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A Commentary on The Ideal Team Player, Patrick M. Lencioni

By Drew Brown

Patrick M. Lencioni’s team strengthening methods have been popular across many different organizations. It’s no secret that interpersonal conflict is a leading cause for international colleagues to return home, so I’m interested in anything that will decrease attrition and increase cooperation. The Ideal Team Player is his 2016 addition to his Dysfunctions series.

The first part details an imaginary manager who has just inherited his family’s construction business and is tasked with new projects and getting it done in the midst of high staff turnover. The manager discovers that ideal team players excel in 3 areas:

  • They are humble.
  • Hungry.
  • Smart.

An ideal team player is humble: they aren’t interested in show-boating. Their happiness comes from helping the team accomplish its mission, not minding who gets the credit. They are also hungry: they work beyond 9 to 5 and gladly accept other responsibilities outside of their personal job description – within reason – that advances the mission. Finally, they’re smart: not book smart, but people smart. They can read the room, time difficult conversations carefully, and sense when a co-worker needs some encouragement.

I am part of several multi-national teams, so it’s important to me to know how I can improve my role as a fellow team member. First, this book has helped me evaluate my contributions as a team member. Since reading this book, I’ve often stopped to ask myself, “Is my ego getting in the way here?” (humble) or, “Am I going above and beyond what is expected of me?” (hungry) and “Am I showing sensitivity to what they are experiencing?” (smart).

It’s also helped me to identify and encourage these traits among those I lead. We were having trouble with one of our staff, who was showing some lack of people smarts. I took him aside and explained the importance of treating others with respect and not acting like you own the place. Lencioni says that staff who are willing to learn, will learn and get better, but those who are unwilling to learn will get tired of the constant repetition of the 3 virtues and will probably quit on their own. I’m happy to report that this staff member has already shown signs of improvement.

In short, the book has helped me to improve my role as a team member and helped others identify how they can do the same.