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Do Your Employees Work Well Together?

Patrick Lencioni, a prolific, best-selling author, wrote a book titled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In it, he explained the characteristics of dysfunctional teams and how they come to be. He then followed with The Ideal Team Player which lays out the characteristics of good team players.

I find the concept of the ideal team player very useful. According to Lencioni, ideal team players are:

  • Humble – ideal team players have humility;
  • Hungry – ideal team players want more challenge and growth opportunities;
  • People smart – ideal team players have good emotional intelligence. They are self-aware of their emotions and others around them.

I hope it is obvious to you that the ideal team player is someone who has all three factors in abundance. They are strong and in good balance with each other.

What happens if all three factors are not strong or are not in good balance? Let’s look at some scenarios and see how they might play out.

  1. You hire someone who has none of the three factors present with any strength. Don’t worry about it. They won’t last long. Ask the person who hired them what they were thinking.
  2. You hire someone who has strength in one of the factors but who is weak in the other two. They will be so noticeably dysfunctional in the other two that your company’s culture will force them out. And it won’t matter what your culture looks like.
  3. You hire someone who has strengths in two of the factors and is weak in the third one. This is common and may include the majority of your employees. There are three combinations and they play out as follows:
    • The employee is humble and hungry, but not people smart. The risk is that they create “accidental messes” because they don’t understand other people well enough. By definition, they don’t “get it” when they have a negative impact on others.
    • The employee is humble and people smart, but not hungry. This is the “lovable slacker.” It is known that he/she does not pull their weight, but no one wants to fire him/her. They probably should.
    • The employee is hungry and people smart, but not humble. This “skillful politician” is out for themselves and continually derails effective teamwork. They will go to great lengths to make themselves look good, usually at the expense of the team.

Here’s the bad news first. These people exist in abundance in every organization. These are manifestations of common human behavioral imbalances. And, they continuously suppress effective team work and desired company results.

Now, let’s have the good news. There are ways to significantly change these behaviors through effective coaching.

It’s a process that goes like this:

  • Have the members of a team assessed for the strengths and gaps in the behavioral traits associated with being humble, hungry, and people smart. Lynn Consulting uses the Harrison Assessment system which enables us to run a report package called The Three Virtues of Teams. This report identifies the strong and weak behavioral traits in all three of the ideal team player characteristics.
  • Once the problematic traits have been identified, we set up structured weekly coaching sessions. These usually last 30 minutes and are done over the phone. We have done hour long sessions but, for most people, these require more personal time doing the “homework” than they have available. As the employer, you should allow them to do this work while “on the clock.” They are less likely to do it at home because they are tired and have a lot of distractions. Don’t worry; you’ll get your investment back.
  • For each of the traits, there is a 6-8 page workbook we give to the people we are coaching. These workbooks contain step-by-step developmental exercises which the employee does and reviews with the coach on the weekly phone calls. The idea is to give you structured, repetitive practice using the underdeveloped trait. It takes 8-10 weeks to form a new habit which manifests itself as a stronger behavioral trait.

Print executives, and I was one of you for a long time, have historically had a hard time investing in anything that didn’t sit on the floor somewhere and produce something. In the last twenty-odd years, we have learned to invest in software and digital technology because it improves processes and somewhat reduces pressure on finding or training highly skilled people. I suspect most of us will struggle to write a check for something that we’ll never see running in the plant or running on a computer.

Investing in talent is equally, if not more important, for creative agency owners whose success often depends on the talent of well, your talent.

I will tell you from experience, we’re in the middle of a talent crisis. Until we learn to attract and hire better talent, make better promotion decisions, develop people who need it, create better teams, this list goes on… we won’t get past this crisis. We need to acknowledge that strong people led by strong leaders is the best competitive advantage available. Why settle for anything less?

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