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Home » Blog » Andy’s Notes from Business Folks: Patrick Lencioni – Can You Spot an Ideal Team Player? Here’s How!

Andy’s Notes from Business Folks: Patrick Lencioni – Can You Spot an Ideal Team Player? Here’s How!

You’ve played on Teams your entire life, but can you describe what makes a great Teammate?

From the time you were a kid, you had opportunities to be on Teams.  Perhaps gym classes and little league baseball were among your first opportunities to learn how to work and compete as part of a group.  In younger age groups, raw talent tends to win the day, as Teamwork is a skill that develops with experience.  No doubt you’ve seen an athlete that’s stronger and faster than her contemporaries dominate a contest.

Teamwork, of course, exists beyond the realm of athletics and can be a powerful force in many aspects of your business and professional life.  When asked what makes a great Teammate, answers can range from Trustworthy and Reliable to Caring and Fun.  While it’s tough to sum up what makes a great Teammate, you know good Teamwork when you feel it.

Fortunately, Patrick Lencioni has a framework to describe an Ideal Team Player that is both simple and powerful.  His three key elements identify the ingredients needed to work effectively within a Team.  The three characteristics of Humble, Hungry, and Smart, as Patrick describes them, provide the means to evaluate all the members of your Team, including yourself.

Introduction to Patrick Lencioni

I first learned of Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Ideal Team Player, through an interview with the CEO of Maui Nui Venison, Jake Muise.  Maui Nui has whole-heartedly embraced Patrick’s framework, and they use it consistently to build extraordinary Teams.  New Teammates at Maui Nui “try out” for the Team and in the first month, their entire evaluation is based on Patrick’s Humble, Hungry, and Smart framework.  After listening to the interview, I knew I needed to get Patrick’s book.

The Ideal Team Player is an easy read.  Similar to other business books that have been written in the form of a story, rather than an instructional book, The Ideal Team Player is compelling and can be easily consumed by any member of your Team.

The Three Elements of an Ideal Team Player – Patrick Lencioni

Teamwork is critical to almost any organization.  In The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni has established a powerful framework for identifying, hiring, and developing Ideal Team Players within your organization.  Whether you’re a leader in your organization, or simply want to be the best Teammate you can possibly be, the three virtues listed here will help you realize how to engage with your Team.


Ideal Team Players are Humble.

They are quick to point out the contributions of their Teammates and slow to seek attention for themselves.  Their ego remains in check, and they have limited concerns about their status.  They willingly share credit, and they emphasize Team results over personal results.

Humble Teammates define success in terms of the group, rather than individually.

S. Lewis was famously quoted as saying, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  The sentiment of that quote dovetails nicely with the virtue of Humility that Patrick identifies as the first and most important of his Ideal Team Player framework.


Ideal Team Players are Hungry.

They are self-motivated and diligent, and they are always looking for more.  They’d prefer to be busy and want to do and learn as much as possible.  Rarely will they need to be pushed by their Leader for extra effort because they are very driven to perform and succeed.

Hungry Teammates have a high motor and are constantly thinking about the next action and the next opportunity.  As a Leader of a Hungry Teammate, you won’t need to prod them. Instead, your only potential action might be to hold them back.


Ideal Team Players are Smart.

Importantly, it’s not intellectual capacity that is being referenced, but rather emotional intelligence.  Smart Teammates possess common sense about people.  They tend to know how to deal with others in an appropriate and helpful manner.  Their read of their Teammates and the evolving emotions in a group setting help them deal with situations in an effective way.

Smart Teammates have good judgment and intuition around even subtle aspects of a group.  They recognize the impact of their words and actions, typically helping to lead the Team in a more positive direction.


The three virtues of Humble, Hungry, and Smart come together in an Ideal Teammate.  It’s the required combination of all three that generates a powerful impact on the Team.  If even one of these virtues is missing in a Teammate, it makes Teamwork dramatically more difficult and might jeopardize the Team’s goals.

The opportunity to assess yourself and your Teammates on Humble, Hungry, and Smart is important as you reflect on how your Team is performing.  Noticing gaps in your own tendencies will make you a better Leader, and encouraging your Teammates when they’ve demonstrated behavior outside the framework can help improve the chemistry of your Team.

After hearing the Ideal Team Player framework, I knew I wanted to incorporate these virtues into my performance and that of our Team.  Just knowing what to look for within our Team’s interactions helped me foster better Teamwork in our company.

Below are a few things we did to apply the Ideal Team Player framework in our company.

Look in the Mirror First

I want to be a solid Teammate on any Team I’m on.  Hearing the Humble, Hungry, and Smart framework prompted an initial question:  How do I measure up?

Fortunately, Patrick’s company, The Table Group, has a self-assessment available.  The link is in the resource list below if you’d like to try it out.

My assessment showed that Hungry was my strongest virtue, with some room to improve on Humble and Smart.  It was helpful to see the areas of opportunity and I’m committed to working on them.  There’s little doubt that we all have the opportunity to improve, and a desire to grow into a better Teammate is an important first step.

Consider Your Key Players

After completing the self-assessment, I next reflected on the key players on our Team.  Fortunately, none of them had obvious issues with Humble, Hungry, and Smart.  I could see relative strengths among the virtues in each Teammate, which helped explain why certainly situations went better or worse depending on who was involved.

After reflecting on those key Teammates, I shared the Ideal Team Player framework with them.  Each was encouraged to take the self-assessment to review their strengths and weaknesses within the framework.  Positive conversations resulted as each of us wanted to be a great Teammate.

Coach and Encourage Your Teammates

Once our key players and I had reflected on our own self-assessment results, we could reflect on the remaining Teammates.  The framework helps characterize the nature of Team interactions, particularly when something doesn’t go well, and helped our Team Leaders to articulate clearer criteria for improvement, when challenging situations happened.

Just talking through the virtues of Humble, Hungry, and Smart has made our Team more aware of opportunities to be a better Teammate.  We have long had humility as a core component of our Team culture, so making accommodations for Teammates that struggle with being Hungry, or Smart, hasn’t been difficult.  As Patrick stated and we agree, being Humble is the most important of the three virtues and perhaps the most difficult to improve.

Coaching and encouraging our Teammates, especially through emotionally charged situations, is made easier by knowing the Ideal Team Player framework.

Are you Humble?  Would your Teammates say that you:

    • Compliment or praise them without hesitation?
    • Gladly share credit for Team accomplishments?
    • Readily acknowledge your own weaknesses?

Are you Hungry?  Would your Teammates say that you:

    • Do more than what is required of your job?
    • Are you willing to take on tedious or challenging tasks when necessary?
    • Feel a personal responsibility for the overall success of the Team?

Are you Smart?  Would your Teammates say that you:

    • Generally, understand what others are feeling during meetings and in conversations?
    • Are you an attentive listener?
    • Demonstrate an interest in the lives of your Teammates?

Patrick Lencioni is an American author of books on business management, particularly in relation to Team management.  He is best known as the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a popular business fable that explores work team dynamics and offers solutions to help teams perform better.  He is 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 senior executives and executive teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500s and high-tech start-ups to universities and non-profits.

  1. Reflecting on the virtues of Humble, Hungry, and Smart, do you believe you are an Ideal Team Player?
  2. Which of the three virtues (Humble, Hungry, and Smart) do you need to work on the most?
  3. When you reflect on your Team, do any of your Teammates represent obvious examples of people who are not Humble, not Hungry, or not Smart?