The Ideal Team Player

As Patrick grew up and started to be around the business world, he realized the problem in business: we can do all the logistics with finances and accounting but if humans don’t actually know how to work together, then they’re wasting their money. Patrick’s message is made up of fundamental, universal truths. Since starting his own firm and writing his first book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he found that his gift for understanding team management applies globally- to churches, schools, coaches, the military, to businesses all over the world.


Hunger, Humility, and Smarts:

  • One of the most powerful things you can do is be vulnerable, build trust, engage in conflict and be humble. But remember that humility does not mean lack of confidence or ideas. Engaging in conflict is actually more kind and loving than being “nice” and avoiding having a hard conversation.
  • Hunger is not workaholism, but it is going the extra mile, and really caring about the mission of your work and your team.


Show Transcription

[01:56] Welcome to The Ziglar Show, where we inspire your true performance. I’m your host Kevin Miller and today we bring you an incredible message on being the preferred team player on your team!

[02:08] Patrick Lencioni is one of the most sought after corporate speakers and influences on the planet. He has 11 best selling books and his latest is just tremendous. It’s titled “The Ideal Team Player” – How to recognize and cultivate the three essential virtues. Now folks, either we want to hire the ideal team player, or we want to know how to BE the ideal, most desired team player. I’ll give it away – the three essential virtues are: humility, hunger, and smarts. But that doesn’t truly give it away, as you need to understand the specific dynamics. Patrick is an authority on human dynamics, especially in the workplace. It was an incredible conversation, as he has an amazing story that sets him up to be the innovator he is in this space. connect with Patrick at and find his new book “The Ideal Team Player” wherever you buy your books!

[03:54] Now I bring you…Patrick Lencioni

[03:58] Patrick, you could not be more heralded in the business world for your contributions, and I want to dig into your latest message. But first, for context…I’m curious how you got here.  I’m guessing you didn’t graduate out of high school as one of the most sought after business speakers in America…?

[04:21] Gosh how far to go back. So I grew up in a family with it didn’t go to college, my parents didn’t and big Irish Italian family lots of uncles and aunts and cousins, so I went away to college not knowing what I was going to do and didn’t have any clue but I did well enough in school that a management consulting firm hired me a company called Bain and Company and I thought how cool that would be management sounded interesting to me and consulting except Bain didn’t do either of those things. It was number crunching and analysis, it was not for me but while I was there I caught the bug for the human dynamics. It went on a business and it made me remember my dad when I was a kid he would come home from work and complain about management as company and I was and I get bummed me out, I was like eight or nine years old and I was like why is my dad frustrated by the people that are supposed to be helping him do a good job because my dad was good at what he did and so I said to myself I think that’s what I’m supposed to do is help people be more effective in their human dynamics at work. I didn’t know what that meant because I didn’t go to graduate school or anything, so I just got a job at some technology companies and started teaching myself for God was revealing things to me about human beings and how they work together and then I said this is what I want to do in my life. And seven years later I started my own firm.

[06:30] Were you interested in and involved in teams in your youth and young adulthood, or did this come into focus as you entered the corporate world?

[06:43] Well it’s a very interesting try, I left a high school might get my parents didn’t go to college and they scraped to send us to college God bless them. I got more than I deserved as I say and and my dad said God rest his soul, you should study accounting and computers because those are that’s how you get a good job. He knew that and both of those things were misery to me and so but I did study economics to honor him and to be practical and I took journalism and psychology and screenwriting and other subjects and I minored in Spanish and when I got out of college I continued to write for fun and so when this whole concept came about and somebody said you should write a book about this new theory you have on leadership, I said you know I’m going to write a fiction story, a fable but I’m a writer like a screenplay, my books are very big on dialogue and character development and so my passion for writing and psychology got combined with the business and economics and I studied economics and so that’s how it came together. But it all started when I was a kid and thinking my dad should like use job because he worked really hard and I didn’t want him to be unhappy.

