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The 3 Must-Haves of Any Team Player (and We Mean Musts)

At Smart Savvy, we’ve long prescribed to the 3-way mirror rule of recruitment: check every angle.

Now we have a new take: the 3-legged stool.

That’s because we read The Ideal Team Player: How To Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues by NYT best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni. In fact, we liked the book so much that we bought a copy for all of our clients. (Exhibit A: one of our happy recipients.)

Building on his brilliant guide to the five major dysfunctions of a team, Lencioni’s newest business fable takes a closer look at the individuals who populate your pack. What makes a person a true and consistent “value-add” to your team? What causes them to detract?

Humble, Hungry and Smart: The Ideal Team Player

According to Lencioni, once you check off the baseline requirements (e.g., technical skills, experience, personal hygiene), the ultimate success of any hire depends on three crucial personality traits:

  • Humble – Leaves their ego at the door. Not overly arrogant and not meek. Possesses the humility to champion others and the self-confidence to bring ideas to the table. 
  • Hungry – Diligent and motivated. Internally driven. Tackles problems and projects with a sense of urgency and for the good of the team.
  • Smart – Simply put, people smarts. Appropriate and aware. Helps team members feel appreciated and understood even in tough love situations.

The crux? All three virtues are non-negotiable. Teammates who lack even one are unbalanced and pose challenges to both a team’s health and the organization's productivity. For example:

  • If you’re hiring for a sales role, Lencioni warns you might excuse an oversized ego for what you see as a valuable dose of hungry. You know, the hungry goal crusher who polarizes teammates? Lencioni calls them “the bulldozer.” Watch out.
  • That pleasant, kind-hearted direct report you really like? They might be a bit too complacent in the warm camaraderie of office life. You’ll recognize the all-humble who may have been coasting for some time. They’re “the pawn.”
  • Don’t be blinded by the two-virtue candidate. They’re humble enough to serve the team and hungry enough to get things done but, without smarts, their words and actions can leave a trail of interpersonal meltdowns. (a.k.a. The “Accidental Mess Maker")

After more than 15 years in the recruitment industry, we’re more than confident in how we help clients find, retain and develop excellent employees. Lencioni’s booked deepened our perspective and provided us with a new vocabulary for what we do and how we do it.

If you embrace these three virtues, we're certain you’ll start making better decisions across your company’s entire culture. And we’re here to help!


Peter Reek

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