The Four Qualities Of A Smart Team

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Dermot Crowley (pictured below) is a productivity thought leader, author, speaker and trainer. In this guest post, he offers his insights on not only how to become a team player at your agency, but a smart one, too…

Whatever your favourite sport, I am sure you will recognise the value of the good ‘team player’. Someone who goes beyond personal glory for the good of the team, who makes their teammates look good. A player who always works tirelessly to get the result the team needs.


No doubt your colleagues work hard at being team players. But when it comes to productivity, sometimes we let the team down. We don’t mean to, but we get busy, stressed, overwhelmed, and it all starts to slip a bit. This is where a smart team player steps up to support the rest of the team from a productivity perspective. (To be clear, ‘smart’ here has nothing to do with intelligence; it refers, rather, to a team that has evolved a different, more effective way of working.)

While a smart team player has many qualities that make them excellent at their job, there are four qualities that have a direct impact on team productivity.

A smart team player is:

  1. purposeful. They work with purpose on the right activities.
  2. mindful. They are mindful of how their behaviours affect others.
  3. punctual. They turn up on time, and deliver on time.
  4. reliable. They do what they say they will do.

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We are purposeful

When we embrace the idea of working with purpose, we strive to always work on the things that have an impact in our role. We are clear about our priorities and the priorities of the team, and are not overly distracted by urgency or busywork.

Working with purpose requires a clear sense of our objectives and priorities. Sadly, I believe that many of us have to some degree lost our sense of purpose at work. Rather than being driven by what is important, we are pressured into responding to our emails and

what is urgent. We are always busy, but busyness is not enough in a high-performing team. As Henry David Thoreau once said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

We are mindful

There are many books and courses on how to practise mindfulness. More often than not, their interpretation of mindfulness is focused inward — on awareness of what is happening with your own attention and focus. This is essential if you want to be productive in an email-heavy, interruption-driven workplace. A second interpretation of mindfulness has an outward focus. Mindfulness makes us more aware of what is happening around us, and allows us to focus on the needs of those with whom we cooperate.

Unfortunately, a lack of mindfulness is demonstrated in workplaces every day. We generate volumes of noise for our colleagues. We are distracted in meetings. We rush work, make mistakes and end up creating more work for ourselves and others. We should approach

every interaction in a mindful way. We need to slow down, and focus on what we are doing at this moment to save everyone time in the long run.

We are punctual

Punctuality should be non-negotiable. We should always strive to be on time, and should be held to account if we are not. This applies to more than just meetings. We need to be punctual with the delivery of our work, with responses to email requests and with returning text messages and phone calls.

Turning up and delivering on time requires us to work proactively and not leave things until the last minute. We need to have a solid action management system in place to allow us to manage our time and priorities effectively. A paper to-do list will no longer cut it — a more sophisticated and relevant approach is required here. Whether communicating with others, congregating in meetings or collaborating on projects, we must strive always to be on time.

We are reliable

I often see people falling victim to their schedule, their priorities and their inbox. They complain about how busy they are, but do not take adequate steps to prioritise or manage their work effectively. To be a reliable team member, you must be in control of your work and accountable for what you deliver. That means you also need to take responsibility for saying ‘no’ and negotiating your workload when appropriate.

Taking ownership is critical in a productive team, and is valued by leaders, managers and colleagues alike. It requires a ‘do what you say’ mindset, and an organised approach to our work.

When teams agree to operate by and hold each other accountable to a set of qualities like these, the productivity of the whole team increases. Everyone works with more focus, creates more impact. These qualities in turn builds trust and respect across the team. For a team to make this leap, productivity must become a top priority for leaders. They need to inspire the team to live and breathe these qualities. Most importantly, they need to demonstrate these qualities themselves at all times.

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Dermot Crowley

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