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Part 1 

Attributes of an Ideal Team Player


The Model

  • Hungry, Humble, & Smart

The Challenges

  • Team members who only have two or one of the team attributes


Embedding the Model

  • Steps to Take Action


  • Your First Team

An Introduction from Patrick Lencioni


       With enough time, patience, and attention from a good manager, almost anyone can learn to become a team player. Having said that, some people are better at teamwork than others. These are the kind of people who add immediate value in a team environment and require much less coaching and management to contribute in a meaningful way. So, there are two obvious questions. What do these people look like? And how do we find them? As it turns out, they have three qualities or virtues in common: They are humble, hungry, and smart.

       Bottom Line Up Front

       An organization that values these virtues will keep and attract team players and create an environment where people who don’t want to grow into team players will feel uncomfortable. The value of strongly investing in these virtues for all employees, even if they leave the organization, is outweighed by the possibility that they don’t leave, and no investment is made.

       The unhappiest people in an organization are the ones who don’t fit the culture and are allowed to stay. It doesn’t help anyone by allowing those who are not team players to stay if they are unwilling to grow and try to be team players. Someone may be very good at completing their own tasks on time, but it will hurt the organization if it is at the expense of others.
Humble, Hungry, and Smart are not permanent characteristics embedded in a person’s DNA. It should be an ongoing conversation of how these virtues are established and grown in an organization.

The Model

HUMBLE A humble employee is more concerned with the team's success than with getting credit for his or her contributions. Humble team players are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents that they bring to the team, though never in a proud or boastful way.

HUNGRY The desire to work hard and do whatever is necessary to help the team succeed. Hungry employees rarely have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They volunteer to fill gaps, take on more responsibilities, and eagerly look around corners for new ways to contribute to the team.

SMART The final virtue of a team player is not about being intelligent but rather about being wise in dealing with people. Smart employees understand the nuances of team dynamics and know how their words and actions impact others. Their good judgment and intuition help them deal with others in the most effective way.




       As simple as these three concepts may be, the key to all of this is the unique combination of all three virtues, making a person an ideal team player. Unfortunately, when even one of these attributes is lacking in a significant way, challenges can arise.

       For instance, a humble and hungry employee who is not smart about people may accomplish a great deal but will often leave a trail of interpersonal destruction behind them. And a person who is smart and humble but lacking in hunger will frustrate team members by doing only what is required and have to be constantly asked to do more.

       Those who lack all three qualities have little chance of being valuable team members. It would take great effort over a long time to develop the capacity for all three, let alone two or even one.

       Understanding the attributes of an ideal team player and those who only have two or one team attributes.

The Pawn
  • They are pleasant, kind-hearted unassuming people who don’t feel a great need to get things done and don’t have the ability to build effective relationships with colleagues.

  • They often get left out of conversations and activities and have little impact on a team's performance.

  • Pawns don’t make waves, so they can survive quite a long time on teams that value harmony and don’t demand performance.

The Bulldozer
  • These people will be determined to get things done, focusing on their interests and with no understanding or concern for how their actions impact others.

  • Bulldozers are quick destroyers of teams.

  • In organizations that place a premium on production alone, bulldozers can thrive and go uncorrected for long periods.

The Charmer
  • People who are smart but sorely lacking in humility and hunger are “charmers.”

  • They can be entertaining and even likable for a while but have little interest in the long-term well-being of the team.

  • Their social skills can sometimes help them survive longer than bulldozers or pawns, but their contributions to the teams are often negligible; they often wear out their welcome quickly.

The Accidental Mess Maker
  • However, their lack of understanding of how others receive their words or actions in the team will lead to interpersonal problems. They genuinely want to serve the team and are not interested in getting a disproportionate amount of credit and

  • While colleagues will respect their work ethic and sincere desire to be helpful, those colleagues can get tired of cleaning up the emotional and interpersonal problems that this group often leaves behind.

