“The Ideal Team Player”

                                                                 The Ideal Team Player 

I love the parables of Jesus. I always have. Even before I was saved. I love it when someone can use a story to teach us valuable life lessons. It’s probably why l love going to the movies too, especially ones that have some sort of a message behind them. I love these so much that I can even often see a valuable life lesson in stories that aren’t even trying to make a point.

As a young manager early in my career, my favorite leadership books were always the ones that made their points by telling a story; “Who Moved My Cheese”, “One Minute Manager”, “The Fred Factor” just to name a few. Recently my boss asked all of his team to read this book as part of some ongoing development he is doing to help us with some big goals we have in this year. The funny thing is that this book was given to me by a friend a few months ago and I just put it aside thinking I might be able to get to it eventually. I am so thankful that my boss “encouraged” me to get to it sooner because, I have to say, that I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Page after page, chapter after chapter, I found solid, useful, tangible and actionable principles to help me in my role as a leader, especially in this coming new year where I planning on continuing to strengthen my team in even greater ways. Whether you are looking to hire a few new staff or recruit some volunteers to your ministry, this book is a must read as a leader of any growing organization. (WARNING: though the author is most certainly a Christian man, he does use a few coarse words that are story and character appropriate and very much describe feelings we have all had if we have ever worked anywhere with more than 2 people. J )

The basic foundation of this book is identifying and implementing in various meaningful ways the key characteristics of the ideal team player. The story Lencioni uses to bring home the principles is the story of a young executive who takes over a small construction company but the truths can be applied to any industry including food service and hospitality. The key characteristics according to Lencioni are Humble, Hungry and Smart.

Humility is considered to be by far the most critical of the three. The book describes it this way; “Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns for status. They are quick to point out contributions of others and slow to seek attention of their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self and define success collectively rather than individually.” Without this quality, someone who very much has the other two, hunger and smart, can easily make a great worker in any organization but they will always be someone who will be working more for his own benefit than the benefit of the team.

Hungry has always been an easy one for me. I have been driven to succeed in everything I put my mind to for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately I could relate to the following definition of hunger as described on page 159; “In some people, hunger can be taken to an extreme where work becomes too important, consuming the identity of an employee and dominating their life. When I refer to hunger here, I’m thinking about the healthy kind – a manageable and sustainable commitment to doing a job well and going above and beyond when it is truly required.” For those of you who know my story, you know that this has been a problem for me, especially in my past. And if I’m not careful and intentional, it can still cause me issues with my spiritual walk and with my family even today.

Smart is not what you are thinking it is. According to Lencioni, this Smart does not refer to technical or practical knowledge of the job but rather it is more about being people smart, sometimes referred to in recent years as emotional intelligence. He more clearly defines it as; “a person’s common sense about people. It has everything to do with the ability to be inter-personally appropriate and aware. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They ask good questions, listen to what others are saying, and stay engaged in conversations intently.

Lencioni goes on to describe in the book the importance of having all three of these of qualities together in order to be considered an Ideal Team Player. The absence of 2 or even 1 of these qualities can create individuals who are often difficult to work with and make it difficult for your team to serve with excellence. Even worse, not dealing with these individuals in appropriate ways makes it so that those who are ideal team players not want to be there anymore. He finishes the book with some key ways to put this principle into practical application including interviews, coaching and development, reviews and evaluations and more.

So whether you just want to be a better team player with those you work with or if you have any desire as a leader to take your team to the next level of excellence or build a team of new individuals who will help your ministry to grow, I strongly recommend that you pick up this book soon.

by Patrick Lencioni.      A book review by Marcus White