10 Attributes of Exceptional Team Members (ETMs)

10 Attributes of Exceptional Team Members (ETMs)

In my experience working with project teams, I’ve had the opportunity to observe  team member qualities that contribute to and drive team success. My Exceptional Team Members (ETMs) are in great demand and are recognized for their valuable, sometimes essential contributions.  So here is my list of what I value in a project team member. An ETM is:


Good team members care about the team’s performance, getting the work done, and getting it done well. They want to see the team succeed. ETMs are willing to “fill in the gap” and step up to get the work done, taking on tasks that may not be in their job description or comfort zone. It’s also a sneaky way to acquire a new skill!

Where They Are Supposed to Be

This may sound elementary, but ETMs are honest about their time and work commitment, they make sure to prioritize team schedule commitments and put in the hours that they are paid to work. It’s a mark of respect to your other team members and your manager to attend team meetings you are scheduled for, even if you don’t necessarily have anything on the agenda.

Utterly and Completely Reliable

As a company president, I have a lot of details and decisions swimming around in my head and really, I don’t have time for your details too! Don’t try and make me the owner of your details. ETMs are reliable to a fault and always, always, always (did I say always?) handle their assigned responsibilities.  If you are in the hospital and comatose, you have a valid excuse, but other than that, ETMs are known for faultless and consistent reliability. As a manager, ETMs free me up to not have to worry about their details, only mine and I greatly appreciate that.

Thorough and Engaged

Really, you know this: it shows when you are lazy. Do you think your manager doesn’t notice? Come prepared to meetings, meet your commitments and speak up in discussions. You may have a perspective that hasn’t been considered. If you have questions, you can be sure that others are wondering the same thing, so be brave and speak up.

Also, workloads can be uneven, and it is rare that other team members won’t occasionally get overloaded. ETMs proactively reach out to their team members and offer help. If you offer to help someone today, chances are that you will get the same consideration when you are overloaded.

One Who Keeps Calm and Carries On

One of my most valuable staff members gets really quiet when there is a crisis.  That’s because she is thinking instead of panicking. A great way to cope with a crisis! ETMs adjust to adversity and bad news, and learn to function effectively and think clearly even when others are getting emotional and panicky. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and find your coping mechanism. Remember as an ETM, you are a role model for junior team members; they will emulate your behavior to a crisis, so try and make sure that your reactions to problems are cool-headed, calm, and productive.

One Who Communicates

There is a lot that gets lost in communications.  ETMs know that most team members perform better when they have more knowledge, so when in doubt, communicates information frequently, succinctly, and broadly. That’s not to say that you should email your entire company if the lock to the supply cabinet is broken. Use some judgment about who needs to know what.


While we are talking about communications, let’s talk about honesty. Remember that word “right sized” which is a euphemism for “layoffs"? People hate that word because it is dishonest. ETMs communicate the good and the bad information without excessive embellishment or sanitizing. Teams function best when they understand reality. It’s not to say that some information isn’t held close or confidential, but ETMs have a bias to communication that is clear and straightforward.

A Good Listener

You have ideas for how to improve team performance: great! But remember that you are part of a team, and other team members have ideas of their own. You may be surprised to find they are in agreement with you. The boss may agree with you! ETMs listen first and without prejudice. They consider other viewpoints and are fair-minded in evaluating competing ideas.

Not a Procrastinator

Nothing irritates a manager more than when a team member puts off work until the last minute and turns in a rushed product. Don’t kid yourself: most managers can spot poor effort, substandard quality, and skimpy results. ETMs plan for time to complete a quality product, tackle assigned work in a methodical and incremental way, so they have ample time to think and produce a quality product. Also see Utterly and Completely Reliable.  


Related to Being a Good Listener, this may be the most vital attribute of being an exceptional team player. You and your teammates will not always agree on how to handle an issue, and that’s okay. ETMs understand they will lose some arguments, or be overruled. That’s OK; it doesn’t mean you were wrong. Learn to compromise, respect another team member’s expertise, negotiate, and lose with dignity and grace. Other team members will value your input and your willingness to compromise.  Being respectful of people ideas, methods, etc., will get you noticed, and people will want to work with you.

So here is my list of quality attributes, food for thought and personal improvement!