March Madness: How to Become a Great Team Player

There are 4 skills to take you from being a good team player to a great one.

This week begins our nation's greatest team-building event: March Madness. Many coworkers will select their brackets for their pharmacy's annual competition to predict the winners in the annual NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament. As the tournament progresses, coworkers will check the scores of their Cinderella teams via cell phone while employers chalk up the lost productivity during this annual ritual.

College basketball is a perfect example of how players working togeher can accomplish much more an one player acting on his own. (Think about the terms 'supra-additive' or 'potentiaton'—when the effect of Drug A plus Drug B is greater than the simple algebraic sum of the two individual drugs.) You may not be the best shooter on the team, but you know how to move the ball forward to get it to the person who can score.

The Big Dance aside, we often hear the term 'great team player' in the workplace. It shows up in the comment section of our annual review, in conversations between coworkers commenting on their colleague's ability to work well with others, and in the minds of management when decisions on promotions or salary increases are being considered.

Pharmacists by nature thrive on autonomy and self-reliance, yet a company's success seldom depends on a singular person doing something all by himself. As in March Madness, the entire staff needs to work together as a team.

Here are 4 skills to move you from a good team player to a great one, as well as help you to build a more effective work environment with coworkers and management:

Reliability. In a profession that has a low theshold for time urgency, doing high quality work while meeting deadlines is key to gaining trust among your pharmacy colleagues. If you say you are going to do something, do it and do it well. It may be tempting to cherry-pick tasks, however, great team players carry their load AND go the extra mile to help others when needed. Your boss and co-workers will respect your willingness to step forward and accept the challenge. When a coworker puts his or her trust in you, you are establishing the foundation for a relationship that can be sure to endure future conflicts.

Communication. Share information and resources with your team. Explaining a shortcut, a pearl, a past experience, or knowledge with a coworker is very much appreciated and opens the door for recipracation. As you tap into each other's strengths, the team's overall productivity wll improve, often leading to a higher level of cooperation and creative thinking.

Problem Solving. When something goes wrong, you can act in either a positive or negative way. Rather than backstabbing, bickering, or blaming, recognize and resolve what needs to be changed. Keep a positive attitude and share a game plan that highlights the solution rather than the problem with your supervisor and colleagues.

Adaptibility. Finally, being flexible to the work habits and personalties of your coworkers (and supervisor) is both essential and challenging in today's workplace. Millennials, Baby Boomers and every generation between have different work styles. Understanding how each of your coworkers works best commands consideration of their viewpoints and ideas, sharpening your listening skills, and being receptive to feedback. Likewise, adapting to ever changing technology and new protocols comes down to a willingness to learn new information and skills.