Team player – every single one of us is one or isn’t – in a variety of different circles of life. Most folks can determine, from their gut, if someone they work with or live with is being a team player during a certain season or occasion, but to actually pinpoint what that means is entirely different. When you try to help someone – even yourself – grow as a team player, it’s not always easy to determine how to do it and what steps to take.
I just finished reading a book by Pat Lencioni called The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues. The three virtues are not only simple, but practical. The story is about Jeff Shanley, the main character whose uncle’s growing construction business was thrown into his lap during a high stress season. He and the new leadership team have to figure out how they are going to get the job done through others. The story is full of great principles, which have been on my mind in various contexts since I read through them!
The best part of these virtues is that they can be learned – you can grow in them! Here are the three ideal team player virtues and the summary of each (based on Lencioni’s website).
Ideal team players are humble. They 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 share credit, emphasize team over self and define success collectively rather than individually.
Ideal team players are hungry. They are always looking for more. More things to do. More to learn. More responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.
Ideal team players are smart. They 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.
Where they overlap, is the idea team player.
You must have all three to be a true team player.
If a person is Hungry and Smart, but not Humble, you can imagine what happens. They can get the job done, but they burn bridges, they may come across as fake, too good for you, and though initially they make lots of friends – loudly and easily – they come across as overconfident and as a result, have a hard time working with people.
If a person is Smart and Humble, but not Hungry, they are fun to have around, fun to talk with, but soon you begin to wonder why they are even there – they just do enough work to get by. They leave as soon as they can, take breaks all the time, pass work off and overall just don’t go after it. Their non work becomes very noticeable.
If a person is Hungry and Humble, but not Smart, then they really push hard to do all they can, but they aren’t able to work well with others. They keep their nose to the grind but have to work hard to connect relationally, or worse yet, come across as uncaring, mean, intolerant. For this kind of worker, other people are a nuisance.
Just talking through this book with your team or staff could really help each person see their area of weakness and begin addressing it.
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