Any effective organization, from local sports team to global corporation, practices teamwork. When people work and collaborate together on a common goal and/or purpose, they achieve more and experience a tangible measure of personal satisfaction. The opposite is true as well: When people work against one another, both organizations and individuals turn out to be ineffective.
In his groundbreaking must-read book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni described in meticulous detail his unique approach for tackling the perilous group behaviors that destroy teamwork. He outlined five ways teamwork goes awry: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. In his new opus, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, Lencioni focuses on the individual, describing the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player. One has to be humble, hungry, and smart.
“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Humility is the most important enzyme to allow for collective action. Without humility, teams don’t work effectively, because members are either out for themselves (combination of arrogance and narcissism) or without any capacity to propose solutions due to lack of self-confidence.
“Hungry people are always looking for more.”
“Hungry people are self-motivated and diligent,” Lencioni observes. For a team to work effectively, each team member must proactively contribute to the overall effort. No slackers allowed.
Being “smart” doesn’t refer intellectual capacity. It’s closer to emotional intelligence. Lencioni defines it as, “a person’s common sense about people…the ability to be interpersonally appropriate and aware.” To be an ideal team member you need to be people-smart.
After Lencioni defines the three virtues required to be a good team player, he outlines further why and how these qualities must work together: “If even one is missing in a team member, teamwork becomes significantly more difficult and sometimes not possible.” He describes the “lovable slacker,” humble and smart, liked by all, but only willing to do the absolute minimum. Or the “accidental mess-maker,” humble and hungry, lacking emotional intelligence and thereby stepping on others’ toes. Or the hungry and smart “skillful politician,” whio is “cleverly ambitious and willing to work extremely hard, but only in as much as it will benefit them personally.”
As with the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Ideal Team Player begins with a leadership fable, the story of the CEO of a family-owned building company who discovers these three virtues in the course of taking over the humble-hungry-smart model in propositional terms. This narrative approach shows before it tells. This unique approach makes Lencioni’s points concrete and easy to understand.
Beyond the fable, Lencioni presents a powerful framework and easy-to-use tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players in any kind of organization. Whether you’re a leader striving to create a culture of teamwork or an employee wanting to make yourself an invaluable team member, The Ideal Team Player will prove to be as practical as it is compelling.