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Lencioni Leads Leap Keynote on Building a Dream Team


April 18, 2017

Phil Jackson is considered one of, if not the greatest coach in NBA history. His famous triangle offense led the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to 11 NBA titles; but Jackson was just the chef, he wasn’t shopping for the ingredients, which as we see now with the New York Knicks is much easier said than done. Creating a ‘Dream Team’ is somewhat of a herculean task. However, if you know what to look for you are ahead of the game.

One of the keynote speakers from Leap, Founder & CEO of The Table Group and accomplished author Patrick Lencioni, illustrated to attendees how to identify and attract ideal team players to their organizations. Lencioni brings his years of managerial experience to the fore, to share the core values that great organizations utilize to endure over time.

The foundation starts with three key virtues of an ideal team player. The perfect employee is certainly a needle in the haystack, but if you shoot for the moon you’ll hit the stars. The goal is to get a group of people together who get exponentially more work done in an enjoyable fashion. Let’s dig in.

The first virtue is humility. “This sounds too obvious, but this is the most important virtue by far,” noted Lencioni. These employees are more

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focused on others, not ego driven or arrogant. As Lencioni explained, “It’s not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It’s bad for the team to deny our “gifts,” so a humble person will recognize strengths and weaknesses, and address them accordingly in a team environment.

Typically, the virtue hungry can be attributed to a youthful worker itching to make their mark on the world. This “sense of drive” comprises hunger. These are people who want to get stuff done and are never satisfied. They don’t quite fall in the workaholic category; however, they are very hard working people.

Smart is the third virtue. This is not referring to IQ or a perfect SAT score. It has more to do with emotional intelligence (EQ). A person with this virtue will display common sense around people, and is more than capable of interpersonal communications.

As I said above, finding perfection is a needle in a haystack, but that should not force the hire of mediocrity. Lencioni delved into the people with only one of the three virtues.

Those who are just humble, or “The Pawn,” as Lencioni noted, could be a dear person, but typically have a bad work ethic, don’t understand people but don’t push the agenda. They simply do what they’re told. As he explained, this segment of people would be great to have as your neighbor, but not a good teammate.

“The Bulldozer” or those with only the hungry virtue, get a lot done, but can be quite the bull in the china shop along the way. The damage done is about equivalent to the productivity, as they only care about what project they are working on.

Ever have a coworker who’s great to grab a beer with, but as a teammate can be a bit vexing? This is “the charmer,” or the “Ferris Bueller” type who’s only virtue is smart. They’re fun to hang out with but certainly not someone you’d want on your team.

Lencioni then introduced another group, those possessing two of the three necessary virtues. These are people “egregiously lacking one of the three.”

He led with “The Puppy,” or accidental mess maker. These people are constantly doing things wrongs – and it’s not just a whack on the nose with a rolled up newspaper that will help the problem. As Lencioni explained, “They just don’t get it.” They have the best of intentions, but are drastically lacking in the EQ department – humble and hungry is not really a winning combination, however, Lencioni noted, “of those with two of three virtues, I am most patient” with “The Puppy.”

Next is humble and smart, the “Loveable Slacker.” They are able to survive because they are lovable, so nice and humble, but “the problem is often times they can be extremely frustrating to the team,” Lencioni highlighted. And, eventually, if the leader doesn’t make changes, the team will lose respect.

Last, but certainly not least, of this bunch is the most dangerous of the three, those that are hungry and smart. These people know how to work a room, earning the moniker of “The Politician.” They are capable of convincing everybody they are great team players, until the day the team or management finally figures out the truth, which is always too late. Lencioni underlined the point that you “Cannot afford to have these people in our organization.”

There’s no such thing as perfect, but when piecing together a unit, these three virtues must serve to guide the search. Lencioni offered some insight from the leadership perspective; first let’s look at some ways to ensure hiring real team players.

Lencioni suggests to stop focusing on measureable and technical skills, and to spice up the interview process. He explained that it’s just too easy for people to fake their way through. Ways to get the true person to shine through include avoiding siloed interviews – invite the team in. Conduct non-traditional interviews; invest time in new environments and see how the person behaves. Interviewers must probe that “uneasy feeling” in their gut, ask the same question multiple times. The truth will come out. And finally, scare them with sincerity.

As I keep repeating, perfection is impossible, but a leader can help mold his/her team to best personify the three virtues. Here’s a few ways how they can help. First, the leader must lead the way, set an example.  A good team leader will aid team members in identifying and acknowledging areas of improvement. And, while it may feel at times like beating a dead horse, they must continue to remind team members about areas of improvement.

A good team reflects leadership. We can’t always find the perfect employee; luckily, some of these virtues can be taught, but as Lencioni illustrated hungry is the hardest to teach later in life. Keep this in consideration during the interview/hiring process.

With a future shaping up as more collaborative, agile and team oriented, it is imperative to do one’s due diligence when speaking with candidates. Take the NFL combine for example: a fast 40 yd dash or shuttle time sure looks good on a scouting report, but how does it translate to the field? Who cares if you can bench press 225 lbs 40 times if you can’t protect the quarterback? My point is this, the film will tell the story.

Lencioni’s approach may seem a touch unconventional, but that’s why it works. Like said, if you know what you’re looking for, you’re ahead of the game.  If only Phil Jackson could figure this out.




Edited by Alicia Young

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