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Top 3 Tips For Hiring + Mentoring An Ideal Team Player

We reviewed the three must-haves of any team player laid out in Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Ideal Team Player. This post is all about putting those virtues into action – in interviews, staff assessments and team development.

Most of our clients already know they want a team player:

  • They ask for leaders – people capable of motivating, inspiring and managing others.
  • They talk about culture – the values, traditions and emotions that fuel their work.
  • They bring up all the times they definitely did not hire a team player (often painful).

But even though they know they’re looking for that ideal person, they aren’t exactly sure how and where to identify them. And even with the three virtues memorized, it’s difficult in the day-to-day realities of HR processes, meetings and deliverables to dial into what truly makes someone hungry, humble and smart.

“The cost of hiring a non-team player is lost productivity, downward pressure on the team’s results and the misery of working with the person.” – Patrick Lencioni

That’s where expert recruiters come in. Here are some of the techniques we use to smoke out the pretenders in interviews. We think these tactics also apply to performance reviews, one-on-one’s, conflict resolution and personal development, too.

Stay nimble

Recruiters are skilled at the gentle judo often required to get real in interviews. Candidates with large egos can present as powerful, capable and extremely confident. When you get the feeling you aren't hearing the truth, a slight adjustment or change of tack in the conversation can help de-stabilize the “only hungry” and reveal their troubling lack of humility.

  • Stop asking hypothetical questions (i.e. "How would you deal with/address…?") and get down to specifics.
  • Compliment or call out behaviours that either align or go against the virtues. (Lencioni suggests doing this publicly for the sake of others as well.)

Look back, way back

Work ethic (or hunger) is often developed early in life. Lencioni says that asking candidates to look back can help you identify their capacity for difficulty, sacrifice, and hardship. It can also give great insight into what makes someone tick.

  • If you’re not comfortable delving into the teenage years, try asking about their most challenging group tasks, volunteer experience or athletic endeavours in university or college.
  • This can be done formally in an interview setting or more casually at the office happy hour. Take time to learn about your teammates on a personal level.

Honour your sixth sense

Too many “I’s” and “me’s” in conversation says exactly what you think it says: this person probably doesn’t play well with others. Even leaders who live and breathe the three virtues can ignore their hunches and convince themselves to hire for skills over people.

  • A smart person has good intuition about people. (i.e. They likely won’t give a twenty-minute monologue during an interview.)
  • If you’re looking to evaluate a current team player for humility or smarts, intentionally observe them in meetings. Do they listen? Do they get aggressive? Do they compliment? Do they ever apologize?

Lencioni also offers a number of free online resources and guides to help you hone in on the humble, hungry and smart candidates you’re looking for:


Jaylene CrickJaylene Crick  
Partner + Director of Recruitment

Jaylene is our lead recruitment consultant. She forged her experience with 15 years in tech marketing before making the transition to marketing recruitment. Jaylene brings energetic dedication, unstoppable work ethic, and her ability to consistently give 110%, proven by her hundreds of placements and innumerable close relationships with both candidates and clients.

Smart, Savvy + AssociatesSmart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.

Jaylene Crick

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