Q2 · 2016The ideal teamplayer

Hello everyone.

In the previous issues of “Spotlight on Performance” I have shared a lot of personal views on how to achieve sustainable top performance. In this edition, I would like to introduce you to a powerful model from one of my dearest colleagues, Patrick “Pat” Lencioni*.

Right now, Pat’s latest book, The Ideal Team Player, is hitting the market. As I completely share Pat’s views on leadership and his vision of creating strong teams – including what ideal team players look like – I feel this is a perfect opportunity to give you a brief insight into his new book. This will give you a clear understanding of the relevant virtues to look for when you hire and develop people in your teams.

If you don’t already know of Pat, let me start by telling you he is recognized as a true pioneer in leadership and business. Pat is the architect of organizational health, a concept that is widely perceived as the last competitive advantage in business today

A few years ago, he was named by Fortune magazine as “one of the new gurus you should know” and he is described by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the most in demand speakers in America”. He is also a New York Times best-selling author, and no doubt many of you will be familiar with his previous books, which include the influential The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Throughout his 25 years of working with leadership teams, Pat notes that managers have never stopped talking about the importance of hiring “team players” in their organizations.

What is amazing is how few of the managers really know what to look for. As he puts it, “From interviewing and hiring to employee development and firing, managers seem to have been largely guessing at how to predict and assess whether a person was likely to fit into and function well on a team.”

In The Ideal Team Player, Pat concludes that there are three specific virtues or characteristics great team players share, which allow them to inspire others and make their teams successful. Those virtues can be used to screen and assess prospective employees in the hiring process, or to dissect challenges among current team members.

So, what are these three vital characteristics?

An ideal team player must be simultaneously humble, hungry and smart:

  • Humble – Ideal team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. Humble people are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They – in a confident way – share credit, emphasize team over self and define success collectively rather than individually.
  • Hungry –Ideal team players are always looking for more: more success; more things to do; more to learn; more responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed to work harder because they are highly self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.
  • Smart– Ideal team players have common sense about people. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They have good judgment and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions.

It is the combination of all three virtues that makes a person an ideal team player. Unfortunately, when even one of these attributes is lacking in a significant way, challenges can arise

For example, a humble and hungry employee who is not smart about people may accomplish a great deal but might (accidentally) leave a trail of interpersonal destruction behind them. And a person who is smart and humble but lacking in hunger will – even generally liked in the team – frustrate other team members by doing only what is required and having to be constantly asked to do more. Finally, a team member who is hungry and smart but truly lacking in humility can have a devastating impact on a team. This type knows how to present themselves as a well-intentioned colleague, all the while looking out for their own needs.

It gets even worse if team members lack two out of the three virtues.

Pat calls them “Bulldozers” (hungry only), “Pawns” (humble only), and “Charmers” (smart only), and provides very concrete explanation how to hire, recognize and cultivate ideal team players in your organization.

Meanwhile, I am currently writing my next book, The Melting Point, and I am delighted to let you know that Pat will be writing the foreword for it. I don’t want to give away too many details about The Melting Point at this stage, but what I can tell you is that it will be looking specifically at many of the challenges that can “raise the heat” in today’s frenetic business world, and hinder executives’ ability to perform at their best. It will show how these problems can be overcome so that business leaders and corporate performers don’t reach a stage of “melt down”. (As you can see, there is a clue in the title!).

I’ll have much more to say about The Melting Point in future editions of Spotlight on Performance, but for now I recommend that you take a look at Pat’s books – if you haven’t already – and especially at his latest title The Ideal Team Player, which is hot off the press this month.

Happy reading!

* Among our various activities to support our clients in achieving sustainable high performance, since 2012 we have been official international partners primarily in Switzerland, Germany and Austria with Patrick Lencioni’s company The Table Group.