Almost everything that gets done in business gets done by teams. Even the road warrior sales person who is out there, far from the office and hunting his next prey, needs the support of a sales team. Keynote speaker and best-selling business author, Patrick Lencioni, talks extensively about teams in his book, “The Ideal Team Player.” In that book, he describes the characteristics of people who will help to make a team strong and effective as well as those that will make a team weak and dysfunctional. To learn more about what Lencioni says are the three hallmarks of a great team player, please continue reading below.
“A key to achieving success is to assemble a strong and stable management team.” ~ Vivek Wadhwa
According to Lencioni, the three essential characteristics (he calls them “virtues”) of a great team player are:
- People smarts
The most important of these is humility, so we’ll deal with that one first.
Humility. We sometimes may equate a “humble” person with someone who is shy, withdrawn, or weak. Not so here. In this context, being humble is simply not being arrogant. A team player who shows humility is demonstrating an ability to subordinate his or her ego to the greater good of the group. Great team players are unconcerned about status or about who gets credit. They are generous in giving credit for success to the entire team. Their language is peppered with “we” and “us” rather than “I” and “me.”
It’s important to note that “humility” and “self-confidence” are not mutually exclusive terms. On the contrary, a humble person can also be extremely self-confident. Or said another way, a humble person may simply be so confident in her abilities that she doesn’t feel the need to prove herself to anybody. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Hunger. Think drive, determination, and motivation. It’s continuous improvement, an unending quest to make the team, its tools and processes, better. Hungry people rarely need to be pushed by their team leader because they are already on the prowl for that next big challenge, and they will pounce on it when they find it. We’re not talking here about a hunger that would drive a person and his or her teammates to exhaustion. We’re talking about a healthy level of hunger that recognizes, and celebrates, that there’s always more to do, more to learn, and more to improve.
People smarts. Lencioni says this is nothing more than using common sense to guide your interactions with other people. Some of us refer to this as “emotional intelligence.” It’s being aware of, and sensitive to, actions and language that could cause a negative response from another team member or from the entire team at large. This isn’t to say that we can’t have disagreements within the team. In fact, robust discussions with differing points of view are essential to a high-functioning team. But those discussions and disagreements must use language that is tolerant and respectful, and that does not impugn the integrity of anyone on the team.
As individual attributes . . . humility, hunger, and people smarts . . . all are worthy and desirable. But when we put these into the context of a team, we see that the real power is in the combination of all three. Two out of three won’t cut it. If, for example, a team member shows the requisite amount of humility and people smarts, but is lacking a fire in the belly (drive, self-motivation), he or she will bring the whole team down.
In his best-selling book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins talks about the need to get the right people on the bus, meaning hiring the people who are a good fit with the company’s culture. So if you want to build great teams, make sure humility, hunger, and people smarts are embraced within your culture and within your hiring practices.