In this series we’re talking about the three traits every person on your team should possess, according to The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni.
At Telcion we adopted these as ideal qualities we would look for in every person we hired. This “hungry, humble, smart” filter has helped us improve the quality of our team and our ability to hire well.
Not to be confused with core values, which vary by organization, “hungry, humble, smart” are universal and should apply to people on any team. They are also most powerful when combined together. Individuals who have all three are the coveted team players we seek to find.
Today we’re wrapping up this series—how does The Ideal Team Player filter apply to our hiring process? How should you handle people in your organization who don’t exhibit these traits?
First, let’s recap the three core virtues we want every team member to have:
People with this virtue desire to grow and learn. They want increasing responsibility. They have a deep desire to improve and excel in all aspects of their life.
They ask what they can be doing to help the team win, rather than having to be pushed along by their manager. Hungry people are self-starters.
They look for opportunities that will help them grow, even if there is a short-term opportunity cost like less pay or a bigger time commitment. They view these costs as an investment in themselves with a long-term payoff.
People who are humble are secure in themselves, in who they are, and in what they know and don’t know. Rather than seek credit for themselves, they prefer to promote those around them instead.
They don’t behave arrogantly. They easily recognize that they don’t have all the answers, could be wrong about something, and that the people around them may have better ideas.
In the book, “smart” refers to emotional intelligence—people smart. Smart people have a high level of emotional intelligence and a high degree of common sense about others.
They observe behaviors, body language, expressions, voice inflections, and eye contact and are able to discern what people are feeling. A people smart person has empathy and can easily relate with others.
Applying The Ideal Team Player Framework
So how do you apply these traits on a day-to-day basis in your company?
At Telcion, we’ve decided that these traits are important for every person on our team, but we aren’t looking for perfection. Everyone has a bad day, a bad week, or just a bad season of life. But we do want people to be cognizant of these virtues and understand how they affect how we work as a team.
The goal is to have a team filled up with these virtues which will create an even better team – one that works well together, looks out for each other, and is forgiving, supportive, and encouraging.
This all starts during our hiring process. When we’re hiring for a new position, we first look at how well people fit our core values:
Selflessness – Do they put the team before themselves?
Work Ethic – Do they do whatever it takes to get the job done?
Transparency – Do they openly communicate what they know and not hide anything?
Curiosity – Do they ask lots of questions?
Next, we look for how the Ideal Team Player traits are evident in their life. We do this by asking lots of questions that lead to clear examples of how a candidate has exhibited these traits—and there shouldn’t be just a single story, but many stories.
If it’s who they truly are, then it will be woven into every example they provide. There should also be other people who can verify these accounts.
Are we expecting perfection? Of course not.
Some people will be stronger in some areas than in others. But the main thing we are looking for is whether someone is completely deficient in one or more areas, as that usually spells trouble.
The job role also comes into play. If we are hiring for a junior position, then we expect less to start out with. In that case we look for people who are teachable, and then work on instilling these values in them. The higher the position, the more that’s expected. Our executive leaders must possess high levels of all three traits.
We also spend time with our candidates to help them understand these values. We talk to them about what they mean and how we apply them. What we want are people who understand our company culture, such that if they don’t feel comfortable committing to these values, they will opt out of considering work at Telcion. It’s not that they are bad, but merely not the best fit and will likely be unhappy in our company.
How to Handle Problem People
What if you have someone working in your organization today who doesn’t exhibit one or more of these virtues?
The first step is recognizing it.
The next step is to have a conversation with this person. Help them see that the behaviors they exhibit are not good and need to be corrected. Most people want to improve and to be good teammates… they’ve just never had anyone hold them accountable before. Not everyone is naturally self-aware. Given the opportunity, many people can self-correct.
Not dealing with the people who lack these values tells everyone on the team that you do not really believe in these values and virtues, that it’s all just talk.
One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is working with people to improve while everyone else on the team wonders what is taking so long for management to take action on a specific person. There is no simple answer for this.
It’s not like the management team can announce that there are problems with a specific person, and outline the corrective actions they are taking. All the team members see is that there’s a problem person that is still on the team, and management doesn’t look like they are doing anything about it. All the while we are preaching our values and it looks like there are people that don’t fit those values.
Here’s the deal: there will always be people on the team who need improvement in some area. Our desire is to help people grow and mature wherever possible. If people are unable or unwilling to change and modify their behavior in a positive way, they will have to go. We don’t have time for people who don’t truly want to become better. But if they do show a desire to change and are able to take steps in the right direction, then we want to help them continue on that path. And we will give people a lot of grace and a lot of time to work through improvement if progress is being made.
We want every person who steps into Telcion to leave better than they came in. If someone has a character issue then we need to help them deal with that, otherwise they will just take it with them to the next place, leaving a trail of torn relationships behind them.
If you want to build a productive team, then you want to find team members that exhibit the hungry, humble, and smart virtues.
Take time to interview candidates for these virtues, as well as invest in your existing team to raise the bar on these virtues. The goal is not perfection, as none of us are perfect or will ever be. Rather, the goal is to build a team and a culture that is completely aligned behind what matters most – these key traits and your own company’s core values.
When everyone on your team is aligned, you can accomplish just about anything.
This article was contributed by Lance Reid, Telcion's CEO.
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