  • Accidental Mess Makers have no bad intentions and can usually take corrective feedback in good humor.


The Lovable Slacker
  • They aren’t looking for undeserved attention, and they are adept at working with and caring about colleagues.

  • Unfortunately, they tend to do only as much as they are asked and rarely seek to take on more work or volunteer for extra assignments.

  • They have limited passion for the work the team is doing.

  • Lovable slackers need significant motivation and oversight, making them a drag on the team’s performance, more so than accidental mess makers.


The Skillful Politician

  • These people are cleverly ambitious and willing to work extremely hard, but only in as much as it will benefit them personally.

  • Because they are intelligent, skillful politicians, they are adept at portraying themselves as humble, making it hard for leaders to identify them and address their destructive behaviors.

  • By the time the leader sees what’s going on, the politician may have created a trail of destruction among their humbler colleagues



       There are four primary applications of the ideal team player model within an organization. Hiring, assessing current employees, developing employees lacking in one or more of the virtues, and embedding the model into an organization’s culture.


How to hire Ideal Team Players

  • Use the hiring guides

  • Be able to define your culture

  • Do they fit with that culture

  • Do their strengths fit the position

          Assessing Current Employees

       Some situations will cause a leader to struggle with an employee. Use the questions below to help identify the attributes of humility, hunger, and smarts.
There are several questions managers can ask themselves about a given employee to determine whether they are humble, hungry, or smart.


  • Does he genuinely compliment or praise teammates without hesitation?

  • Does she readily admit when she makes a mistake?

  • Is he willing to take on lower-level work for the good of the team?

  • Does she gladly share credit for team accomplishments?

  • Does he readily acknowledge his weakness?

  • Does she offer or receive apologies graciously?


  • Does he have to do more than what is required in his job?

  • Does he feel a sense of personal responsibility for the overall success of the team?

  • Is she willing to contribute to and think about work outside of office hours?

  • Is he willing and eager to take on tedious and challenging tasks when necessary?

  • Does she look for opportunities to contribute outside of her areas of responsibility?


  • Does he seem to know what his teammates are feeling during meetings and interactions?

  • Does he show empathy to others on the team?

  • Does he demonstrate an interest in the lives of teammates?

  • Is she an attentive listener?

  • Is he aware of how his words and actions impact others on the team?

  • Is she good at adjusting her behavior and style to fit the nature of a conversation or relationship?

When assessing employees try and look at them from the employee's viewpoint.

Write some descriptions of the attributes you are looking for and ask:

  • Do I see this in them?

  • Could they see this in themselves in a way I don’t see?


         Employee Self-Assessment


  • The best way to allow employees to do self-assessments is to give them direct questions to consider and phrase those questions in ways that encourage honesty.

  • A good team player must have the right attitude and demonstrate the right behaviors in a way that others see and understand.


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         Developing Employees

       Once a leader has established a clear sense of his employee’s relative strengths and weaknesses related to these three virtues, the process of improvement can begin. The leader’s commitment to constantly reminding the employee, even if unpleasant, is essential in this process.

       When the manager steps up the challenge, one of two things may happen – either the employee strives to improve and achieves a breakthrough, or he/she might decide to leave the organization. A third possible outcome could be the person sticks on to the organization without making the necessary behavioral changes – in which case they may need to be asked to leave.

Developing Humility


  • Humility is one of the most sensitive of the three virtues, so improving in this area is often the most psychologically nuanced.

  • Lack of humility is often related to a feeling of insecurity that is rooted in childhood.

  • Sometimes the cause of struggle with humility or other virtues can be traced back to an employee’s personality type. Using the Myers Briggs or the DISC profiles, it is possible to predict people who might have a higher likelihood of having humility problems.

  • Another way to develop these virtues is to have the employee make a list of desired behaviors related to their area of development and then track their actions over a period of time.

