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  • Writer's pictureJaclyn T. Badeau

Pulse Point – Simplicity Wins: Unlocking the Power of Ideal Team Players

As a leader, sometimes we overcomplicate things…One of those many things can be what qualities we want from a team player. Typically, we start listing quality after quality after quality…because we need everything. We want everything. We want someone to be all the things. But realistically, no one is perfect, and we set ourselves up for failure if we expect this. So, how do we go through the process? I suggest thinking about 3-4 core attributes you need for someone to be a team player and hone in to those. A way to think about these attributes is laid out in Pat Lencioni’s book, “The Ideal Team Player” where 3, what he calls “virtues” are laid out and discussed. For the sake of simplicity and information providing, I am going to “copy/paste” the 2-pager”, “How to Spot the Ideal Team Player” 1 by Pat Lencioni below for additional detail and context. As you read through, see what resonates with you. 



With enough time, patience and attention from a good manager, almost anyone can learn to become a team player. I believe that. 

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. 

Before I explain each of those virtues, let me explain how this theory came about. Like so many of my ideas, this one surfaced as a result of my work with clients over the past twenty years. Whenever I worked with CEOs and their leadership teams to identify core values, I often was asked about the values of my own firm, The Table Group. When we revealed our three values, many of our clients would ask us if they could adopt those values for themselves. 

Of course, we would say ‘no,’ explaining that they needed to come up with concepts that reflected their unique history and culture. We were a company oriented around teamwork and known for The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, so the values of humble, hungry and smart made sense for us. What we failed to realize was that our clients, almost all of whom were committed to the idea of teamwork, were drawn to our values because those were the building blocks of real team players. Once we realized this, the idea for this book was born. 


The Three Virtues 

The three virtues seem quite simple, but require a bit of explanation. 



The first and most important virtue of an ideal team player is humility. A humble employee is someone who is more concerned with the success of the team than with getting credit for his or her contributions. People who lack humility in a significant way, the ones who demand a disproportionate amount of attention, are dangerous for a team. Having said that, humble team players are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents that theybring to the team, though never in a proud or boastful way. 



The next virtue of an ideal team player is hunger, the desire to work hard and do whatever is necessary to help the team succeed. Hungry employees almost never 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 are eagerly looking around corners for new ways to contribute to the team. 



The final virtue of a team player is not about being intelligent, but rather about being wise in how to deal 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 this is the unique combination of all three virtues, which make 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 having to be constantly asked to do more. Finally, a team member who is hungry and smart but truly lacking in humility, can have a devastating impact on a team. This type knows how to present himself or herself as a well-intentioned colleague, all the while looking out for his or her own needs. By the time team members figure this out, people have been manipulated and scarred. 

How do you go about hiring ideal team players? It’s mostly about knowing what to look for, and probing in non-traditional ways. And what about employees who already work on the team and lack one or more of the virtues? A big part of helping them improve is making sure they understand the concepts and know where they fall short. We’ve found that merely introducing this simple model to teams and allowing them to self-assess goes a long way toward improvement. 


Big Pay-Off 

The impact of ensuring that members of a team value and demonstrate humility, hunger and people smarts cannot be overstated. Most teams that struggle are not lacking in knowledge or competence as much as they are unable to 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. My hope is that this approach will help leaders hire, recognize and cultivate ideal team players in their organizations.” 1 


Hope this high-level overview of the book and Ideal Team Player concept provided value to you. The simplicity of the thinking makes sense to me and feeds into a larger theory of mine that hiring for certain leadership characteristics is imperative; I can teach technical skills to anyone but having a leg up on being humble, hungry, and [people] smart is a game changer. 


So, my question to you – What is one takeaway you have about an ideal team player? 


BONUS - To assess where you and your organization are in your employee engagement culture journey, download my “Culture Pulse: Employee Engagement Questionnaire” here:  


Are you ready to dig into emotional intelligence, employee engagement, and leadership work? I am a People Success Strategist who uncomplicates leading humans so that we can inspire confidence back into your team. By tapping into their authentic human leadership potential, we create space for innovation and growth.  


We do this through designing and implementing a system that fosters and protects a strong culture where employees are heard and understood from leadership down. In doing so, individual team members can gain confidence to bravely introduce innovative ideas and grow the company.  


If you are ready to get started, please reach out to chat:


I look forward to providing monthly pulse points to help you stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving. 



About Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified 

Jaclyn Badeau is the Founder and President of Badeau Consulting. She specializes in employee engagement initiatives that help companies inspire confidence back into their team for innovation and growth. Jaclyn’s background in cultivating high performing teams, delivering coaching and mentoring, serving as a global business risk advisor, and facilitating internal and external leadership training to a global workforce gives her the unique perspective of what employees need and what works. She is also a multi award recipient and passionate about sharing her expertise and knowledge in volunteer advisory and leadership positions roles for many associations and not-for-profits.  


About Pulse Point 

Pulse Point is a monthly blog to stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving. 



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