The number one business skill you can acquire is proper conduct. How you act is more important than your degrees, accolades and past accomplishments combined. If you can’t get along with people, you won’t go far in the business world -- no matter how smart and shrewd you are.

Your conduct is even more important if you want to be a top achiever or part of the business leadership. These are the people who make a real difference; the ones who are real team players and a positive force in the business equation. They are the ones who work constructively with other people, no matter the situation. What’s their secret?

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The quickest way to become an exemplary team player is to pay attention to your behavior. You need to be able to work and communicate constructively with everyone in your business, from employees and coworkers to your boss and clients. The attitude you bring to your work and how you handle yourself at the office are what people will remember about you -- and how they will form their opinions of you.

It’s easy to be excellent when everything is going great. But true exemplary team players are those who are a positive force in the office even when the going gets tough, and it will from time to time. These are the people most likely to turn the game around when things look grim -- like when business cash flow is tight and everyone is hurting for money. It comes down to having a strong sense of integrity, in both thought and action. A true leader walks the walk and talks the talk, not only during the big games, but also when the spotlight is off. This is when other team members need a reassuring presence to calm the waters. An exemplary team player is like the keel on a ship -- a steadying influence that keeps everyone on course.

A strong commitment to the company’s vision is the motivating force of every exemplary team player. An exemplary team player is honored, respected and loved by all coworkers because they know they can rely on this person for support and to do the right thing in challenging times. By their very presence and how they handle themselves, they become a guiding light of the company.

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The elite few don’t try to control everything. They instead know how and when to trust others. The future is often an unknown in startup companies. At times, the business can feel more like a vision than a profitable reality. Funding is up in the air, contracts are yet to be signed, and everyone is, to a certain extent, figuring it out as they go. This time of great uncertainty is the crucial time to establish strong relationships with your team members. Doing so signals that you’re willing to join forces to face the unknowns, relying on the commitment and integrity of the team. Members come together with a team spirit dedicated to the larger vision. They remain flexible, accept change as it comes and recalibrate, always keeping the larger mission in mind.

Exemplary team players are, without question, effective communicators. While everyone’s style is a bit different, effective communication is always respectful and open to honest dialogue. Exemplary team players know what needs to be said and perhaps even more importantly, they know how to say it. However, knowing how to say something is not a clear-cut, neat and tidy proposition. Sometimes this means broaching uncomfortable subjects, which means having the courage to clear the air. Other times, it takes a firm but respectful “no.”

Maybe it comes down to improving your negotiating skills. Exemplary team players know how to work through the delicate intricacies of this type of conversation without hurting or offending others, or escalating the situation. Regardless of personal delivery style, an exemplary team player is bold but never reckless. A true leader uses adverse situations to build the coherence of the team.

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Much of what makes a top achiever is what they don’t have. They don’t have a bad attitude. They aren’t hotheads. They don’t burn bridges or damage their relationships with others. They are not petty or greedy. Above all else, exemplary team players are not negative. In challenging times, they find ways to move the situation forward in a mutually beneficial way. In frightening times, they manage their fear wisely, without infusing the instability of fear to the group. In other words, players are not a fly in the ointment. Instead of being part of the problem, they find solutions.