Project Management Institute

Building a dream team


15 qualities every project manager should cultivate in team members.


If you were building a team and could handpick its members, what are the key attributes you would look for? You say that your team has already been assembled and you have to deal with the cards you’ve been dealt? That’s likely the case for most project managers. But that doesn’t absolve you of your duty to lay out a vision to members that makes clear what you expect so that the team can perform its best.

Here are 15 qualities and habits that every leader wants to see in a team member. Of course, members can’t be expected to already know or practice everything on the list. Often, these qualities and habits emerge as the team is forming and are reinforced throughout the project. Praise should be heaped on members who demonstrate these traits notably. Members not performing ideally will need coaching so they can move closer to the dream team level.

1. Participates fully. Voluntarily speaks up in meetings. Contributes ideas, even if they’re unconventional—many times thinking out of the box brings the team to the best solution.

2. Seeks help. All of us find ourselves overwhelmed occasionally if we are truly stretching ourselves. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Doing so can be a big benefit to a team.

3. Tells the truth. It’s important to be honest about any obstacles to project progress. When a team member makes a mistake, he or she should admit it and take responsibility. The truth is essential if the team is to function at its peak.

4. Is reliable. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, so meeting commitments and consistently delivering quality work is essential. An ideal team member takes personal pride in fulfilling commitments.

5. Maintains a positive attitude. Adopts a can-do spirit and looks forward to challenges and opportunities. Doesn’t make things personal.

6. Focuses on solutions. The most professionally mature members do not engage in finger-pointing. Instead, they focus on solving problems to move forward and recognize that we all make mistakes and need to learn from them, not repeat them.

7. Is proactive. Dream team members don’t focus just on the task at hand. They look at upcoming tasks to help ensure the team’s readiness.

8. Shares knowledge. Yes, knowledge is power. But the best performers give it away—they don’t hoard it. They recognize how this strengthens the team and raises their own value and reputation in the process.

9. Takes initiative. Practices self-reliance when appropriate and requires minimal leadership to make things happen. Understands an assignment and domain of responsibility.

10. Gives praise to others. Recognizes the contributions of others and gives credit where due.

11. Demonstrates integrity. Integrity is knowing the difference between right and wrong and doing the right thing. It means never giving in to illegal or unethical behavior. Integrity is not optional.

12. Supports others’ ideas. Team members should be open to the ideas of others. When a decision is made, they should be willing to cooperate with others and support them, even if they originally disagreed with the idea.

13. Follows the Golden Rule. Treats others in the same manner as he or she would like to be treated. Practices empathy.

14. Continuously improves. Seeks ways to continually improve skills as well as the processes and procedures practiced by the team. Becomes and remains the subject matter expert in a chosen domain and is open to constructive criticism. Doesn’t just correct a problem; seeks to correct the process that allowed the problem to occur.

15. Plays for the team. Team members have to care about the welfare of the team and its success. They should look out for the team as if its success is defined by each member’s actions every day.

I cannot overstate the importance of a team embracing shared values that serve to bond and strengthen the members along their journey.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it can be a great starting point for team discussion as each point is described and examples are shared to reinforce the benefits to each member and the overall team. I cannot overstate the importance of a team embracing shared values that serve to bond and strengthen the members along their journey.

Almost all project members want to perform well and support the success of the team. They want to mimic behavior that will help the team and, in the process, make them look good as well. As project manager, don’t forget your duty to set a consistent example for the team members. PM

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Neal Whitten, PMP, president of The Neal Whitten Group, is a speaker, trainer, consultant and mentor. He can be reached at

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