what makes a person an ideal team player and how to find one?
Let's start by listing down the qualities that make you an ideal team player. Passionate, humble, helpful, expressive, empowering, motivating... The list can go on and on. Isn't that too many adjectives?. Well, what's wrong with that? The more the merrier right?
Though it sounds cool when you tag yourself with those adjectives, what if you are building a team and want to hire those kinds. How will you compose all those fancy adjectives into your HR? How will you insert these values into a job description? What questions can we ask that checks all the items we have?. If you really want to build great teams you may try to do this for a couple of times, but there is a good chance for you to give up because it is too complex. There has got to be a better way right?
Well, I was in the same place as you are. I thought ideal team players are a rare breed and it's difficult to find one. Unlike other times, I did nothing about it. Until I stumbled upon the term "The Ideal team player" during our Orangescape leadership program. Finding that the topics discussed during the session were from my favorite author, I got the book from Abhishek and read it end to end. Turns out there is only three, just attributes that describe great team player.
Yes, it is that simple
Humble, Hungry and Smart. Three attributes, eight combinations. Let's see the pros and cons they bring to the team.
A word of caution: Don't start tagging people in your team as you read the blog. You won't know for sure. If you are curious run an assessment. We will discuss it later in the blog. But don't start judging right away.
The humble ones are those who do their work and doesn't expect a lot of attention to it. They hold no egos with the team and will be the person who always got your back.
The disadvantage of having a person who is just humble is that he gets used by the people in the other segments. The person does not take initiatives is always a passive worker, "A pawn" and easy to replace. A humble person might be good for working on conveyor belts, but not for creative and motivated teams.
Passionate, motivated, self-driven are mostly used to define a hungry person. A hungry person goes the extra mile to get things done. They are the high-productive masterminds in a team. They get things done no matter what. (Stop tagging your team already.)
Here is the disadvantage, in the advent of getting the work done the person forgets to carry the people along with them. They make wonderful individual contributors but when it comes to a team, they go to any extreme to get things done their way.
People smart. The ones who get their way by knowing how to work with people. While this is a great quality to have, the problem arises when a smart person starts using it to their advantage, they start growing up the ladder by manipulating others.
While humble and Hungry people are easy to spot. Smart survives the battle much longer. Until their work starts speaking for them and slowly wearing out the charm they earned by manipulating people.
In our head sounded like a deadly combination, a person is hungry to get the work done while also being humble about it. What else do we want? But they remember they lack zero people skills. In the advent of trying to get work down while staying close to themselves, they end up making a mess. The book calls them "Accidental mess maker."
The hungry ones want to get the work done under any condition imagine that combining with people smart. They end up using everyone around them to get their way in the team. They work only on things that bring personal benefit. Their high people skills get the team skew towards his decision and there is a good chance of him portraying himself as a humble person. Hence becoming difficult to spot.
While humble people are not self-motivated to get things done the smart characteristic helps them get away with it. They end up being loved by everyone on the team and once the team starts mirroring his ways the performance gets affected.
Ideal team players work with motivation, passion, and responsibility. They do things that bring common good of the team. They do and say the right things to help teammates feel appreciated, understood and included even when difficult situations arise that require tough love.
Now that we have understood the attributes of a team player, let's come back to the question we asked at the start of the blog.
If your ego jumps up right away and says you are there is a good chance you lack humility and a lot of hunger proving that you are not one. If you got offended at this point and planning to quit the blog proves the same :D :D. So it is always good to know where we stand, the book comes with a bunch of questions for you to asses yourself.
Now there is a good chance you might go overboard with yourselves. That's when your team comes in. Ask you, team, to do an assessment for you.
Though facing the reality is hard, don't put yourself down when the results are not what you expected. Take it as an opportunity to extend your personality to the next level. Ask your manager and colleagues on tips for improvement.
When you decide that you need only ideal team players in your team then a good filtering process would be at the interviews. Along with technical interviews find where they stand in the Venn diagram. Here is a questionnaire you can use to spot the good ones.
No one is born as a team player. Just like walking, cycling and painting being a team player is also an acquired skill. Also, most of us have almost 2 of the above qualities working on that lacking segment gives us the unfair advantage of becoming and being that ideal team player.