You would think by now that we would have learned to play well together, but until we do, there will be place for books like the latest from Patrick Lencioni. The Ideal Team Player follows Lencioni’s usual approach. He tells a fable or story about the principles he wants to present and then provides additional information and applications of the model.
This time he tells the story of Jeff Shanley who suddenly finds himself at the head of a large construction company founded by his uncle. As he solidifies the leadership team already in place, attempts to deal with troublesome employees, and add new team members, he and his team learn what (according to Lencioni) makes the ideal team player.
In his classic book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni laid out an approach for tackling the group behaviors that destroy teamwork. Here he turns his focus to the individual, revealing the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player.
The story holds few surprises, but it does serve to illustrate the model Lencioni and his colleagues have developed. He also explains in the book how this fits in with the concepts of teamwork that he presented in the earlier book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
So what does an ideal team player need? To be humble, to be hungry and to be smart.
Humility is pretty clear and carries some of the concept of servant leadership. The humble team player realizes that it is not all about him or her and thinks of the team’s needs rather than just personal achievement.
Hungry people are self-motivated. Their hunger is not for money or prestige but for achievement. They want to do better and to be better people.
When Lencioni talks about smart people, he is not referring to IQ but to interpersonal sensitivity. Although he does not want to use the term “emotional intelligence,” I think that social and emotional intelligence is what he is talking about. Smart people know not only what is going on in their heads, but they are sensitive to the needs and behaviors of others and of the group.
Some may ask, “How does this apply to a church or denominational setting? Aren’t these foreign ideas to believers?” No. Lencioni is a believer and he concludes with a couple of paragraphs on the humility expressed in the life of Christ, but we must draw out the implications of the model for ourselves.
Certainly, applying the idea of humility in a Christian context should not be difficult, but many staff teams still practice unhealthy models such as paternalism and silo-thinking. The idea of hunger links to our passion and calling in life. If we believe that God has equipped each of us in a unique way to make a contribution to the body of Christ and to the world, we will be hungry to pursue that passion. Perhaps the idea of the servant leader comes across most clearly in the idea of being smart—being aware of the needs of others and being willing to respond appropriately.
If you work in conjunction with others, you should read this book and then go to Lencioni’s website and take the self-assessment.