The Ideal Team Player - HHS vs. DAC

2023-02-10 Management Books Culture Remote Thoughts

Patrick Lencioni (obviously) wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

In that book we learn that the five dysfunctions you need to avoid are …

  • Absence of trust — unwilling to be vulnerable within the group
  • Fear of conflict — seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate
  • Lack of commitment — feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization
  • Avoidance of accountability — ducking the responsibility to call peers, superiors on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards
  • Inattention to team results — focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success

I always try to frame these in positive/actionable terms by asking people to help me to build teams that show/exhibit the following characteristics …

Which creates the question: What is an Ideal Team Player?

Funny that you ask. Luckily Patrick wrote a book about that too.

In that book he suggests that the Ideal Team Player is …

  • Humble
  • Hungry
  • Smart

… and describes the people that have only 2 of the 3 traits as …

  • Humble & Smart - The lovable slackers
  • Hungry & Smart - The skillful politician
  • Humble & Hungry - The accidental mess-maker

This can create a lot of good discussions …

  • Do you think that you are humble, hungry and smart?
    • That’s a trick question, because if you say yes you are not humble and it’s not smart not to see that this is a trick question :) …
  • If you need to pick one of the 3 traits as your weakest, what would it be?
  • What can/will you do (e.g. as a skillful politician) to make sure that your weak-/blind-spot will not affect the success of the team in a negative way?
    • Note: I rarely ask people to change who/what they are. I am more interested to create awareness for the negative impact the weak-/blind-spot can have on the team performance/dynamic and look to create accountability to own that weak-/blind-spot and mitigate that negative impact

And for me personally you can take this one step further: I like the directions/dimensions Patrick is exploring, but the traits do not resonate with me to the extend they should/need to.

For instance (in my head) Smart can also mean Clever and that is not what I am looking for in an Ideal Team Player. Instead what I am looking for is Competence, where Competence is the sum of the Experience, Expertise and Intelligence of that person.

Therefore for me personally the 3 traits of an Ideal Team Player are …

  • Decency - You are a good human being. A mensch. Not an ass-hole. No need to be humble (as long as you are not hurting other people with your non-humbleness and as long as your non-humbleness is (just) an expression of the pride and passion you feel for the things you do)
  • Ambition - I am all for leading with why and leading with purpose to inspire people to deliver on shared objectives. But … at the end Ideal Team Players are driven. They have a flame, a desire, a passion burning in them (to care for someone or something) that they can direct towards delivering on the shared objectives. For them good is not good enough. They are bar-raisers. For me this is also better than Hungry, because hunger is a feeling that comes and goes (e.g. after you have eaten (got promoted) you might not feel hungry for a while), where ambition is much more a state of mind that is always/constantly there as a source of energy
  • Competence - Equals … Experience + Expertise + Intelligence (see above)

In that sense I try to become a better Ideal Team Player every day.

The journey continues …