BOOK SUMMARY – The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, by Patrick Lencioni
“The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues,” by Patrick Lencioni*, presents a game-changing model for organizations striving to achieve harmonious teamwork and superior performance. The author encapsulates this in the triad of virtues: Humble, Hungry, and Smart.
Let’s delve into these virtues (Humble, Hungry, and Smart):
- Humble: Lencioni believes humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player. Humble individuals 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.
- Hungry: The hungry ones are always seeking more. More things to do. More to learn. More responsibility. They’re self-motivated and diligent. Their work ethic keeps them going when others drop their pace.
- Smart: Here, ‘smart’ does not refer to intellectual capacity. Instead, it refers to a person’s interpersonal intelligence. Smart people are intuitive in social situations. They understand the nuances of team interaction, how to handle others, and how to say things in a way that doesn’t upset or confuse them.
Lencioni illustrates the importance of these virtues through character profiles.
- Pawn – Humble but not hungry or smart, leading to passivity.
- Bulldozer – Hungry and smart but not humble, causing them to steamroll over others in their pursuit of goals.
- Charmer – Smart but lacks humility and hunger, making them likable but unreliable.
- Accidental Mess Maker – Humble and hungry but not smart, which means they unintentionally create issues.
- Lovable Slacker – Humble and smart but not hungry, resulting in complacency.
- Skillful Politician – Hungry and smart but not humble, leading to manipulative behaviors.
- Ideal Team Player – Embodies all three virtues, aligning their personal ambitions with the team’s success, inspiring and uplifting others, and acting with intelligence and empathy.
How do we implement the Ideal Team Player model in our organizations?
- Hiring: During the recruitment process, look beyond technical skills. Incorporate behavioral interview techniques and scenario-based questions to identify humble, hungry, and smart traits. Remember, skills can be taught, but character is intrinsic.
- Assessing current employees: Use the model as a lens to evaluate your current team. This helps identify who may be lacking in one or more virtues. Everyone can have an off day, so consistent patterns should guide assessments, not isolated incidents.
- Developing employees: If you find team members lacking in any virtue, create personalized development plans. Coach and mentor them, providing actionable feedback to help them grow.
- Embedding in the organization’s culture: Make these virtues part of your company’s DNA. Celebrate and reward examples of humble, hungry, and smart behavior. Make them part of performance reviews, goal-setting, and team-building activities.
The key to embedding these virtues into your organization is consistency. Talk about them, live them, and hold each other accountable. This book’s brilliance lies not in a new concept but in the simplicity and clarity with which it refines what we already know to be true about effective teamwork. Lencioni’s model doesn’t just transform teams—it transforms entire organizations.
In summary, “The Ideal Team Player” is more than a book; it’s a road map to individual growth and organizational success. So, let’s all be humble enough to accept our shortcomings, hungry enough to keep growing, and smart enough to foster positive team dynamics. Together, we can build a culture where everyone is an ideal team.
About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc, a distinguished business performance expert, and the author of best-selling books “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket.” With his wealth of experience, Shore helps organizations unlock their potential by putting people at the heart of their strategies. His motivational and positive tone empowers leaders to transform their businesses through his innovative techniques and thought leadership.
(*) Footnote: Lencioni, P. (2016). The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues. Jossey-Bass.