Humble, Hungry, Smart Leadership Teams

April 2, 2020

Jim Brown & Margot Thompson

Episode Description

Hiring and firing are… expensive, among other adjectives. Pat Lencioni’s book, The Ideal Team Player, provides a simple but incredibly helpful framework that can help leaders find the right people to join their teams, and also works as a great tool for reflection and growth. In this episode, Jim and Margot discuss the model and share stories and tips for how you can use this tool not only to find the ideal team players, but to become the ideal leadership team.

What you’ll learn:

  • The “Ideal Team Player” model [01:53]
  • What does it mean to be a Humble team member? [03:34]
  • What does it mean to be a Hungry team member? [04:53]
  • What does it mean to be a Smart team member? [05:24]
  • How to apply the three traits to ourselves  [08:52]
  • How to spot when one or more of the traits are missing [08:39]
  • How to use Humble, Hungry, Smart in hiring [14:48]
  • How to use Humble, Hungry, Smart in team development [19:33]  


Jim [00:00:04] Welcome to The OrgHealth Podcast: conversations about organizational health. I'm Jim Brown.

Margot [00:00:10] And I'm Margot Thompson. We're consultants and coaches to leaders who are creating healthy organizations.

Jim [00:00:15] We talk about leading at the executive level, not just the key points, the highlights. We like to go deeper...

Margot [00:00:22] Under the surface. We like to talk about what isn't obvious.

Jim [00:00:25] And maybe what isn't comfortable.

Margot [00:00:28] Right. And we come at these things with very different viewpoints. Easy, because Jim and I are very, very different from each other.

Jim [00:00:35] That's true. But the good news is we've worked together long enough that we see our differences as strengths.

Margot [00:00:41] In fact, they actually allow us to create more health in our team and the teams that we help. And we're going to do some of that right now.

Jim [00:00:58] Well, Margot, here we are on our new episode for OrgHealth, and this is different today because the world is having a bit of a crisis and we're trying to operate very differently. So, rather than being face-to-face in the same room for this recording, we are social distancing and self-isolating and using technology to make this podcast happen. Thanks for working with me on that.

Margot [00:01:25] Hey, this is perfect. Thanks, Jim.

Jim [00:01:27] Well, we're going to talk about teamwork and people being on teams. And figuring out who should be on your team and whether they're the right fit is actually a very tricky and very important topic. In fact, if we could figure out how to do that well before we even hire the person, we would be far ahead. So that's what we want to dive into today.

Margot [00:01:52] Yeah, I think that we all—like, businesses are always talking about how they want great team players and it's so desirable to have in an employee and in a new hire. And I think that unfortunately, it's not all that common to be able to easily hire an ideal team player.

Jim [00:02:09] In fact, we would argue that even though people spend lots of time and lots of money on trying to make those selections, in many cases, they're asking some of the wrong questions. They are focusing on competence. How well can this person "do the work"? But there's another whole dimension of how they contribute to the larger team being effective that we can get deeper into. And that's what we want to examine today. As people will know, we've spent more than 15 years working closely with Patrick Lencioni and The Table Group. Pat has written some great books. Well, every book that he's written is great. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team—very famous. And today's conversation is going to build more from the book that he wrote called The Ideal Team Player.

Margot [00:03:04] Yeah, today we specifically want to talk to you guys about how the ideal team player and finding the ideal team player plays out in the leadership teams in the C-suite.

Jim [00:03:17] So Pat presents this idea that there are three virtues to ideal team players. They are Humble, Hungry and Smart. Let's talk about these one at a time. Start off with Humble, Margot.

Margot [00:03:34] Humble. So I think that this one is probably the most easy to understand. So, I would say that when you're Humble, as a team member, you do not have excessive ego or concerns around status. You are pretty quick to share credit and to share praise of others. And actually, maybe even you don't take credit for yourself because you want to actually make it about the team's win collectively.

Jim [00:04:07] Right. And another piece that I think is fascinating is humility isn't about false modesty. It's not, "Oh, really? It was nothing". Humility requires that we actually have a true understanding of ourselves. So, knowing our strengths is very important for us to be positioned appropriately. We just don't overplay it. We don't overstate it. So, yes, let's be Humble. And you said it's easiest to understand, but let's agree, that doesn't mean it's easiest to walk in.

