuinely love others. And you know a team member truly loves people when he frequently lays down his life for them; when he is selfless and self-sacrificing. In a successful team, everyone is dead to self but alive for the team. Another key characteristic of love is that it is generous. Look for people who are generous.

Character

Select People who have character. Do not accept anyone who hasn’t demonstrated character. People with strong character are dependable. Without character, a team member is not much use. If this person is a person of faith, consider getting a recommendation from their faith leader. Require a pastoral recommendation because their pastors often know them well and may be willing to speak honestly about their character. Millions of people around the world are people of faith. Don’t hire anyone who is talking bad about their last pastor or former boss. You will be the next person they’ll talk bad about.

Competence

You want people who are competent. Look for ability, giftedness, education, past experience. You may need to make them a disciple (train them) before you can make them an apostle (leader). Define both the “hard” skills and the “soft” skills that are needed to do the job well and then look for them in each of the candidates you interview.

Confidence

Confidence or trust is the currency of all lasting relationships. Even the stock market rises and falls based on consumer and investor confidence or trust. Without trust, people cannot work in teams. Evaluate the person and ask yourself, “Is this someone that I and the other team members can trust?” Also, ask, “does the applicant trust your team?” You may not be able to have all the answers you need, but you must do your best to assess for trust.

Commitment

Look for people who are committed and faithful. According to Forbes, corporations spend about 30-50% of an employee’s annual salary to recruit them. If they quit or are fired, they have to spend the same amount of money to hire someone else. Add to this, the salary they would have earned and a possible severance package (if applicable). Hiring people who are not committed can quickly become a drain on the organization’s resources.

Chemistry

You need people who are compatible; who have chemistry with the rest of the team and the supervisors. You want people who have the same values and beliefs as the organization does. Trust develops easily where you have a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs. What is the mission of your organization? What are your values and beliefs?

You need people who are compatible; who have chemistry with the rest of the team and the supervisors. You want people who have the same values and beliefs as the organization does. Trust develops easily where you have a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs. What is the mission of your organization? What are your values and beliefs?

Collaboration

All significant work is done in teams where members must collaborate with each other. You want to have a team player who has a proven track record of collaborating well.

Coachability

Good team players are coachable or teachable. Leaders lead change. You want people who are teachable on your team. Coachable people are humble, teachable, love to learn, and a driven to listen and learn because they desire to be better servants of the cause.

Communication

Communication is the currency of effective relationships. It is also the key to effective teams. Without proper communication, even a team full of great talent remains only a collection of talented individuals, not a team. Good team members know how to communicate effectively.

Continuing education

Good team members are learners. They know that to continue to add value to others, they must continue to add value to themselves and develop themselves. To make the team better, individual team members must make themselves better. To improve the team, each player must improve himself. Self-improvement is the key to team improvement. Many successful leaders recommend a book each month for the entire team to read. Team members read at home on individual time for continuous growth together as a team. Also, it’s important to make time to train as a team at work through seminars, workshops, conferences etc.

Contribution

High performing team players add value to the team. They do so because:

  1. They value their team members,
  2. They value the mission of the team,
  3. They value the vision that the team is seeking to accomplish.

Change-Driver

If you work on a dynamic and growing team, you will soon discover that change is constant. Good team players don’t fear change, they don’t simply embrace and adapt to it, but they drive it.

Adaptability

John Maxwell says, “If you won’t change for the team, the team may change you.” You don’t want people who are inflexible or who cannot adapt to change. We live and work in a rapidly changing world. Good team players are able to adapt to change. They always anticipate, plan, and are prepared for constant change. Adaptable people are creative, adventurous, and open-minded. Zappos is a good example of a company that emphasizes the importance of their team members being adaptable. You can see that in their core values here.

Discipline

The dictionary defines self-discipline as: “the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do.” Without discipline, even the most talented team cannot win. A disciplined team is made up of team players who have great self-discipline. If you watch the news, you might remember seeing talented athletes whose lack of self-discipline destroys their careers. Self-discipline is the key to success. To be discipline, you have to be disciplined in your thoughts, words, emotions, and actions. Disciplining your mouth will save you from all kinds of trouble. The same is true when you practice disciplined thinking or when you control your emotions and hold back from doing certain things even though your flesh longs so much to do. Without self-discipline, talent is not a blessing but a curse.

Preparedness

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Miguel De Cervantes said, “The man who is prepared has his battle half fought.” You cannot achieve anything worthwhile without serious preparation. Effective preparation starts with an effective strategy. Preparation is all about winning.

