Notes From the Ideal Team Player

By Nicole George

A couple months ago, my supervisor gave me a book that her supervisor had his entire management team read: The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. This book does a great job at explaining the principles of a what a great team player looks like and how to search for awesome team players. This well-written book was insightful, convicting and really helpful for outlining characteristics we all should strive for because honestly, they’re Biblical.

The Key Characteristics

The three key characteristics of an ideal team player were:

• Humble

• Hungry

• Smart

To succeed in the world, we constantly have to work on teams. Honestly, there’s such great benefit from working on teams of people that can give you more eyes, more ideas and diverse talents that you just don’t have because you’re a single human!

It takes work though because of the same reasons. You have more eyes which takes more time, more ideas which can lead to conflicts of ideas and diverse talents that don’t always mean people will excel at talents you wish they’d just be good at already!

However, the best aspects of a great worker were not their technical skills because those skills can indeed be taught and trained. Instead, The Ideal Team Player argues that the best skills in a great worker are their characteristics as a humble, hungry and smart team member.



The book quotes C.S. Lewis for one of the best explanations of true humility, one that I’ve heard multiple times growing up:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.

In a team member, you don’t want either extremes of someone who has no confidence in their abilities nor someone who cannot be coached at all because of their pride. This is absolutely Biblical!

We are empowered by the Holy Spirit ,so we can have confidence in God’s power and ability in us, not be ashamed of what we can give, and at the same time, not boast in our ability because it’s not us. We didn’t make ourselves--God did!

Humility in a Christian employee looks like being willing to approach conflict and share your opinions in conflict while still listening to others. It’s pitching new ideas and giving well-thought-out insights without the fear of possibly being wrong. It’s letting others coach you and also confront you. It’s helping out other people with their projects because you believe theirs are more important than yours. It’s stopping to listen to someone having a bad day and sharing the credit of completed projects with your teammates.

Humility is not thinking less of your ability as a worker or thinking you have nothing to offer. That is not how God has made us. It’s believing that he has gifted you with value to offer the world and that it is of him, not of you, and that other people are just as, if not even more, important than you.



Hunger at work is difficult for me and is the one that I was most convicted of as I read the book. Hunger is basically a constant desire to improve your personal abilities. It’s a desire to contribute more and your desire to produce higher quality work as well! It is a commitment and passion to your work and to do it well.

It can be a little hard to understand, so I’ll share one of the questions that convicted me of not having hunger. The end of The Ideal Team Player suggests different interview questions for managers to ask as they try to vet people for being a good team player or not. One of the interview questions is “What are your interests?” and the book suggested that if someone has a lot of interests or rather time-consuming interests, their true passions and time may be divided. This person likely won’t give work their everything because this person does indeed have a hunger, but not for the job.

That sounded like me as soon as I read it. I mostly talk about and think about people not in Knoxville. And I spend much of my free time talking to these people and then traveling to places to see them. I have passion, but it’s not exactly for my job. I’m not achievement and goal driven, so my hunger for work is lower than other people’s hunger for work.

However, it’s a character trait I desire because being hungry can add greatly to your display of Christ at work when coworkers, managers and supervisees observe your desire for excellence. As you strive for high quality products, service and work, they will notice that you mean what you say and that you do truly care about greatness. They’ll notice when you take on more than you have to and are willing to complete mundane or tedious tasks. An eagerness and readiness to get things done makes an impact on people. The problem can be when hunger goes too far to create a legalistic mindset in your work or if you don’t seek balance in your daily life. Work cannot be your entire life, otherwise it has become an idol.



Smart probably isn’t what you immediately think it is. In The Ideal Team Player, smart means social skills and being people smart. The book describes a humble, hard working character who isn’t people smart. She stays out of people’s ways and gets stuff done, but no one likes working with her because she’s abrasive, blunt and isn’t socially accommodating.

Being people smart means being able to relate to others and successfully read their cues. It means giving proper body language, knowing social boundaries and also how to make others feel comfortable. Being smart is being aware of how teammates feel during interactions and showing a genuine interest in their lives. It’s being an attentive listener and adjusting behavior to fit different social settings. It’s caring deeply for others and showing that to them effectively.

A person who is smart though can be dangerous if they’re not humble at all. You can get a politician-like person who can play people because they know all the right things to say, all the things not to say, and they can get along with anyone. These people manipulate people to get through life, but they may push people aside and not value others as they rise to the top. Or they may be people smart, but completely lack hunger and they might not contribute much to any team, but they stick around because people just like them.


The Importance of all Three

No one is going to perfectly exhibit all of these qualities and we’ll each be better at one or two of these characteristics than other characteristics. However, being a genuine person who is humble and hungers for great, hard work makes an excellent team member. These are the people that make companies great and honestly, since all three are Biblical characteristics, are the type of people that can show Christ’s love in magnificent ways.