What Ideal Team Players Are Made of
Ideal team players possess adequate measures of humility, hunger and people smarts, according to Patrick Lencioni in The Ideal Team Player. They have little ego when it comes to needing attention or credit for their contributions, and they are comfortable sharing their accolades or even occasionally missing out on them. Ideal team players work with a sense of energy, passion and personal responsibility, taking on whatever they possibly can for the good of the team. Finally, they say and do the right things to help teammates feel appreciated, understood and included, even when difficult situations arise that require tough love. Most of us can recall having managed or worked with ideal team players in our careers, as they are quite appealing and memorable. How exactly should a leader go about evaluating people for humility, hunger and smarts? There is no easy, quantitative diagnostic, but there are reliable, qualitative approaches that can work very well. There are a number of questions managers can ask themselves about a given employee to determine whether he or she is humble, hungry or smart.
Humble. Does he genuinely compliment or praise teammates without hesitation? Does she easily admit when she makes a mistake? Is he willing to take on lower-level work for the good of the team? Does she gladly share credit for team accomplishments? Does he readily acknowledge his weaknesses? Does she offer and receive apologies graciously?
Hungry. Does he do more than what is required in his own job? Does she have passion for the “mission” of the team? Does he feel a sense of personal responsibility for the overall success of the team? Is she willing to contribute to and think about work outside of office hours? Is he willing and eager to take on tedious and challenging tasks whenever necessary? Does she look for opportunities to contribute outside of her area of responsibility?
Smart. Does he seem to know what teammates are feeling during meetings and interactions? Does she show empathy to others on the team? Does he demonstrate an interest in the lives of teammates? Is she an attentive listener? Is he aware of how his words and actions impact others on the team? Is she good at adjusting her behavior and style to fit the nature of a conversation or relationship? Teamwork is not a virtue but rather a choice. For those organizations that are sincere about humility, hunger and smarts, here are a few simple ideas for embedding those virtues into your culture.
• Be explicit and bold. Leaders who believe teamwork is important and expect their people to be humble, hungry and smart should come right out and say so. They should tell everyone. Employees. Vendors. Partners. Customers. It’s not marketing but rather expectation-setting.
• Catch and revere. Leaders should be constantly on the lookout for any displays of the virtues. And when they see those displays, they should hold them up as examples for everyone to see. Great team leaders will acknowledge an act of humility, hunger or people smarts not because they want to be seen as sophisticated or clever managers but because they want everyone to know exactly what kinds of behavior they expect and appreciate.
• Detect and address. Whenever you see a behavior that violates one of the values, take the time to let the violator know that his behavior is out of line. And don’t just do it in egregious situations. Often, the smaller offenses are the ones that are harder for employees to see and the ones they learn from the most. Of course, doing this well requires tact and good judgment. The key is that leaders and, eventually, teammates don’t squander opportunities for constructive learning.
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