3 Non-Negotiables for Ideal, Engaged Teammates

The work by Gallup and others have made it clear that employee engagement across the board is a low 30%. Why would we expect it to be any different for someone simply considered to be an employee? The term “employee” and “engagement” have no natural relationship to one another; the same goes for project or committee member.

The role of an employee or member is to simply perform a particular role for an agreed amount of pay, reward or recognition……regardless of whether they are engaged or not.  A  teammate, on the other hand, is by definition engaged in the vision, mission and committed to competition. If not, they are no longer a team-mate but dead weight.

Could it be that our real problem with engagement is our own perspective? While a teammate can serve as an employee or member of some sort, a member isn’t necessarily a teammate.

Pat Lencioni’s latest book “The Ideal Team Player” speaks to this issue. It has a simple premise that makes sense: great teams require ideal team players. His definition of an ideal team player or teammate encompasses engagement and more. He defines an ideal teammate as someone who has the ability to work effectively with others and add value within the dynamics of a group endeavor.

What isn’t so simple is how to identify and keep ideal, engaged teammates. Lencioni say’s there are three fundamental virtues that help you do just that:0204 TeamPlayer IIjpg

  • Humble: No excessive ego or status concerns; quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to draw attention to their own. Emphasize team success over self success. This is the single most indispensable virtue.
  • Hungry: Self-motivated and always looking for more to do, learn and take on; always thinking about the next-step and opportunity.
  • Smart: Not head-smart but heart-smart. They have a high SEI, common sense, and listen and ask more than show and tell.

Notice he refers to these three as “virtues”,  not values.  This is because virtue denotes both a quality and asset, which indicate each can be cultivated.

The other critical key point: the three taken together is greater than the sum of their parts. In other words, it’s the combination of the three that makes the ideal teammate.  And while “ideal” likely isn’t attainable, it is possible to hit a certain “sweet-spot” close to the ideal.

What became obvious to me in reflecting on my own experience with memorable teams is that most if not all the individual team members strongly exhibited these 3 essential virtues.  This held up across the board, regardless of personal, business or recreational domains.  These qualities not only made them great teammates, they also made them great people you just wanted to be around (which holds true for my current Confluent Team as well).

Want to find and partner with teammates who can come together and create low maintenance, high performing teams? Then look for someone who is humble, hungry and smart.

Reflect on teams you’ve been a part of in the past in relationship to Lencioni’s three fundamental virtues.  How could you leverage these three to make your current teammates and team better? If you included them as part of your hiring criteria, what impact could they have?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.