[09:44] So I’m curious about your decision to write it as a fable and you actually said the word a second ago as a screenplay. Did you choose that as a medium because it seemed unique an intriguing or did you choose it because you actually as you saw these human dynamics go on, it’s somewhat of a screenplay going on?

[10:06] You know to be fair and there’s a little bit of that but the most important thing that I can remember if I can recall this correctly is that when they told me to write a book I thought about all the business books I’ve ever read and I didn’t finish any of them. And I remember, I read the first few chapters and I would say OK I think I got it and I skimmed through the rest of it yeah I think they’re kind of repeating themselves and I thought it really bummed me out Kevin to think that I might write a book that people wouldn’t read most of what I wrote. So I said why don’t I read write a book that they’ll actually want to keep reading. And other words that they’ll find entertaining while they’re learning and so I did that but I didn’t know it would be successful I did it because I thought it would be more interesting. And it would be fun for me to write and we had no idea that would actually become one of the things I do and people would say and I wrote one book that was not fiction called the advantage of people like that a lot of people said oh we love the fiction so keep writing that, a lot of people who don’t really read a lot of business books will read mine because they want to get caught in the story and learn something without realizing. So I think a big part of it was I just wanted people to read the whole thing, I wanted them to be compelled and feel entertain.

[15:18] On that aspect of not being intentional what is when you look at your business today, what is a fruition that is most you would have guessed it one of the more surprising things that I never would have thought that we would be providing X, you know you intended to do this but is there anything that you guys are are fulfilling a fruition that it’s not something that you would have guessed would happen?

[15:48] Yeah I think the hardest part about answering that question is if there are so many. I think one thing that’s come up recently in the last couple talks I’ve given to companies is that we had no idea that these principles we came up with which would translate beyond companies and beyond small companies and beyond the United States. I honestly thought I was writing it for small companies in the Bay area that we’re in technology that we’re trying to grow and then big companies start saying hey this applies to us too and in foreign companies and overseas this applies in India, it applies in Europe, and applies in Africa too and that applies in churches and we remember like when people the military in Afghanistan they were buying boxes of it to bring into the barracks to share with their soldiers before they went out on missions around team work and we were like oh my lord people are using this in ways that we never thought would be used. And that we had tapped into some very simple universal truths that we thought would be applied more specifically in a more narrow fashion. So I guess the biggest one is that we didn’t know that churches, schools, non-profits, military, sports organizations there’s coaches in the N.B.A. and the N.F.L. that were using it and they were learning from a book and that the first book I’m talking about that really blew up was the five just functions of a team which was written by a about a female executive who runs a company in the Bay Area and that a guy running a football team or a squadron in Iraq or Afghanistan was learning from her and from this team about how they could do better in what they did. So that was beyond me and that’s how you know it’s God gives you gifts because I don’t know where that came from, I didn’t see how that would apply and I don’t say that in some I really believe that you know we’re vessels and stewards and he lets us cooperate with him but I don’t it wasn’t from me. There was no reason why I should have known things light of those people.

[21:33] So again, when you are looking at your work and the message you are putting out in the corporate world, here you talk about your family, well let’s talk about the church. We have a lot of people in this audience who are at church as well and I know you are heavily involved in that aspect of your life as well. Where do you see the needs and how do you apply this in that capacity?

[24:25] Looking at your three essential virtues for the ideal team player, Humility, Hunger, Smarts, from an employer standpoint, my focus is going to be…hire for these qualities. But regarding family and friends and social groups, classmates…life overall, I want to ask about cultivating these aspects in ourselves as well others.

[24:47] HUMILITY – is the most important virtue of the three. Great team players, don’t have big egos or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and generally don’t seek attention for their own. They define success collectively and not individually.

So as we all think about ourselves and wonder…hmmm…am I humble? You help us discern this by saying:

People who are not humble are

  1. unable to be vulnerable or
  2. build trust and
  3. are incapable of engaging in honest conflict.

