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The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues

ISBN: 978-1-119-20959-1
240 pages
April 2016, Jossey-Bass
The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues (1119209595) cover image


In his classic book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni laid out a groundbreaking approach for tackling the perilous group behaviors that destroy teamwork. Here he turns his focus to the individual, revealing the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player.

In The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni tells the story of Jeff Shanley, a leader desperate to save his uncle’s company by restoring its cultural commitment to teamwork. Jeff must crack the code on the virtues that real team players possess, and then build a culture of hiring and development around those virtues. 

Beyond the fable, Lencioni presents a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players.  Whether you’re a leader trying to create a culture around teamwork, a staffing professional looking to hire real team players, or a team player wanting to improve yourself, this book will prove to be as useful as it is compelling.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

The Fable 1

Part One: The Situation 3

Part Two: Diagnosis 11

Part Three: Discovery 55

Part Four: Implementation 89

Part Five: Indicators 135

The Model 153

The Three Virtues of an Ideal Team Player 155

Defining the Three Virtues 157

The History of the Model 162

The Ideal Team Player Model 165

Application 174

Connecting the Ideal Team Player Model with the Five Dysfunctions of a Team 210

Beyond Work Teams 214

Acknowledgments 215

About the Author 217

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Author Information

PATRICK M. LENCIONI is founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives and their teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to high-tech startups to universities and nonprofits. Lencioni is the author of 11 best-selling books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage.

To learn more about Patrick, and the products and services offered by his firm, The Table Group, please visit www.tablegroup.com.

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Press Release

April 26, 2016
Patrick Lencioni Pinpoints the Three Essential Virtues of Ideal Team Players In a Much Anticipated New Fable

In his first new book in nearly four years, bestselling author and acclaimed storyteller Patrick Lencioni returns with a compelling new title that furthers his innovative work with teams.  Published in 2002, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team offered a groundbreaking approach for managing group dynamics. In Lencioni’s latest work, The Ideal Team Player: A Leadership Fable About How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues (Jossey-Bass; hardcover; April 2016), he takes readers inside a fictional California construction company to reveal the three indispensable virtues that make some people better team players than others. 

Jeff Shanley has had enough of the high pressure world of Silicon Valley when his Uncle Bob calls to ask for help in finding a successor.   In a move that surprises them both, Jeff makes a personal bid for the job and soon finds himself in charge of a business with a higher-than-average turnover rate and two ambitious projects on the books.   With the help of two of Bob’s loyal executives, Jeff determines that people are at the center of his solution and sets out to identify the virtues of successful team players before beginning an ambitious hiring process.  

Jeff lands on what Lencioni describes in the book’s introduction as three “obvious” qualities:  hungry, humble and smart.   “As simple as those words may appear,” Lencioni explains “none of them is exactly what they seem.  But what makes them powerful and unique isn’t the individual attributes themselves, but rather the required combination of the three together.   If even one is missing in a team member, teamwork becomes significantly more difficult, and sometimes not possible.”

Humble, in Lencioni’s lexicon, translates to someone who lacks excessive ego, is unconcerned with status, quick to point out contributions of others and slow to seek attention.  Hungry people are self-motivated workers who rarely require pushing or incentivizing.  And smart, in this context, refers to a worker with common sense about people, rather than pure intellectual capacity.

Those who possess all three virtues are more likely to be vulnerable and earn trust, to engage in productive but uncomfortable conflict with team members, to commit to group decisions even if they initially disagreed, to hold their peers accountable on performance, and to put the results of the team above personal ones – the core components of group dynamics laid out in Lencioni’s seminal first book on this subject.

In The Ideal Team Player, we follow Jeff and his team not only through the process of figuring out his combination of virtues, but designing a way to identify  them, particularly during the hiring process, a place many will begin to implement the book’s key ideas.  Along with hiring advice, the book also includes a final section on how to survey existing employees, help people develop these traits and how to embed these processes throughout the organization.  That final challenge, of taking teamwork inside the company, is laid out with a three part process that is simple and elegant as the virtues themselves.  It advises leaders to:

Be Explicit and Bold   Once committed to making teamwork the guiding tenant of your business, be sure to communicate it with confidence and integrity.  Make sure that everyone you work with, from vendors to employees to customers, are aware of what your company values and what it strives for.  Don’t try to accomplish this with marketing or slick messaging but rather build a culture that relies on it. 

Catch and Revere  Watch closely for evidence that your team is acting in ways that are humble, hungry and smart. Make it a point to publicly recognize and reward these behaviors. Rewards don’t always need to be linked specifically to compensation nor need they involve ceremony or silly keepsakes.  By calling good behavior to everyone’s attention, you are encouraging it.

Detect and Address  The last step widely familiar to those who teach, parent or coach.  Keep a watchful eye out for violations of the key virtues and let the transgressor know that the behavior is not acceptable.  It’s easy to let small evidence slip by, but it is much easier to stop minor transgressions that to undergo a complete overhaul of the system you’ve worked hard to embed.

Lencioni’s teamwork approach is used by leaders around the world by organizations of virtually every kind including multinational corporations, entrepreneurial ventures, professional sports teams, the military, nonprofits, schools, and churches. Lencioni is the author of ten business books with nearly five million copies sold worldwide. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, and USA Today. This new book was inspired by questions that have surfaced in the past twenty years of client work at his company, The Table Group. Lencioni decided that others could benefit from the values and approach of his company, so he set to work creating a story that embodied them. He’s written a book for both leaders, who will find a way to identify, hire and cultivate employees who are humble, hungry and smart as well as employees, who can embody these virtues will make themselves more marketable to any organization that values teamwork.

The Ideal Player is an entertaining and enlightening look at what it takes to build successful teams in today’s competitive marketplace.

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