Margot [00:04:44] Yeah. I think the quote that we often hear is "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less".

Jim [00:04:51] So valuable. Yes. OK, Hungry is another one. The Hungry person really takes initiative. They're often a self-starter. They're driven to go after goals, to achieve things. And they don't have to be prodded from the outside. It's not somebody that only does work or works hard when someone pushes them.

Margot [00:05:15] Right. These are the people who are constantly looking for more responsibility. They're always thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.

Jim [00:05:23] So valuable. OK. And then the third one is Smart. There's a bit of twist to this. Margot. Explain what we really mean when we're saying Smart.

Margot [00:05:31] So Smart in this context isn't really about mental intelligence. It's more around emotional intelligence and interpersonal awareness. It's people smarts.

Jim [00:05:42] Yeah. Yeah. This is something that I see you as having a great strength in, Margot. You've just got this ability to read people, to sense how they're feeling, to see what their body language means. So that when you're in a meeting and someone says something, you'll notice how people respond to that. And sometimes I just miss it, which is a concern for me. And this is kind of opening up the concept of how useful it is for each person to self-assess on these three virtues: Humble, Hungry, Smart. Which one of these do we feel is kind of our greatest strength that we're strongest at? And which one of these do we think we're lagging a bit in? I'm going to be very bold and say that I think Hungry is my strongest one. I can really be focused on making things happen. And that's not hard for me. I just love doing that stuff. Meanwhile, I acknowledge that Smart, people-smart, is not an outstanding strength of mine, and it's something that, because I'm missing some of the cues that people are giving, then I'm not realizing the impact that my words and actions can have on people at times.

Margot [00:07:08] That's—it's interesting. I always see you as Action Man. And I think that that's a lot to do with the Hungry piece. For myself, I find it interesting, the way that these pieces, these aspects are defined, I don't know that I'm lacking specifically in any of them, but I would say if I had to put them in order (didn't that sound arrogant?) if I had to put them in order, I would say probably Smart, Humble, then Hungry. But I would also say that somebody who is Hungry first, would probably not see me as Hungry.

Jim [00:07:43] Yeah, but you made a really important comment there a moment ago that you don't see yourself as lagging, and that's not what we're saying. We're simply saying relatively, for yourself, which one do you think is your greatest strength and which one is your lowest one? You could still be very strong in all three.

Margot [00:08:01] Right.

Jim [00:08:02] And I think that you are, Margot. So it's not—the fact that number three for you is Hungry doesn't mean that you're not Hungry. Likewise, I hope that number three for me doesn't mean I have no people smarts. It means that, relative to Hungry and Humble, it's not the strongest one.

Margot [00:08:21] Right. And I think it's really important that people understand as they're doing a self-rating for this, that everybody is on a spectrum for all of them. On each one of them, we're on a spectrum.

Jim [00:08:34] I know I'm on a spectrum.

Margot [00:08:36]  So am I.

Jim [00:08:39] Well, we can talk about some special situations when we consider the combinations of these three traits and whether people are lacking or missing one or two of them. So let's talk about some of the special combinations that Pat talked about in the book, The Ideal Team Player. Start with the Accidental Mess Maker, which is such a fun title in itself. What describes the Accidental Mess Maker?

Margot [00:09:08] So these people are typically very intelligent, highly motivated. They've got great ideas, lots of great ideas, endless streams of ideas, but unfortunately, and probably not on purpose they end up sort of rubbing people the wrong way.

Jim [00:09:26] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Because, while they are Hungry and Humble, they are not people Smart. So they're not noticing the impact that they're having on people. They just, they maybe charge into things and people are offended or disappointed or whatever.

Margot [00:09:45] Right. And they can end up making the whole team and the whole organization look bad.

Jim [00:09:50] Right. Yeah. Okay. Another one is the Skillful Politician. This person is Hungry and Smart, but not Humble. So let's explore that situation a bit more. Talk about how they come off to people.

Margot [00:10:07] So they're pretty much everybody's buddy and they are very smooth in the sense that they always know the exact right thing to say all the time. They're probably very ambitious, but they're really thinking about themselves. They're really totally focused about themselves, not for what's the benefit of the team, but just about what benefits themselves.