We’ll use me as guinea pig because…part of why I host this show is the free counsel.

  1. I’m not private at all, is what I’ve always said, and others will say, but I’ve come to find out…I don’t share my true feelings. I’m not vulnerable here. So I just took a chink against my humility meter?

[26:23] Yeah you know I mean the thing about humility is we have to really understand what it is and that it’s the principle virtue right, I mean if pride is the root of all sin then humility is the antidote and you know it would if we can’t go there that’s what Jesus was and I remember somebody once said to me he was the most attractive human being ever to I mean he was God made man and they said he people are attracted to humility. So I’m thinking of all the different ways I can say this. C.S. Lewis had a great definition of humility. He said humility is not thinking less of yourself but it’s thinking about yourself less and when we don’t think that we’re better than others but we recognize who we are then we can be vulnerable because like what are we afraid of and people that are not comfortable revealing themselves and being vulnerable, it’s usually because they’re protecting themselves from something.

[29:17] 2. Building trust, experience and testimony says I do this extremely well, but talk to us about how to cultivate this better?

[29:36] Well there’s an interesting thing that I’m dealing with a lot right now. I’m seeing it that I think we have a problem in society and it gets to pride which is the violation of humility and that’s we don’t engage in conflict. Now a lot of people say what is conflict have to do with humility. Well think about it this way, if you’re working on a team we’re in a church churches are the worst at this or a nice business or a business that has Christian undertones to it or are background, people will often not engage in conflict and they’ll do so and they’ll say because I don’t want to be mean but we’re talking about like how should we spend our scarce resources and what should we do to help people in our in our business and if you passionately feel a certain way and you disagree with somebody you owe it to them to passionately disagree and to say it to their face in a loving but uncomfortable way. And so what does pride have to do with that. Our pride says if I step over the line or I offend them, I will have to ask their forgiveness and I don’t think I’m forgivable or I don’t want to ask for forgiveness that would be a blow to my pride. So I see people in churches all the time and it drives me crazy that won’t argue about the right music for the mass or the services or about the right way to do outreach and they’ll sit in their nod their heads and smile at one another and then they’ll do something they know that doesn’t work and they think they’ve done something good because they’ve avoided an uncomfortable moment. What they’ve really done is guaranteed mediocrity or something less than excellence and they did it to protect themselves from discomfort and the truth of the matter is all of us need to go to one another and say you know I hope you understand that when I was arguing with you I did it for the good of our mission and if I say overstep my bounds I beg your forgiveness, I love you and I’m imperfect. That’s what a humble person does and I’ve seen too many companies, too many churches, too many organizations even too many families choose niceness over kindness and love and I think in our society today we think that we are supposed to affirm people in everything and that’s actually a form of cruelty because we aren’t leaving them to do things that will hurt them later but at least we can say it wasn’t our fault.

[32:00] 3. “Are incapable of engaging in honest conflict”. – ok, big red flag for me. I’m extremely conflict averse, I’m by nature a dramatic people pleaser. I never thought of this in regards to humility…explain how this comes into play?

[32:11] You know when you say you’re a people pleaser, I am too. I like to say that the crew, the technical term for me is I’m worst and so when I don’t hold someone accountable, when I don’t do iron sharpening, when I say I’m a people pleaser really what I am is a me pleaser because I want them to like me and approve of me. And I realize that with my children if I love my children then I will hold them accountable even if they temporarily dislike me and if I love the people that I work with then I will hold them accountable even if they’re temporarily disappointed in me because I know in the end it will serve them. And Jesus didn’t tell everyone what they wanted to hear if they were fragile he told them in a way that they could hear, if they were arrogant he told them the way they needed to hear but he didn’t do it to stay in their good graces and in fact we know what happened to him and we have to love someone enough to sacrifice our temporary reputation or wellbeing for their good that is humility. And that’s hard but it’s liberating.

