The team player is one of the oldest concepts in management. It is always one of the skills listed in any job description. Nevertheless, its importance is underestimated and always taken for granted. Talent is much more fashionable today, even though it has much less impact.
Being a team player is the foundation of a successful team. Before you can create a high-performing team, you have to get these fundamentals right. If you love sports, you’ve probably noticed that groups of super-talented individuals are never as good as teams of good players with a good manager. Why? Because there is no “me” in “team” or “us before me.”
Great teams are essential to the success of any organization. To have great teams, you need great team players. In his book The Perfect Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, Patrick Lencioni explains how to recognize and cultivate the three essential virtues of the perfect team player that will benefit anyone who is part of or leads a team. This simple but effective system will be useful to anyone trying to create a culture of teamwork, recruit true team players, or simply become a better team player. This model works not only for the corporate world, but also for sports and family.
Is it for me, for my team?
Ask the following questions of yourself and your team members?
- We praise or congratulate unconditionally.
- We freely admit our mistakes.
- For the sake of the team, we are willing to do lower level tasks.
- We openly admit our shortcomings.
- We accept personal responsibility for the performance of the team as a whole.
- We are willing to take on difficult or arduous responsibilities when necessary.
- We look for opportunities to help outside of our sphere of influence.
- During meetings and conversations, we often understand how others feel.
- We take an interest in the well-being of our team members.
- We recognize the impact our actions and words have on other team members.
If you answered yes to all the questions above, congratulations! You and your teammates are perfect team players! If not, the article below will help you figure it out.
The Ideal Team Player Model
The ideal teammate is someone who can make a team better than the sum of its parts. A look on the Internet will show you many different soft skills and qualities needed to be a great team player, such as flexibility, active listening, problem solving, effective communication, a positive attitude (no negativity allowed), taking responsibility, keeping commitments, being cooperative, taking feedback… if all these are important, being an ideal team player really depends on three virtues: being humble, being passionate and being tactful.
These traits are acquired and maintained by life experiences and individual decisions made at home and at work, rather than being fixed traits embedded in a person’s DNA.
Excellent team players do not have inflated egos or concerns about their status. They are quick to recognize the merits of others’ accomplishments while taking the time to draw attention to their own. They distribute merit, place the team above the individual, and define success as a group rather than an individual. There are two main categories of people who lack humility, and it is important to recognize them because they have very different personalities and affect teams differently.
Explicitly arrogant individuals who do everything for themselves are the most obvious type. They are easy to spot because they want to talk and draw attention to themselves. This is the traditional selfish type, which undermines cooperation by encouraging antagonism, conflict, and politics.
The next type is somewhat less risky, but still important to understand. Despite their lack of self-confidence, these people remain kind and pleasant to talk to. Others mistakenly perceive them as humble because of their tendency to underestimate their abilities and accomplishments. However, this is not humility. Their lack of self-awareness is also a lack of humility, even though they are certainly not arrogant. Humility is not thinking less of oneself, but thinking less of oneself.
Insecurity is a characteristic common to all of these categories. Some insecure people radiate self-confidence, while others downplay their abilities. Truly humble people do not underestimate their abilities or think less of themselves than they really are.
I prefer to use the word passionate to the hunger used in the book. People who are passionate about something are constantly looking for new challenges, new knowledge, and new responsibilities. Because they are diligent and self-motivated, people who are passionate about their profession rarely need a supervisor to push them to work harder.
Hungry (passionate) people will show up early, stay late, contribute outside of their responsibilities, and look for ways to improve their work, all without being asked.
They also dislike the thought of being mistaken for slackers. Passionate people are more likely to have a growth mindset. Some others call it the grain.
It is entirely related to a person’s ability to engage in acceptable and deliberate interpersonal behavior. Tactful people usually understand what is going on in a group and how to most successfully interact with others. They remain attentive in conversation and listen to what others have to say.
While this wouldn’t be a bad comparison, some people call it emotional intelligence, although tact is probably a little simpler. Simply put, tactful people are aware of the complexity of group dynamics and the consequences of their words and actions.
Remember that tactfulness does not always mean good intentions. People with tact can use their skills for good as well as bad.
When to use the ideal team player model
In addition to values, you need to make sure you’re hiring people who are humble, enthusiastic and tactful. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to tell them that these are the absolute requirements for the proposed position.
After conducting the interview, debriefing, and follow-up conversations, you are convinced that the interviewee has the three virtues. However, you have doubts. Before you make an offer, convince the candidate that you are fully, passionately committed to these principles, and that if he or she succeeds in the interview, it would be terrible to work for the company if he or she does not share this belief.
Let job seekers know that they will be criticized for their actions not conforming to the team player, the model, repeatedly, and that they will soon become uncomfortable going to work. Also, convince them that if they meet the requirements of modesty, passion, and tact, the job will be great for them. Even though many people will apply for jobs even if they don’t meet the company’s stated values, very few will do so if they understand that they will be held accountable every day for actions that go against those core values.
- Humble: Ask the candidate to list the biggest accomplishments in his or her career and note if he or she uses the pronoun “we” more often than “I”; the latter indicates humility;
- Passionate: Ask about the candidate’s most challenging project to date. He or she is definitely passionate if you can see that they enjoyed the encounter rather than just tolerating it.
- Tactful. Take an interest in the candidate’s personality. He/she is introspective and emotionally intelligent if he/she is aware of both his/her talents and shortcomings.
Team Player Assessment and Development
Evaluating or analyzing current personnel is another important application of the ideal team player model. In the end, this evaluation yielded three results:
- Confirming whether an employee is an ideal team player,
- helping the individual become one, or
- A decision to evict the individual.
This does not mean that someone in the middle will always be perfect in all or even one of these traits. No one is perfect. The good news is that humility, passion and tact can be learned and embraced by those who have the desire for it.
What happens if you can’t determine if an employee has the motivation or ability to grow? Proceed with caution and continue to work with the person. Why? It is tragic when an employee leaves for the wrong reasons. Not only does it put the person in an unnecessarily difficult situation, but it also robs the team of a potential asset.
Assessment should be done by both the manager and the employee (self-assessment).
The next steps are a high-performing team.
Team members can facilitate teamwork by making it easier for team members to overcome the five dysfunctions of the team if they are strong enough in each of these areas-when they have a significant amount of humility, passion, and tact. They will also be more prone to constructive but uncomfortable disagreements with team members. They will make decisions even if they initially disagree with them, hold their colleagues accountable when they notice gaps in performance that can be addressed, and prioritize team needs over their own. All of these traits will make them more likely to be vulnerable and develop trust. The group becomes a high-performing team.
While teamwork has never been easy, it has become much more difficult lately as teams become more global, virtual, and project-oriented. Analyzing the readiness of your current and new employees for teamwork can make a big difference. Don’t forget to start with yourself.