Jim [00:10:30] Yeah. And we often would say that these people are the most dangerous because you don't maybe catch on for a while until some real damage has been done that the person is manipulating. So, that's a messy situation, the Skillful Politician. Then we have the Lovable Slacker. And this is a fun situation where the person isn't Hungry. They're Humble, they're  people Smart, but they just don't really have the drive. And consequently, other people often end up, kind of carrying some of their weight, doing their work for them because they're so likeable. Let's try to help them out. But then it just keeps going on over and over. And then it's possible that there's resentment builds up within the team.

Margot [00:11:22] Right.

Jim [00:11:22] Would you add more to that?

Margot [00:11:23] I would just say that they're the hardest ones to get rid of on a team because they really care about their colleagues and their colleagues really care about them. They're very, they're usually very positive and very friendly. And you build a relationship with them. But because they're just doing the bare minimum, the resentment is like a thing that simmers underneath the surface after a long time.

Jim [00:11:46] Yeah. Yeah. We have three more patterns. And these patterns are when people are missing two of the three virtues. Let's start with the Bulldozer. This person is so Hungry, they're going to Make. It. Happen. There's lots of bulldozers in sales. They're going to get their target no matter what. And they're not Humble, as in, they can often be quite arrogant and they're not people Smart. They don't really notice the impact that they're having on others. These people often are seen as wonderful contributors to the company because of the impact on the bottom line. But there's a wake of carnage all around them. Yes, that's can be difficult. Again, what would you add to that one? Because I know that you've seen Bulldozers in your journey.

Margot [00:12:43] Yeah, I think it's, it's not only that they don't know how much they're impacting the people around them. They honestly probably don't care. It doesn't seem like an important piece to them, and that makes a lot of the people around them feel very devalued.

Jim [00:12:57] Yeah. OK. Then we have the Pawn. Somebody that's Humble, but they're not Hungry and they're not Smart. The truth is, it's not likely that you're going to have a person like this on your executive team. They're just not going to rise to that level in an organization. They are nice people, but they don't really get how other people are being impacted by them or even really kind of the message that they're sending. So, yeah, very nice, but not likely going to be in a leadership role. So then the final one, talk about the Charmer.

Margot [00:13:35] I think that the Charmer, well, it's a little bit scary because they are all talk and no action. They understand how to manipulate people. They understand how to talk to people to get what they want. But they aren't sharers and they aren't interested in actually getting anything done.

Jim [00:13:54] Yeah, let's underscore again... when you self-assess, you're going to notice which one of these is the lower of the three. I would encourage you to get some feedback from people that are around you, work with you, live with you, to find what's their impression. Is your lower one the one that you think it is? And is your lower one so low that people see it as a macro problem as opposed to just a relative difference?

Margot [00:14:24] Yeah. And I think it's really important to note that just because somebody is slightly less in one area than another doesn't automatically make them fit under one of these labels. I think it's pretty important that leaders are careful not to label people in these areas, maybe just use them as a guide.

Jim [00:14:42] And that's why we want to talk about using this model to help you build your team and your company. Every great team player exhibits these three qualities, these three virtues. They're Humble, they're Hungry and they're Smart. So let's just dig into this. What's one way that we can really take advantage of applying this model, Margot?

Margot [00:15:09] Oh for sure in hiring and selecting the new team members that you're bringing on. Do not settle.

Jim [00:15:16] Yeah. And it's so tempting. Right? We mostly have been conditioned in our hiring process to only look for competence rather than, a term that people sometimes use, chemistry, how they're going to work with the people that they're gonna be connecting to. Yeah. So what does that look like? What does using this model to select the right people look like? How is it different than kind of the typical hiring process that you've seen so many times?

Margot [00:15:51] Well, so first of all, I think it's pretty important that you're having a real conversation and truly connecting with the people that you're considering as candidates for any position. I think we're all tempted to sort of go through a checkbox sort of situation. I would say it's very important to actually get to know those people and have the kinds of questions that are more conversational and participatory.