The question is, how do you prepare for success?

To prepare for success do the following:

Know where you are. That is , know yourself as you currently are. An effective preparation strategy starts with knowing yourself. If you want to prepare to get somewhere, you must first know exactly where you are so that you can prepare a path of success from where you are to where you want to go. As such, preparation starts with a proper self-assessment. Self-assessment which leads to self-awareness is key. Here are some things you should know about effective self-assessment

  • Self-assessment leads to self-awareness.
  • Self-assessment leads to self-monitoring which leads to self-regulation or self-control.
  • Self-assessment leads to self-understanding.
  • Self-assessment leads to self-evaluation.
  • Self-assessment leads to social sensitivity.

For more on self-assessment, read this book.

Know where you want to go. Have a clear vision of where you want to go. Envision what you will look like, how you will feel, how you will live when you achieve the goal you want to prepare for.

Know the challenge. After knowing yourself and where you want to go, effective preparation involves an accurate assessment of what you need to do to leave from where you are to get to where you want to go.

Know the costs. Next, you need to count the costs to you, your family, and your team.

Know the playing field. You also have to consider that you are going to be performing the action you have been preparing for in an external environment which you have no control over. Studying the external environment including the competition and all other stakeholders will ensure that you win. This stage will involve a significant amount of research. Remember that wisdom is knowledge understood and applied.

Be ready mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You have to align your preparation with the task in four dimensions. Preparing the attitude of your team is vital to success.

Take action. The goal of preparation is taking action. After spending enough time preparing, then you must take action.

SHAPE

Good team players have the right SHAPE for the team. SHAPE is a mnemonic that stands for:

  • Strategic aspirations – Purpose, Core beliefs and values, Mission, and Vision
  • Heart (passion)
  • Abilities / talents, gifts
  • Personality,
  • Experiences

A team member must have the right strategic aspirations core beliefs, values, passion, vision, abilities, personality, and experiences that allow him to be a great fit for the team. Their SHAPE must prepare them to be able to build and strengthen the team. All things work for good. No pain is wasted. It is all used for our good. Even our bad experiences prepare us for our future roles if we take the time to learn from our experiences. I believe nothing happens by chance. There is a reason for everything we go through. Knowing each employee’s SHAPE is key. I advise people to take tests and write results in the form of a short essay. I also recommend personality tests like Myers-Briggs / DISC.

Independence

Assess for independent thinking to make the decision to do the job or to commit to it. Some married people may love something but if their spouse doesn’t like it, they won’t be able to do it. Many single people depend on their parents for guidance. A person must be independent before they can practice interdependence. E.g. I was trying to hire a 34 y/o man once to serve as a faculty at our college whose requirement was that his mother must accompany him to work. Without that he will quit. He didn’t want to be separated from his mother. Also, check for people pleasers.
Who does she live with? Does she live with her parents? Who do they rely on for support? Who do they confide in? In short, you want to find out whose voice has a deterministic impact on their life choices. Many people are dependent on others around them. They will quit even if they were totally excited if others in their life have issues with it.

Emotional stability and independence

This is important to assess.

Independence from parents

If the person is still getting significant financial help from his or her parents and hasn’t learned to fend for themselves and has a proven record of doing so, they aren’t independent  from their parents. Their financial dependence on parents often makes it difficult for them to think independently.

Spoiled “brat”: Unfortunately there are some people who depend on their parents and are attached to them because they provide all their needs. These people don’t need a job to pay their bills and are quick to quit anytime they face any difficulty. When they do, they blackmail their managers and the job to their parents to find a reason to quit and still continue to receive support from them. A lot of them are children who grow up in “rich” homes with overindulging parents. These kids never get to learn any discipline. I’ve seen many of these cases. They are particularly prevalent in the nonprofit world. I once had a young couple come to volunteer for our nonprofit. They were newly-weds, just out of high school. Their parents bought a brand new car for them, paid for a nice furnished apartment and paid everything. None of them had ever had a job. We soon ran into problems, they wanted to work when they wanted to and only as little as they wanted to. They were resistant to authority and thought that because they weren’t getting paid, they didn’t have to be responsible for doing what they had committed themselves to do! A lot of these kids are very sensitive. They can be offended by almost anything.

Strongly hesitate to hire anyone who doesn’t have a good work history of keeping a job and doing well there. You’re taking chances when you hire people who have no work history.

