As a team leader, you know that building a great team is a difficult and often daunting task. It requires patience, understanding, collaboration and execution. Arguably, the most important step of the team-building process is step 1: identifying the right talent.

Gone are the days when a team leader judges a candidate based solely upon CV credentials and a brief conversation. Leaders today must delve deeper and discover intrinsic qualities that define a candidate. This added information about a candidate gives leaders more confidence in choosing the right blend of individuals for their team.

Considering intrinsic qualities when attempting to build a powerful team is not a new fad. The National Soft Skills Association reports that research conducted in 1918 by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center showed that 85% of job success resulted from using well‐developed soft and people skills. A mere 15% of job success was attributed to technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).

Almost a century later, leadership in businesses across the board give resounding affirmation of the value of intrinsic qualities in their employees. According to CareerBuilder, “The vast majority of employers – 77 percent – believe that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.”

Below are six intrinsic characteristics to look for in candidates when determining if they are a fit for your team:


An effective team player incorporates curiosity into the workday, a very attractive quality that enhances the well-being of the entire team. Let’s face reality: time and energy in the workplace is sometimes spent engaging in mundane and unsatisfying work activities. However, curious people look for opportunities to challenge themselves in ways that keep their interest and consequently, produce great results. They try not to allow their intrinsic curiosity be stifled. This is achieved by asking more questions and using powers of observation to cultivate an environment that seeks to “see things differently.” The effect that curious individuals generate is a team that feels more engaged in a project and more capable of embracing opportunities.


We appreciate people who reveal their human sides in the workplace. They express their personality and beliefs, minding a healthy respect for differing opinions. Though making oneself vulnerable is rarely comfortable, the team player who exudes authenticity will prove to be very strong asset to the team. The authentic team player is more approachable, trustworthy, and often plays a unifying role.

Shows an appreciation for the value of each teammate

Teams appreciate a teammate who exhibits a strong sense of independence, a “true grit” spirited approach to getting a job done. However, gifted team players exude an awareness that they are not indispensable or irreplaceable to the team. In other words, beware of a person’s stubborn independence that robs other teammates from contributing their value and competencies. Successful team workmanship requires an ability to sacrifice without complaint when one’s ideas are tabled and another’s ideas prevail. Exercising an ability to stand still takes a great deal of strength when the core of your being wants to cry foul that your “brilliant” problem solving solution is sidelined.

Fine-tuned conflict resolution skills

People react differently to the tides of conflict, an unavoidable aspect of team collaboration. We can all agree that one’s response to conflict in the workplace has a significant impact on the team. When in a disagreement, strong team players work hard to see other points of view. This begins with displaying qualities of good listening skills, humility and objectivity — none of which come naturally! When both sides have validity in their positions, team players seek compromise. Finally, when conflict persists, it is the effective team player who cares enough to work through the conflict rather than resist. They are motivated to “agree to disagree” without becoming disagreeable.


The relationship between our mental attitude and our circumstances is revealed in our daily tasks, both simple and complex. A strong team player realizes that only the humble can be led and that a humble person is more easily coachable. Nothing is more attractive in a highly competent team player than a humble presence. A humble teammate performs tasks without being concerned about who is right but rather what is right in order to achieve project goals.


Flexing that muscle of flexibility is critical in an environment where deadlines and priorities can shift on a moment’s notice. Thus, a contributor who can press on when a project takes an unexpected shift in its execution or comes to a halt is a valuable asset to the team. The alternative is not an option; once a change in course is put into action, an effective teammate understands that it behooves the team to press on and not linger in the past. Flexible teammates produce great results.

Building a powerhouse team is clearly a mindful process requiring not only acknowledgement of a candidate’s accomplishments on paper, but more importantly, an introspective focus on the intrinsic qualities that contributed to the successes. Though time-consuming and challenging, finding a team player who can provide evidence of these outlined characteristics is well worth the arduous search.

Read more: The Three Virtues of a Great Team Player