Jim [00:16:18] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And digging in to kind of catch people at their default rather than their best behavior, right? So people show up in an interview. Often they've been well prepped. They've thought deeply about, "Well, what would be the right kind of thing to say if they ask this question or that question"? An example is, I remember talking with an executive who said that after a couple of interviews have already proven that this person is very promising, he would ask people to come to a breakfast meeting with him at a restaurant at 6 a.m. So, one,he's trying to find can they commit to something that probably isn't going to be comfortable and easy. In a sense, this is sort of going after Hungry. Are they that Hungry? Are they going to inconvenience themselves for this? And then in the breakfast meeting, they've actually arranged with the server to have a little accident at the table so that they see what the person's response is. Like, tip the orange juice onto the table and see what the person does. Does he jump up so that it doesn't spill all over him? But does he, you know, get angry and call the server names or does he quickly try to help solve the problem and come alongside the server in the situation? What—react to that, Margot. Like, I just found that appealing. What do you think?

Margot [00:17:57] Oh, so, well, I would be jumping up and mopping up the orange juice.

Jim [00:18:00] Yes, of course.

Margot [00:18:02] (laughing) And probably mopping up the waiter as I went along.

Jim [00:18:06] Yeah.

Margot [00:18:06] I think that that's a really great idea to have, I don't know about the spilling the orange juice thing, but I think it's a really great idea to have pieces of the interview be sudden participation in a situation that will immediately show you whether somebody has some of these strengths. On my scale, I'm people Smart first. So, my whole way of approaching this is to be really involved in a deep conversation and watching for how they react to things. I don't know if I would have any quick little tricks and tips for the interview process.

Jim [00:18:44] But actually you just exposed a really good point and that is, make sure that there's someone on your interview team who especially is strong at being people Smart, because you're going to see things better than I would see things, see those things.

Margot [00:19:01] Well, actually, honestly, in this sort of a process, if you're selecting based on Hungry, Humble and Smart, I think it would be good to have one of each on your interview team.

Jim [00:19:12] Great point. Great point. So whether it's all three of them at once or there's just a different schedule of interviews with a different person or a pair of people. Yeah. OK. So it's a really important tool to help select people coming onto the team or coming into the company. But I think another one is just to use it as a tool for people already in our organization and on our team to work through their self-discovery, perhaps considering what's the strongest, what's the weakest? Yeah. So let's talk about how we might do that and encourage people on our team to do that.

Margot [00:19:59] In terms of identifying it, I think that the kind of observation that you have in meetings and working together and just interaction and working on projects with somebody, will allow you to see who is strong in what areas and who might not be strong in other areas. And the focus should be on trying to understand, from your own perspective, why someone else who is different from you is making a different decision than you would in the same circumstances.

Jim [00:20:33] Well, that opens the door to another way we can use the tool. And I think that this is more, kind of the ultimate objective, and that is to incorporate it right into the team culture and team conversation. So that we talk about, What are our strengths?, What's the thing that we would like to raise a little higher?. Invite people on the team to give us some perspective and feedback, but also some help. So that's one area that you've been a great help to me in. That the fact that people Smart is lower for me. I can remember, Margot, we walked out of a meeting with a client team and as we were walking down the hall, you said (we'll just I'll just make up a name) "You know, Adam was lying the whole time?" And I reacted, "He was?" And then you've got so much better at helping me to make sense of these things by giving me some specific things that you observe. So, "Yeah, well, he said this", "His body language when this happened was like this", "Did you notice that?" Oh, yeah. And all of those things went together for me to realize, "You're right, all of that strongly indicates he was trying to hide something". But that was screaming out to you, but I really didn't acknowledge it for myself. So you've helped me. I'm not, I wouldn't say that I'm great at all. But you've helped me be more conscious.

Margot [00:22:23] This is how it works on a team, right? Each person has certain strengths and each other person has a different strength than we do. The same for weaknesses. And the best part of being on a team is being able to work with people who can shore up your weaknesses as you can shore up other people's weaknesses and you can use your best strengths in certain situations and the other person can use their best strengths. That's the whole deal about a team.

Jim [00:22:47] Every team will be better if each of us works intently at living these virtues. Humble, Hungry and Smart. There are tools that we've talked about for self-assessment. There are approaches that we've shared about how you can raise the bar for these virtues on your team. We encourage you to work together so that everyone will be an Ideal Team Player. OK, we want you to go out and try what we've talked about today on your own leadership team.

Margot [00:23:19] You can ask us questions or download notes from this episode at www.orghealth.coach. We'd love for you to join us next Thursday on The OrgHealth Podcast.

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