For many professionals, ‘getting to great’ is very personal, found almost exclusively in successfully completing jobs and doing them well. Being a team player on a winning team is how some measure success, and for others, individual credit and recognition can be a big part of the equation.

Whether you are an executive, in management, or a staff member, and regardless of how you define greatness, you are part of a team that needs the best you have to give. Professionals who take the following approach to teamwork are focused on the task at hand and staying humble in the process, so they rarely see greatness coming – but it always does.

Demonstrate Professional Integrity

Professional integrity in a team environment is evident when your actions align with what you say you’re going to do. This is accomplished by taking full responsibility for your part of the task at hand, setting goals, asking for information or guidance when you need it, and always coming through. The success of a team relies on each member’s commitment to the whole; so professional integrity also means helping others along the way.

Keep an Open Mind

No one person can be expected to have all the answers all the time. Adopt the mindset that everyone on your team, regardless of position or title, is a valuable contributor to your team’s end game. Effective leaders and team players encourage ideas, alternate thought processes, and new methods, and are willing to act on them. Let the best contributions, knowledge, and ideas direct the path forward.

Work Hard and Work Smart

There is always a better way, and the effective team player relentlessly pursues it – not only to improve his or her own performance, but also the processes and performance of the team and company. This motivation is evident in people who are passionate about what they do, and enjoy working toward and seizing personal and team goals. A key aspect of working smarter is engaging others, and again, being open to better ways to accomplish tasks or goals.

Be Approachable

Say good morning. Engage other team members. Start conversations. Ask how they are coming along, and if you can help answer questions or assist with an issue. Maybe you could use their assistance, ideas or knowledge. Let others know they’re appreciated, noticed and valued; this sets a great tone and example for others to follow. Being approachable means remembering there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Teams can only move forward together.

Encourage Others

Being supportive is a hallmark of a great team player. Encouragers let others know when they make valuable contributions and do a great job. This allows individuals to shine, creates cohesiveness, and builds respect and stronger teams.

Encouraging others isn’t always about patting people on the back. Some professionals are not in the right roles, not operating at full capacity, and errors are too frequent. This impacts the entire team. Effective team players recognize and support the individual strengths of their team members. They build people up, encourage them to pursue their strengths and make improvements, and provide ideas and guidance on how to do it. Sometimes shifting responsibilities is the answer. It’s important to always be positive in the approach.

Make It Your Policy to Be Honest and Straightforward

When issues arise, and they always will, remember it is impossible to feed a closed mouth – and no one is a mind reader. Effective team players freely share information, thoughts and concerns. They elaborate much and often, and never withhold information that could potentially help the team.

Communication is your number one tool in being a great team player, so it is important to say what you mean and mean what you say. If you’re not happy with how an individual or team is performing, be willing to have these conversations. Always take a positive approach in formulating your words, with the goal of resolution and improvement in mind. By being positive, honest and straightforward, your team will know exactly who you are and what you stand for. Your openness will help the team move forward.

Stay Humble

Go after the win for the team. It is both notable and measurable how much more progress effective team players make compared to their counterparts. And the reason is simple. These individuals are not looking for acknowledgement or credit for themselves. The recognition, the career boost, the single-handed blazing of trails – these couldn’t be further from their minds. Great team players are solely focused on performing the task at hand, helping co-workers work toward the same goals, and completing a project or job on time, within budget. Successfully meeting the goal – as a team – is what brings satisfaction. Individual recognition comes, but it’s never the prize.

Be a Leader Who Keeps the Train Moving

Teams of every type and size have people in positions of leadership, but in reality, on a day-to-day basis, most teams are actually led and energized by people without management titles.

Everyone on your team is a car in your train and each is critical to reaching the destination. If one car stops, the whole train slows or falls apart. Effective team players step in and fuel information gaps, find answers and solutions, and keep communications and connections strong. They are motivated, goal-oriented and team-conscious players who motivate others to do the same. Without them, no team can consistently stay on track.

If you are effective, the greatness will come

It is never too early to demonstrate the brand of leadership described above. This is where true greatness comes from, and it is what allows professionals to rise to the top in their careers, and take their teams and companies to new heights.