Developing Hunger


  • Hunger is the least sensitive and nuanced of these three virtues – also the hardest to change.

  • Developing hunger is transforming the employee to ultimately come to embody the idea of going above and beyond and no longer need extra prodding or reminding.

  • Lacking hunger can sometimes be a desired characteristic for some people. Plenty of people who lack hunger would like to be fully engaged and more productive in their work.

  • Some people prefer a sense of detachment and routineness, and spending time and energy will not yield significant returns.

  • One of the ways of helping the person become hungry is to connect him/her to the importance of the work being done (the “Why”)

  • Another way of developing hunger is to set clear behavioral expectations and hold them accountable for those expectations.

Developing Smarts


  • The key to helping someone become socially more competent is to clarify that a deficiency in this area is not about intention.

  • Employees who lack people smarts have no desire to create interpersonal problems with their teammates.

  • A person who has trouble with social interactions may need constant reminders at first to show them the actions that are seen are careless or disrespectful. These reminders should only be done in private and be short and to the point. 

  • If we want to create a culture of humility, hunger, and smarts, the best way to do it is to constantly be catching people exhibiting those virtues and publicly holding them up as examples.

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       If we want to create a culture of humility, hunger, and smarts, the best way to do it is to constantly be catching people exhibiting those virtues and publicly holding them up as examples. Similarly, whenever you see a behavior that violates one of the values, take the time to let the violator know that his behavior is out of line.

       Most teams that struggle are not lacking in knowledge or competence as much as they cannot access that knowledge and competence because of dysfunctional behaviors. A team full of people who are humble, hungry, and smart will overcome those dysfunctions quickly and easily, allowing them to get more done in less time and with far fewer distractions.

       Creating a culture of Humility, Hunger, and Smarts requires leaders to recognize the virtues or the lack of them, know how to encourages publicly but is not afraid to discipline in private

Steps to Take Action

  • Stop hiring people who are not team players.

  • Encourage those who are actively apart of the hiring process to use the Ideal Team Player hiring

  • Find out how many non-team players are still working here; get them to change or move them out.

  • Great cultures tend to be appropriately intolerant of certain behaviors like ego, narcissism, and bullies.  

  • Great teams should be quick and tactful in addressing any lack of humility, hunger of people smarts.

  • Encourage everyone in the organization to take the Team Player Self Assessment.

  • Encourage training and team-building exercise to reenforce and explain the strengths and weaknesses.

embedding culture.png
Embedding the Model

        It is important to realize that not everyone in a department is on the same team, as sometimes they are made up of two or three teams. It can often be damaging or counterproductive to treat two teams or more as one team. Teams usually follow their organizational chart and are usually no greater than 5 to 7 people with one leader. People on a team collaborate on sets of related tasks that are required to achieve an objective.

       To explore this idea, ask yourself this question, "Which team is your priority, your First Team?" Because most leaders serve on two important teams (the team they lead and the team they are a member of), they need to prioritize their leadership team (your first team) first for the organization's good. The "first team" is the team where the loyalty of each management team member is

Your First Team

      Even those who don’t supervise anyone can still sometimes see themselves as part of two teams, those they work with and those they support. It is important to be aware of this and to ensure your first team is the right one. If you want to ensure your team is working as cohesively and effectively as possible, you need to be sure that those on a team all consider that team to be their first team.

       If you have trouble knowing who your first time is, think about who you're more loyal to. If you work in sales, this may be easier than working in direct support for a specific group to whom you feel loyal. If you don’t think of your co-workers as your first team, ask yourself why. Can you help them more or less with this? Can your team help them more or less when you’re away or in an emergency? Putting your team first helps everyone.

Team – A group that collaborates on sets of related tasks that are required to achieve a shared objective.

Model A: “My group supports the company”


Model B: “My group comes first”


Model C: “Let me know if you need anything”


Model D:  “I have to do everything myself”

First Team.jpg

Attributes of Appreciation

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