“First, we go figure out how to recognize a real team player, the kind of person who can easily build trust, engage in healthy conflict, make real commitments, hold people accountable, and focus on the team's results. Then, we stop hiring people who can't. Finally, we help the people who are acting like jackasses change their ways or move on to different companies.”  

Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni may be one of the most impactful business writers of our day.  While we draw on the wisdom of many in our coaching, he is probably more referenced than any other thought leader.  His Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Advantage are part of the holy canon of most business libraries.  His most recent book, The Ideal Team Player is no exception.

Patrick says that if your company is seriously committed to making teamwork a cultural reality, you need to have team members that possess three key virtues; humility, hunger, and people smarts.  While each person is likely stronger in one or more of these virtues than another, it is the intersection of these three virtues that produces an ideal team player.

No one is perfect.  These kinds of virtues are not hard-coded into anyone’s DNA.  Rather, these are developed and maintained over time through life experiences and choices at both home and at work.  You need team members that possess all three of these virtues if you are going to overcome the five dysfunctions of a team:

HUMBLE:  Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status.  Quick to point out the contributions of others, slow to see attention for their own.  It is the single greatest and most necessary attribute of being a team player.

HUNGRY:  These folks are always looking for more.  More things to do, more to learn, and more responsibility to take.  These are the folks that you never need to motivate, just steer and bridle from time to time.  Always looking for the next opportunity.

SMART:  In this context, smart simply refers to a person’s common sense about people.  Smart people are not only self-aware but very aware of those around them.  They tend to have good judgment and intuition, and understand the implications of words and actions.

As you were reading those definitions, you were probably already categorizing yourself or key members of your team. The consequences of not having one of the three virtues are obvious.  We’ve all worked with someone who is hungry, but not too humble or people smart.  Not a very friendly beast to be around for very long.

Rather than scoring his team members for each of the three virtues, Patrick has his team rank the virtues for themselves: best, next, & worse.  They are then asked to work on the virtue where they ranked lowest.  Someone who doesn’t possess some sense of all three is not going to last too long in a healthy organization, but we all likely have one or more of those virtues that we could use some work on.


  • Do you think you have a healthy team?
  • How would you rank your team in terms of these three virtues?  What do they need to work on most?
  • How would you rank those virtues for yourself?  Which one do you need to work on most?