(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child. To learn more about OCC click here...)
The Ideal Team Player
Thirteen years ago I spoke at Willow for the first time and for me that was a mind-blowing experience. I talked about my book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” and how to take any group of people and make them a team.
It begged the question: are some people better at that than others? As it turns out I did know the answer to that question but I wasn’t aware of it. Years before I worked in a department that used core values based on Jim Collins’ book. One of the things we help our clients with is identifying their core values. Often they would say, “We’ll use those, too.” But we thought they were lazy and encouraged them to make their own values. Then we realized those values were universal and were actually the descriptor of a person who can overcome the dysfunctions of a team.
We started to share these values with clients. A few years later I was encouraged to write a book based on these values and I’m shocked that it’s selling more than any book I’ve written. There’s something in it that seems to have struck a nerve with managers.
It’s the overlap of the three values that makes it special.
HUMBLE—means you’re more interested in others than yourself; not arrogant or ego-driven. Sometimes people simply lack self confidence which is really an abomination of humility. Someone who denies their skills tends not to passionately argue for what is right. C.S. Lewis “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”
HUNGER—someone who has strong work ethic, hate the idea of being a slacker, will do whatever necessary to get the job done.
SMART—not intellectual smarts it’s about people smarts or common sense around people. People who are good at practicing emotional intelligence and can adjust their behavior to that of others.
What do you do with this model? First you need to know how to identify people on your team and yourself who have these qualities. Start by looking at the possible permutations.
Humble but lack hunger and smarts = pawn—not very effective on a team; not dependable on a team; need our prayers but not to be invited on our teams
Hungry but not humble or smart = bulldozer—can get something done and leave a trail of dead bodies behind them
Smart but not humble or hungry = charmer—funny, joking, but don’t get anything done
Two qualities out of three are not enough and can create serious problems in organizations; however, no one is perfect and we all struggle. We’re talking about people who exhibit over time a serious lack of these qualities.
Humble & Hungry but not smart = Accidental Mess-Maker—always need to make excuses for them; ruffle feathers; George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” was in this category (blurting out things)
Humble & Smarts but not hungry = Lovable Slacker—tend to survive for a long time; they just don’t want to work; will do just enough work to keep you from doing something about them; frustrates the people who work really hard
Smarts & Hungry but not humble = Skillful Politician—ambitious and hard-driving and know how to LOOK humble; most dangerous and hardest to spot; like Al Pacino in “The Godfather”; sometimes in church it’s harder to deal with them because we don’t want to be unkind
What do you do with this? Use it to develop your people. Go to the people on your team and discuss what they might lack. Had people in the group rate their qualities from first to last then go into a room with others with the same deficiency and brainstorm about what to do about the deficiency.
Next step—help them get better—when we develop our people we have to have the courage to talk to them and let them know and to constantly remind them. They will either improve or they will opt out on their own. Either of those is more dignified than letting people stay and be miserable.
Let’s talk about hiring. If you ask most people, they want to hire team players. Somehow there’s a disconnect between that desire and what actually happens. The first thing we have to do is not over-emphasize technical skills. We need to look for hungry, humble, and smart. We tend to focus on that which is measurable and verifiable but behavior should always rise to the top.
The interview process is broken. Get people out of the office to see them in a regular world environment and watch how they deal with human beings. Tells the story of a ministry that made a bad hire and the person who hired said, “I should have taken her shopping.” Also, ask questions more than once. The “Law and Order” school of interviewing—keep asking the same question. For me, a big part of humility is being able to ask forgiveness, so I asked an applicant, “How do you deal with conflict.” When I asked again “How do you come back from an argument? What would your wife say if I asked if you hold grudges?” He admitted, “I’m a grudge holder.” We can’t afford to subject our ministries to people who don’t work well with others.
Stop doing silent interviews—get everyone together to interview candidate at once.
Scare people with sincerity. You’re interviewing someone and you have lingering doubts. Say, “Hey, we’re fanatical about humility and hunger and people smarts and if you are, you’re going to love it here. If you’re not, you’re going to hate working here. We just want you to be aware of that.” When you’re clear some people will opt out on their own.
Ideal team players: Steph Curry (Golden Stateplayer)—humble, hungry
Alan Mulally—one of the humblest people I ever met; hardworking (missed 6 staff meetings in 38 years)
Woody from Toy Story
I want to finish with something that’s been on my heart—especially for those who are followers of Jesus. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they persecute you…” Persecution is real in our country today. This is a golden age of leadership because you know something—we are not meant to cower under this. Pray we have the strength to stand strong and the grace not to become bitter. May all of us leaders be willing to suffer for Jesus.