Have you ever felt like your personal leadership growth is being challenged, but you can’t quite figure out what you are supposed to learn? Sometimes I don’t start connecting the dots until the third or fourth smack in the face! Yeah, sadly it takes me a few whacks before I start to pay attention. Over the past month, a common thread around the notion of “team” has been weaving its way into my subconscious and last week it became a topic of conversation I could no longer ignore.
It started a few weeks ago when I heard a friend refer to one of their colleagues as the “ideal team player.” I filed the comment away as a thought that I wanted to get back to at another time. I wanted to know what it means to be an ideal team player, so I put a pin in it and moved on. Next, I attended our company’s quarterly planning meeting and left feeling more connected to the team than I had in a long while. But I couldn’t put my finger on why that was. Then, last week I started to process the last few blogs about boss behaviour and the thought occurred to me – what about the team? So much of what it takes to be a successful business is directly correlated with the health of the team. All the thoughts that I had been storing over the last few weeks about “team” suddenly came flooding back.
So, what makes a successful team player? I met up with my friend “Google” and did a quick search for an “Ideal Team Player” and did you know that there is an actual book about the topic? A book, that if the topic intrigues you, you could devour in a couple of hours. The Ideal Team Player, written by Patrick Lencioni, begins with a story about how three executives are brought together during the midst of an extremely busy season. They are challenged to build a culture of teamwork within their company. They are in a season of growth and need to hire a large amount of people, however this time they want to avoid the high level of turnover that normally arises. The executives spend several weeks homing in on what type of folks they want on the team. Digging deep into values that they believe are the most important for any employee, including themselves, to uphold. They land on the three virtues of an ideal team player: humility, hunger and smarts.
Humility – Probably the most important virtue of the three, humility is all about the ego. Great team players inherently define success in terms of team contributions, not individual effort. Do you have people on your team that start a lot of their conversations with “I?” Are their comments focused on the whole, or on the individual? Is what they are saying intended to further the team discussion, or does it merely focus the team back onto them?
Hunger – Hungry people are always looking for more and are never content with the status quo. This isn’t specific to work. Hungry people are searching for more education, more responsibility and in general more to do. You don’t have to pull these folks along because they are always thinking about the next step. These are the folks that are working hard purely out of self-motivation.
Smarts – The definition for this one might surprise you the most. No, you are not looking for the next Sheldon Cooper. In fact, this isn’t about intellectual capacity. Smarts is about the ability to have strong common sense about people. A team player with smart skills tends have a strong emotional intelligence. They understand the group both personally and professionally and can use that knowledge to know how to handle interpersonal relationships effectively.
While the book begins as a fable, it is clearly evident that these three virtues hold true in real life. Think about yourself for a moment. How do you measure up in each of these categories? Are you strong in one area, but maybe could dig in and work on another? What help do you need from your colleagues or boss to grow to be a better team player?
I have found it helpful to have someone that I trust to keep me accountable. Yes, it’s a co-worker and it sure as heck bites when they call me out on my ego, but in order for growth to occur, the truth is needed. Find someone you trust to tell you the truth and help each other grow as team players. You both will win.
Jessica Norrell, CPO, MBA
Originally written for the OPIE Choice Network