Patrick Lencioni leads a consulting firm, The Table Group, specializing in executive team development and organizational health. Two of his previous books that have impacted my journey are The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and Death By Meeting. Where the Five Dysfunctions focuses on how a group of folks interacts in order to become a cohesive team, The Ideal Team Player: How To Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues is all about the makeup of individual team members.
In typical Lencioni fashion, the author leads the reader through a fable where the premise of an ideal team player is defined, recognized, and developed. This storytelling brings the reader into a situation where the success of an organization is determined by the hiring of a team member. A nephew was hired by a successful uncle to help creatively lead his construction company. Over lunch, the uncle shares he has medical issues meaning he is going to step aside and hand over the entire organization to the nephew. Oh, and there are two major jobs they just got and they’ll have to hire close to 80 people to pull it off. Here we go.
There is drama, there is juggling, and there is a great deal of dialogue. Love me some dialogue where talking through stuff is the major function of a team. There are interviews (great questions and situational processes), there are systems, there are situations of culture building to carry on the ideal team following the hiring. In the process, they determine that the ideal team player must have three virtues:
The ideal team player must be HUNGRY…They go beyond what is required, passionate about the work they’re doing (not just passionate about other stuff, but passionate about the work), always looking for more to learn, self-motivated, diligent, thinking about the next step, next opportunity and they ‘loathe the idea that they might be perceived as slackers.’
The ideal team player must be SMART…people smart: referring to a person’s common sense about people, knowing how to say, what to say, and how to act, ‘which is a lot more than being nice.’ They ask good questions, listen to what others are saying, and stay engaged in conversations. Smart people have good judgment and ‘intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics.’
The ideal team player must be HUMBLE…They are quick to point out the contributions of others, lack excessive ego or concerns about status, share credit, and emphasize team over self. Even if someone has the skill set to take on a role on the team, if they treat people with preference or bias, they are not the ideal team player.
Are you an ideal team player? I admit, I have some work to do. That’s why I read these books. The author speaks into how to become an ideal team player: practice what you want to be. Lencioni even lays out situations and scenarios of how to practice and boost your ‘idealness’ (my word, not his.) A quick read with a story to share.
The author closes the book with ‘apart from the other two virtues, humility stands alone. It is, indeed, the greatest of all virtues and the antithesis of pride, which is the root of all sin, according to the Bible. The most compelling example of humility in the history of mankind can be found in Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. He attracted people of all kinds when he walked the earth, and continues to do so today, providing an example of humility that is as powerful as it is countercultural.’
Are you an ideal team player? It’s the person who walks in the combination of all three virtues: hungry, humble, and smart.
“For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14