Spiritual Alignment

This is crucial for all teams. Everybody  has a certain level of spirituality. We are by nature spiritual beings. We each have a position when it comes to spirituality. That position affects how we form relationships at work and in our personal life. Spiritual beliefs are at the core of the human being and drives much of what we do. To form an effective team, you must have spiritual alignment. Spirituality is not religion. And by spiritual alignment, I don’t mean that everybody has the same religion or even the same spiritual beliefs. Rather, I mean that the core of each team member’s spiritual beliefs supports the concept and work of the team. I mean that if each person’s spirituality were like the circles in a Venn diagram, that the philosophy, vision, and work of the team will fall at the intersection of each person’s spiritual beliefs.

Billions of people around the world practice some kind of faith or religion. If you are hiring someone for a religious organization, of course, they not only have to be of the same religion but of a certain level of maturity and spiritual alignment even within the same religion. You may also want to know: What is the religion of the spouse or significant other? What is the denominational position of the spouse. Some positions in religious organizations will usually require or produce spiritual growth in the person working. Sometimes, the spouse or family can’t handle it and may provide some opposition at home that will make it difficult for the employee to either continue to grow or work with the religious organization. Sometimes the staff would leave because of the pressure. Remember, people don’t live in a vacuum.

Readiness

Is the person ready to do the job? Are they prepared and mentally ready for it? Is something, like a commitment holding them back? Readiness has to do with the right timing for the candidate. Some people may be very qualified but just not ready–it’s not the right time for them. They may be held back by a weakness, a commitment or something else. They may be getting over a difficult relationship, a breakup or divorce that makes the timing not right for them. They may be young newly-weds that haven’t figured out their marriage life. This is a big one, many young people in the first year of their marriage struggle at home which can have a significant impact on their work. You have to discern this yourself and not simply ask the candidate and depend on them to tell you the truth. Even good people when they want a job, they often overestimate what they are capable of.
Ask yourself:
Is this person in the first year of their marriage?
Is this person engaged and planning a wedding soon?
Is this person going through a divorce or recently divorced?
Does this person have any debt? Debt can be a significant stressor especially when the current job doesn’t provide them the income they need to pay it off quickly.
If possible, assess for debt. Many nonprofit jobs offer little pay. If you hire someone with a large debt, they may love the job quite well but would soon find it difficult to keep their job because they need money to pay their debts.
The goal of this is to assess how these things may impact their work as you decide whether to bring them on or not.

Availability

Do they have the time to do the job? Are they free? —don’t ask them directly. Many people sign up for too much. Quietly assess it yourself. I remember a good sister in a Church I once attended who signed up for everything that was announced. She just couldn’t say no to an opportunity to serve. The problem was that she couldn’t deliver because she was stretched too thin. If your work is important, you probably want someone who is single-minded and focused on it.

PRAISE

Effective team members also have these six qualities. Check out Shaping Destiny’s core values to see these six qualities explained. 

As a leader, you have to develop an eye for spotting talent and leadership potential in other people. There are many examples of leaders in history who were good at this. One of them is the famous teacher Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the founder of Christianity. Even if you don’t believe in religion, I’ve found that it’s helpful to study the lives of the founders of the major religions. They are people who have obviously influenced the lives of millions of people living today. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the fact that Jesus Christ was a master influencer. He selected followers that most other leaders of his time would never have selected to make leaders in his movement. He chose uneducated people, many of whom were fishermen. He also chose tax collectors who were despised by other Jews in their communities. What did he see in these people? He saw leadership potential that others didn’t see.

If you study the people he chose to lead his movement, you would see that:

They were entrepreneurs – Fishermen and tax collectors.
They were not lazy. It’s hard to turn a lazy person into a hardworking person. You cannot redirect a standing ship.
The fishermen knew how to toil for an entire day and not catch any fish.
They had a good work ethic – Rewards come when you work hard fishing.
The tax collectors were sub-contractors. They knew that they were responsible to the king for whom they were collecting taxes.

The type of people Jesus Christ choose were a good fit for the mission of his movement. Every business or organization is different and has its own purpose. The point is not that you go out and choose the type of people he chose but that you learn from him and find people with great potential for success in your industry and hire them. Be the one who notices these people that no one else does and bring them onboard, equip them, and empower them to go out and serve.

Gratefulness

Look for people who want to serve out of a grateful heart.

What do you think is the most important quality of an effective team leader?

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