by Maree Ferguson, Founder & Director, Dietitian Connection

Calling all managers: if you haven’t read this new book I’m about to recommend, you must get a copy today!

But first, to back up: I am a big fan of Patrick Lencioni’s books. On my list of favourite books of all time are some of his older titles, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”; and “Death by Meeting”. Lencioni’s books are such an easy read, as they are written as fables or stories, and then the key messages are summarised at the end of the book.

Now, I’ve just finished reading his latest book, “The Ideal Team Player”, and I’m so excited to be able to share a review of it with you. This concept is especially useful not only for those who manage teams, but also for you as an individual, so that you work on possessing the qualities most sought after in a team player.

Patrick describes the ideal team player as having the following three virtues: humility, hunger, and smarts.

. Humility is, in his view, the most important virtue. A humble person is someone who is not concerned about status and doesn’t have an ego, but rather acknowledges the contribution of the team, and emphasises and defines success by the team — rather than personal success.

.Hungry people are always looking to do more, learn more and be more responsible. These people are self-motivated, go above and beyond what is required and are always thinking about the next opportunity.•

Lencioni defines Smart people as those with excellent emotional intelligence, great interpersonal skills and self-awareness.

(If you’re curious where you sit for each of these virtues, you can complete your own self-assessment.)

The ideal team player must have all three virtues – meaning, if even one virtue is missing, people are not great team players. For example, if someone is people-smart but lacks humility and hunger, they can be seen as the “charmer” — someone who might be likeable, but isn’t interested in team success. On the other hand, someone who is hungry but lacks humility and people smarts might come across as a “bulldozer”: someone who is determined to get things done but, again, with little interest for the team and how their actions impact others.

So, how do you find this elusive “ideal team player”? This starts with the recruitment process. Lencioni recommends group interviews, where you can debrief as a team after each interview. He also suggests non-traditional interviews, set in everyday situations – e.g., spending time in a car or running an errand – where the interviewer can observe how candidates react to different situations, and can look for signs that they are humble, hungry and smart.

The author recommends asking candidates what would others say about them, e.g.– “How would your colleagues describe your work ethic?” You are more likely to get a more honest answer than if you asked them to describe their own work ethic.

Here are some specific examples of interview questions that Patrick mentions in his book:

Humble • What was the most embarrassing moment in your career? Or the biggest failure? Humble people are generally not afraid to share their failings/weaknesses.

Hungry • What is the hardest you’ve ever worked on something in your life? Hungry people are grateful and enjoy the experience; and don’t complain.

Smart • What kind of people annoy you the most and how do you deal with them? Smart people are self-aware and are able to manage these situations in a constructive manner.

You can read more suggested interview questions here

Ready to implement Lencioni’s suggestions? You can start by evaluating your current team for the three virtues by using this checklist.     

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