The Ideal Team Player Summary
6 min read ⌚
How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues: A Leadership Fable
If you know anything about Patrick Lencioni, you probably didn’t need that subtitle: of course, it’s a leadership fable, possibly one of your favorites!
This one’s about “The Ideal Team Player.”
Who Should Read “The Ideal Team Player”? And Why?
If you’re interested in sports, you’ve probably noticed that haphazard groups of extra-talented individuals are never as good as teams of average players with a good manager.
Well, because – as they say for quite a long time – there’s no “I” in “Team.”
“The Ideal Team Player” is the book you should read if you want to build an all-star team at your company. So, if you are in HR or you are a company owner/leader, and you think you could really use a little guidance from someone who knows a thing or two about good teams, then don’t hesitate to buy this book and take Patrick Lencioni’s advice.
It works both ways: Lencioni’s fable can help you even if you are an employer who can’t fit in, but would really want to become a good team player.
About Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni is an American author, consultant, and keynote speaker. He is the founder and the president of The Table Group, a management counseling firm.
Deemed by the “Wall Street Journal” as “one of the most in-demand business speakers,” Lencioni has so far written ten books on various aspects of business management, most of them stressing the importance of teamwork.
Lencioni is renowned as the author of two bestsellers, “The Advantage” and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” the latter of which serves as a sort of a prequel to the “The Ideal Team Player.”
“The Ideal Team Player PDF Summary”
Once again, Lencioni’s story is about a company with a problem: Bob Shanley, the long-time CEO of Valley Builders (VB) – a contracting firm he has founded – has to retire due to a heart problem requiring surgery.
He offers the job to his nephew Jeff, who soon learns that he has become the CEO at the worst time possible: the company has just won two gigantic contracts which require for him to hire at least 60 new employees within the next two months.
Make that 80: 20 of them, as his experienced senior executives tell him right at the bat, would eventually quit.
Because they wouldn’t fit the VB culture established and cultivated by his uncle, who was pretty aware that “the ability to work effectively with others…is more critical in today’s fluid world than it has ever been.”
Soon Jeff learns that VB’s work culture is based on the idea that a team must be built around ideal team players and that these, in turn, must share three traits: humility, hunger, and people smarts.
However, they must have all of these, since lacking one or two of them will probably have a counter-effect.
You see, people who are merely humble are no more than pawns; those who are merely hungry are bulldozers; and those who are smart only are charmers.
You don’t like any of those.
However, two of these three traits aren’t enough:
Employees who are hungry and smart but not humble are skillful politicians who will further their personal interests until it’s too late to do something about that.
Employees who are humble and smart but not hungry are lovable slackers who won’t get going when the going gets tough.
Finally, employees who are humble and hungry but not smart are accidental mess-makers who will unintentionally create more problems than the team can solve.
So, you want your team player to be ideal?
Pick only those who have all three values:
In Lencioni’s words, humility is probably the most important quality:
Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They 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. It is no great surprise, then, that humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player. Humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.
Hungry people are never satisfied, and they always want more than they have. They have a drive and a burning ambition to be more than they are.
Hunger, writes Lencioni, “is the least sensitive and nuanced of the three virtues. That’s the good news. The bad news is – it’s the hardest to change.”
#3. People Smarts
Be aware that “people smarts” doesn’t necessarily mean “brilliant”; but it does mean emotionally intelligent and capable of interpersonal interaction.
Of course, you can’t have a team if there’s no team chemistry; and employees who are people smarts contribute to this chemistry.
Key Lessons from “The Ideal Team Player”
1. The Three Essential Virtues of the Ideal Team Player
2. How to Interview New Hires for Your Team
3. How to Develop the Three Essential Qualities
The Three Essential Virtues of the Ideal Team Player
For organizations seriously committed to making teamwork a cultural reality,” writes Patrick Lencioni, “’the right people’ are the ones who have the three virtues in common – humility, hunger and people smarts.
However, neither of them is enough in itself; in fact, if not combined with the other two, it can be seriously detrimental to your team, producing either too servile or ambitious workers or, even worse in today’s work climate, lone wolves.
How to Interview New Hires for Your Team
“Most interviews are still the same stilted, rehearsed and predictable conversations they were 40 years ago” – notes Patrick Lencioni.
And of course – they don’t need to be!
Now that you know the three essential virtues of an ideal team player, you should design your interview process to find out if your potential employee has them.
So, try to be unconventional (say, take the interviewee on a shopping trip) and focus on detecting the subtle hunches which may tell you if your new prospect is humble, hungry and people smarts.
These are good rules-of-thumb:
#1. For humble: Ask the applicant about the most important accomplishments of his/her career and see if he will use “I” or “we” more; the latter indicates humility;
#2. For hungry: Ask the applicant what the hardest he/she has ever worked on in his/her life is. If it seems that he/she has enjoyed (as opposed to merely tolerate) this experience – he/she is certainly hungry.
#3. For smart: Ask the applicant how would he describe his/her personality. If he knows his/her weaknesses and strengths well, then he/she is introspective and emotionally intelligent.
How to Develop the Three Essential Qualities
If you want to become the ideal team player, then, obviously, you need to work on the three essential qualities of being one:
#1. Humble: be polite and learn how to compliment; ask your colleagues how they feel; listen.
#2. Hungry: this is the most difficult virtue to develop; but do try: learn how to do more work.
#3. Smart: there are many books which can help you develop your emotional intelligence; use them as your guide.
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“The Ideal Team Player Quotes”
The five behavioral manifestations of teamwork: trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results. Click To Tweet
A long list of hobbies like extreme skiing, sled dog racing, storm chasing and shark hunting might just be a red flag when it comes to someone who is not going to put the needs of the team ahead of personal pursuits. Click To Tweet
Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. Click To Tweet
The most unhappy people in a company are the ones who don't fit the culture and are allowed to stay. They know they don't belong. Deep down inside they don't want to be there. They're miserable. Click To Tweet
Many people will try to get a job even if they don't fit the company's stated values, but very few will do so if they know that they're going to be held accountable, day in and day out, for behavior that violates the values. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
If you know your Lencioni, you won’t be disappointed by “The Ideal Team Player”: this book has everything one has grown accustomed to expect from a book by him.
Namely, a finely written and relatable fable with a straightforward moral, which is not only simple but also universal and easily applicable.
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Emir is the Head of International and SEO at 12Min. In his spare time, he loves to meditate and play soccer.