Who Do I Really Want On My Team?

Posted on May 8, 2016 by Phil Elworth

One of my favorite business authors is Patrick Lencioni, I believe I have read everything he has written and I have had the pleasure of meeting him in person. His latest book, The Ideal Team Player, is once again a must read for everyone who is trying to build a great company.  Recently in my practice, I have had the opportunity to work with companies who are trying to build a dynamic leadership team and culture and Patrick’s latest topic fits right in.  The following is a sample of his thinking.

To create a good team, you need the right players. Tom Peters in his book Good to Great uses the best phrase to describe this, you need the right people on the bus and they need to be in the right seat.  But what defines the right people?  We all have seen examples of a team that does not work.  We may even have had the pleasure of being on a team that truly worked, but what made the difference?

I am on a board of a not for profit enterprise. Recently we went through an annual ritual of looking for new board members. This board is one of the most highly functioning groups of people I have ever had the opportunity to work with.  We use a very intense screening process to make sure we select the right people for the multi-year term that they would be assuming.  There are thirteen members of this team, so one misstep can be disaster for years to come.  We had one candidate recently come through our process that was highly competent for the role we were seeking, they even claimed that one of their strengths was being able to read a room and adapt accordingly.  During the interview this candidate not only could not read the room and adapt but talked on and on without ever answering directly the questions that were being posed. Patrick in his book defines this as not being smart.  Smart by his definition is really a form of emotional intelligence.  If you are a disruptive source to those around you then you are not smart. We need “smart” people around the table. Who on your team is not good at working with others?  Can you afford to have them stay on the team if they cannot change?  What damage to the team and the organization overall is occurring even if they are technically very proficient in what they do?

The second trait that Patrick explores is what he calls someone who is Hungry. I personally refer to this as fire in the belly. Do those on your team want to do more than is required for their job?  Do they have passion for your team’s mission, the company’s mission?  Do they have a sense of personal responsibility for the overall success of the team?  Do the team members look for opportunities to contribute outside of their areas of responsibility?  I have been a part of teams where some of the people are there because they are required to be, they are not really participating. These members are often only concerned with what affects them, not what they can do for others.  I have recently been investigating the concept of Givers and Takers.  Givers make great team players because they look for opportunities to add value to others. Takers on the other hand are only concerned with what can benefit them.  Which of these two types would you like to have on your team?  Can a team be successful if everyone on it is a taker?

The third trait and definitely not the least of the three is being Humble. Do your team members compliment or praise teammates without hesitation?  Will they readily admit when they make a mistake?  Are they willing to do the grunt work that the team needs done without complaint?  Will they acknowledge their own weaknesses?  We all have known arrogant people.  We also understand what this arrogance can do for team dynamics.  So who do you want on your team?  The team I referred to above, the board that I am a part of, is made up of some of the most humble people I know.  There is not a single task that is below anyone on the team and these are all leaders in their own right.  I will do anything necessary to fully participate because it is an honor to be a part of the team.  Do your team members feel honored to be a part of your team?

So does everyone need to be perfect to be a good team player? The issue here is not to be perfect but to be aware.  Aware of how your behavior affects others.  Aware of how your motivation or lack thereof affects others on the team.  Being aware of your attitude and how it impacts the team.   The reality is in order to have a fully functioning team each team member must exhibit the ability to operate in all three of these areas.  If someone is weak in one area, they may possibly be able to improve but if they are lacking in two or more than it just won’t work.  Strong teams start with strong team members and understanding these three traits will take you a long way toward creating the team you want.

photo credit: St. Petersburg International Baseball via photopin (license)

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