Home > SoapBox, Team Dynamics > What does it mean to be a “True” Team Member?

What does it mean to be a “True” Team Member?

Most of us have been part of a team at one point or another in our lives.  This could have been a sports team, academic team, or team in the business world.  But were we really a “true” member of the team?  When I say “true” member of the team I think of many traits but the following move to the top of the list:

  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Loyalty

Each trait above cannot be had without the others.  They are intertwined and built within the interpersonal relationships that each team member builds with the other members.


Respect is a two way street.  People usually start out with a certain level of respect for others.  This respect is built up over time through interactions with others.  In order to earn respect of your peers you must give respect and be considerate and compassionate towards others.  Remember you can respect someone and still not like them personally.


Trust in your team is vital to be successful.  If you don’t trust the team members you work with then you will have a hard time being a productive team.  If those around you don’t trust you – then there is a good chance you will be alienated at some point, if it hasn’t occurred already.  It takes a long time to build up trust in others but only a few seconds to lose it all.


Being loyal to your team is vital to gain “trust” and “respect” from your team members.  Actions demonstrate loyalty – not words.  Below are some items I consider to be actions from a loyal team member

  • Helping other team members when possible.  This includes training, teaching, and at the minimum – moral support.
  • Not tearing down other’s attempts at new things – you must be supportive.  It is okay to provide constructive criticism to others when needed.  It is not okay to belittle their work when the motivation is not to genuinely help them improve.
  • Always maintain a positive attitude towards other team members even in high stress moments
  • NOT condoning actions that are detrimental to the team.  This means if you see something that can have a major negative impact on the team – you speak up to protect the team – not the individual.  This should only be done as a last resort.
  • Keeping interpersonal issues within the team when healthy to do so and addressing as needed.

So the next question is what do you do if you find yourself sitting outside the team’s inner circle?  How do you go from being alienated to being a contributing and respected member of the team?

The short answer is I don’t know if it’s possible.

In more detail I would say that it would require a fundamental change.

Step 1 – Identify the cause

Is the problem yourself or the group of people you are working with?  I would say most of the time it is the individual.  So assuming that is the case – why were you alienated in the first place?

Did you not get along with another team member?

Was there an incident that led to friction between you and the team?

Has anyone approached you about this situation?  More than one?

If you can answer yes to any of the questions above then the best chance answer is you were the cause.  But there is good news – you might be able to change it if you aren’t too far out there.

Step 2 – Makes some changes

There is a popular phrase out there “Change your organization – or Change your organization”.

I have a similar one for this situation –   “Change your ways or plan on Changing your organization”.

If you were able to identify the cause in Step 1 and have come to the conclusion it is not you – then there is a good chance there is nothing you can do to fix your status with the team.  I am not saying it isn’t worth a try – but the the probability is you are part of the problem and not willing to admit it – so you might as well start looking as you are not really ready to fix the root cause of the issue.  Happy job hunting.

For those who realized there are things that they could have done better – here is where you start.

Pull Your Own Weight

One of the most critical things a team member can do is pull your own weight.  Make sure that your contribution to the team is above and beyond for what you are tasked with.  Whatever you do – do not pat yourself on the back though.  This will be frowned upon no matter how good of a job you do.  Let others take notice in your improvement.

Do not attempt to take on too much

Attempting to do too much may imply that you are trying to “buy” your way back in to the team through additional work.  This is a fine line between pulling your weight and trying to do it all that you really do not want to cross.

Build Relationships backup slowly

Any attempt to be too friendly too quick will most likely be met with resistance.  Most people are forgiving by nature and time heals most wounds.  If you are at odds with someone and come in Monday morning and ask about their family there is a good chance this interaction will be viewed as non-genuine.  Over time you can build those relationships back up to an acceptable level.

Step 3 – Maintain your changes

I have seen this before in others.  A person will go through and make the changes necessary to reduce the friction but will be right back to the “old ways” a few months later.  Personal communication and interaction with others can be a difficult task for some.  Always ask yourself if you are treating others as you would like to be treated.  I know this is the golden rule – but it is called that for a reason.  Respect it and abide by it.  It really does make personal interactions better.

I personally have been on both sides of this fence.  Early in my career when I was still naive and for lack of a better term “stupid” I did alienate my self from a team.  It was not a good feeling at all.  What was worse is I was not able to repair it.  I moved on to a different company and made a vow to myself never to get into that situation again.  I continue to this day to try and improve my interactions with others.  It is something I will always strive to do better with.

I am hoping that the information above will help at least one person who reads it. If that is the case then this post was most definitely worth it.

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