Growth Insights for CEOs

News Break: Lencioni’s “The Ideal Team Player” is Bigger Than Expected

Posted by Pete Hayes

the-ideal-team-player.jpgThe beauty of Patrick Lencioni’s writings has always been how well they resonate with real business experiences. I suppose that’s a direct result of the real-life “fables” he creates for his books (the exception being The Advantage) that tease out a model for excellence that he shares in the later sections.

In The Ideal Team Player – How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, Pat parlays perhaps his most simple and compelling framework yet; by showing how 1) humility, 2) hunger and 3) (people) smarts are the key virtues employees need to maximize their value for their team and company.

Broad Applications – Here’s Two

Having led many teams in both large and small organizations, and now as a principal in a growing management consulting practice, my delight in discovering Lencioni’s latest guidebook was recognizing its broad applicability. When I first started reading it (5am on its release date, during my daily devotions and quiet time), I realized from the introduction and initial preview of “humility, hunger and smarts” that these attributes describe exactly what our firm looks for and expects in our consultants. Later that same day, after flying from Austin to Atlanta, I found myself sharing this newsflash during a presentation to 90+ CEO Peer Board Chairs (from the C12 Group), that these same virtues were exactly what they should be looking for as they recruit new CEOs to join their boards. Let me add some detail to these two perspectives:

I – The Top Virtues of Great Consultants

In management consulting, and especially at Chief Outsiders, our role is to become a member of our client’s executive management team. So, we’d better be something close to an Ideal Team Player. 

No one on the CEO’s management team wants “that guy” to show up. You know whom I mean: The consultant or smarty-pants that has all the answers, but none of the tact to be inclusive in the exploration of possible solutions to challenges. Yet everyone would be disappointed if their management consultant did not demonstrate a passion for their business and commitment to solve problems. Finally, it’s hard to imagine a successful outside executive resource that would not have the people skills and empathy to encourage and support their teammates through a consulting or fractional CMO assignment. Is it possible that the top virtues for great consultants are the same as Lencioni has shared in The Ideal Team Player? Humility, hunger and smarts? Seems so to me! I really appreciate that the applications and examples for assessing prospective consultants as well our own behaviors are well documented in the book. And we’re on it.

II – The Top Virtues for CEO Peer Boards

My personal experience with CEO peer boards includes membership in two of the largest, Vistage and the C12 Group, plus exposure to others. Participating or presenting to these boards over the years, I’ve had many chances to witness good and better peer interactions. It’s completely clear to me that Lencioni’s triad – humility, hunger and smarts – also describe the virtues of an ideal CEO peer board member.

When CEOs assemble each month in these peer boards, they spend a full day interacting to improve each other’s business skills, personal accountability and quality of life. The ideal peer board member cannot possibly be “the smartest guy in the room” or she would monopolize, or worse shut down, discussion. Plus, anyone not interested in learning and improving themselves and their businesses would be wasting their time and quickly excuse themselves from membership. Finally, a CEO member who lacks the “people radar” to speak tactfully and hold their peers accountable in ways that are not disparaging or destructive would be voted “off the island” in short order. CEOs on peer boards develop a highly intimate “team” over years of supporting each other through business and life challenges. I’m pretty confident that they also develop their team player virtues far beyond when they arrive in their groups, and this too benefits both their business and their family life.

The Anchor – Humility

As Lencioni concludes this new, instant classic, he emphasizes that humility is the cornerstone virtue – not only for teams, but also for life. Consistent with Jim Collins’ Good to Great Level 5 Leadership attributes, humility stands with passion as the central theme in a life well lived. Pat appropriately includes a reference to the ultimate model of humility in the life of Jesus Christ. As a believer, I especially appreciate how this business book author and consultant, one of the most prolific and influential of all time, finds and shares such universal truths with so many. I’m grateful for the insight, and eager to further its application. Well-done Patrick!


Topics: Chief Marketing Officer, Hiring

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