Soft Skills and Hard Work: Four Ways You Can Start Creating a Better Team

Want to create a great team on your own? Good luck! Just kidding. It’s not impossible for one ethical, well-intended, authentic person acting alone to help turn around a team.


To create a great team, first you have to be a great teammate.

Developing a truly strong team that trusts and respects each other, gets things done without drama, and has fun requires everyone one the team to get on board with the right types of behaviors. Once the team is clicking along with you on all five behavioral cylinders, gossip is squelched. Great ideas get developed and done. And everyone does their part for the team. They have each other’s backs.

Sound like a dream? It’s not. And just one person can make a difference. Even if you’re on a team that is in a dark place right now, you can start acting in a way that helps bring some light to the team.

Yes, you.

Five Ways to Lead Your Team

Here are five ways you can start leading your team to a better place, no matter what your position:

  1. Talk about people as if they were present. Noah Webster had it right when he said, “We should say nothing of a person in his absence that we would be unwilling to say if he were present.” Although workplace policies can’t practically (or even legally) restrict all types of gossip, most of us wish we could stomp it out. You can do your part by not engaging in gossip and, if you hear something, trying to coach your co-worker to speak to the person directly. And you yourself can speak TO your teammates instead of ABOUT them when you have issues.
  2. Be willing to contribute to the work of the whole team. That includes helping out with tedious or challenging work. Does that sometimes take a little humility? Sure, it does. If you’ve been promoted to a position with some interesting work, it may be hard to think about doing a tedious task. Yet how much would it mean to the people you help? And humility is one of the attributes of The Ideal Team Player as defined by author Patrick Lencioni. You can show you believe you are not “better than” anyone else and it will go a lot further than just saying it.
  3. Be willing to ask for help.Asking for help makes you vulnerable and that, in turn, builds trust. Being human allows others to be more human with you. We all need help sometimes and most people want to help if they are given the opportunity. Showing vulnerability can even unleash innovation, according to esteemed author and researcher Brené Brown.
  4. Offer and accept apologies graciously. An apology given with the right intent and attitude benefits both the giver and the receiver. Apologies can actually build the self-respect of the apologizer as well as build empathy between giver and receiver. A good apology includes aspects of regret, responsibility, and remedy.
  5. Be aware of how your words and actions affect others. Sounds basic, doesn’t it? But have you ever flown off the handle in an email? Blown someone off when they really needed you? In a series of surveys, Tasha Eurich found that 95% of people think they are self-aware but only 10-15% truly are. We can’t see our blind spots without help from others, including seeking feedback from others outside our circle of friends. Developing mindfulness is a matter of improving our emotional intelligence and it can greatly improve our contributions as a teammate.

That’s just five simple ways you can help build a stronger team by being a better teammate. But let’s be real: These types of soft skills can be the hardest to master. It’s hard to apologize for the first time to someone who never apologizes to you. It’s hard to ask for help when you fear that a teammate will use it to make you seem less competent. Be brave. It may take time, but a great team is the payoff. And great teams matter. But don’t take my word for it. Take it away, Al Pacino!

More Resources

And here are a few more resources on being a better teammate:


Are you still reading, you crazy teambuilding advocate? Okay. Then here are a few more resources for you!

  • Download this primer on emotional intelligence:
  • Look up this article for more on the science of gossip: Kuo, Chien-Chih & Chang, Kirk & Quinton, Sarah & Lu, Chiu-Yi & Lee, Iling. (2014). Gossip in the workplace and the implications for HR management: a study of gossip and its relationship to employee cynicism. The International Journal of Human Resource Management. 26. 1-20. 10.1080/09585192.2014.985329.
  • Borrow this book from your library for more on apologizing: Read Beverly Engel’s The Power of Apologyfor more on the elements of good apologies and the benefits for both giver and receiver.
  • Read thisTimearticle on 10 simple ways to make people like you more:
  • And, because you’ve earned it for reading this far, something just for fun. Watch this video of two teammates who clearly are not on the same page about their goals:

Gwen Voelpel

Gwen Voelpel has 20 years of experience in coaching and mentoring leaders at all levels of organizations. She has an undergraduate degree in communications, a graduate degree in public administration, and has served as an executive leader in several organizations. Gwen is an accredited Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Everything DiSC Workplace Facilitator and a Certified Master in Training for The Leadership Challenge.