[35:13] Hunger. Hungry people are always looking for more. More to do. More to learn. More responsibility. They rarely have to be pushed to work harder because they’re self-motivated and diligent. They’re always thinking about the next step and the next opportunity. People who lack the virtue of hunger won’t achieve results.

  • I’d say I’m at the top here…I’m voraciously hungry. But in the world of personal development, it seems the holy grail question is…how to grow hunger in ourselves and others. Your thoughts?

[36:14] It’s really good question because of the three things humility, hunger and smarts which is more emotional intelligence you know common sense around people. Hunger if you had asked me before I wrote the book and before I got into this I would’ve thought yeah that’s when you can actually change a person pretty well. It’s actually the hardest because I think it’s something that it’s instilled in us relatively young in life and and and so here’s how if you are working with somebody who lacks hunger, there’s three ways to go about trying to help them become more hunger. One is to just kind of understand you know where what their makeup is and their sense of responsibility and how they grew up and if you have a heart. I like to ask people when I interviewed them did you work hard in high school, I don’t care what your grades were but if you work hard and did you get involved in things and really put you apply yourself. If they’re the kind of person that isn’t naturally hungry in their certain personality types or less than others then I would say is what about the mission, what about the mission we have here in our work, think about how we’re changing people’s lives or serving people in some way whether you’re providing food in the drive through window or to curing cancer or somewhere in between. Don’t you think the mission’s important and your customers and if they don’t have that then I say what about your teammates, how do you feel about the fact that you have a responsibility to them and if none of those things is enough then you’ve got to come to the conclusion that this is just not for them.

[44:10] Smarts. In the context of teamwork, being smart is not about one’s intellectual capacity. Instead, smart team players have good common sense about people. They tend to know what is happening in the group and how to deal effectively with others. They ask good questions, listen to what others are saying and stay engaged in conversations. People who aren’t smart in this regard will create unnecessary problems, especially when involved in productive conflict and holding people accountable for their actions.

[45:20] Well I think there’s things moving in both directions. I think just that we talk about it more, there’s books out there you know Travis Bradbury and Dino Goldman and all these people doing things around emotional intelligence and I think most of us know you know those kids that are brilliant but can’t somebody you know I shake hands and talk to them, you know we know that that’s not a good recipe for success. But the other hand we’ve got the other thing it’s so people are becoming more aware of this but on the other hand we’ve got a lot more isolation and technology and people who text one another, I think kids will come, will emerge from that you know I have 19 years old sons in college and they’re coming to terms with that you know and I remember my son when he was sixteen or seventeen had a girlfriend and he would text her all the time and I’d say you know why don’t you call her and he just looked at me I said don’t you wanna know what the tone of voice she has is and hear her voice and connect with her and he said well dad we have these emoji to do that, see I put in a smiley face or a heart or something like that and I thought all these kids are lost but now they’re in college and now they’re doing more things and it seems as though they’re waking up to that. So I don’t think it’s going to be quite so bad, I think there are some people that are going to be locked in their their own little virtual worlds and that’s not good. The question is how do we teach them and I think the thing is what we’re going to find more than ever. I actually believe that raw intelligence is going to become less and less important because technology is making information and access pretty easy for everyone.

[1:02:02] What a rich conversation with Patrick! Again, connect with him at and find his new book “The Ideal Team Player” wherever you buy your books! Coming up next in show 550 we go behind the scenes with Patrick and follow the 7 spokes in The Ziglar Wheel of life and find his challenges and health habits in each spoke. Highlights, He’s a lifetime athlete but struggles with hip and knee issues. He’s cut way back on sugar, especially habits like downing a whole bag of red vines! His biggest family challenge is just too many activities. His mental regimen has three components, exercise, sleep and silence. He attends mass every day for half an hour and feels it’s the best thing he does all day. In his career he always wants to be taking some risks and not be found overprotecting the last, best thing. On the personal front, he’s terrible at taking time to do things he just enjoys and doesn’t nurture friendships enough. And he loves going to the movies. So till then…