Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Ideal Team Player, final notes and thoughts

This sections begins with the fallout from Ted taking himself out of the running for a much-needed engineering job.

Jeff's two most reliable people, Bobby and Clare, are rocked by this.

Bobby is quick to abandon their work on culture in order to get Ted back.  It's clear that he has lost sight of the importance of culture.  He's caught up in the 'strategy' of the hire (remember the quote, "Culture eats strategy for lunch.").

This is very indicative of how things in almost any industry or business work.  We are all too willing to hire people based solely on results even though they aren't culture fits.  And this rarely works.

Think about it in athletics.  There was really only one great example of when hiring people solely on results ever did work: The Dream Team of 1992.  All super-stars.  But the coach (whose name escapes me right now) was able to build an excellent culture that allowed the stars to buy in and become idea team players even though they were all respective superstars.

But this rarely is the case.  It's one reason the moment the NHL allowed pro hockey players to be eligible, the US team tanked.  No culture.

It's why the NFL's supposed "Dream Team," (the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles) imploded.

If you coach, you know what I mean.  You really don't want the super star who cares just about her or his own goals and isn't willing to sacrifice and do the little things for the greater good of the team.

Why should the teams we have in our work lives be any different?

Jeff is finding this out first hand when Bobby is willing to abandon their culture just to hire a big name to help them out immediately.

Odd note - the same thing happened to the 2010 Cincinnati Bengals.  In 2009, Cincy won the division.  They had nearly everyone coming back.  They just need a compliment to Ocho Cinco.  So they brought in Terrel Owens.  And the team won 4 games.  The culture that was so strong the year before was wiped away by hiring someone who was very talented but didn't fit the culture.  In fact, when he was paired with Ocho, the culture became toxic.  So much so that their superstar QB, Carson Palmer decided to retire rather than play and the franchise had to hit the 'reboot' button.

And it worked because they hired guys that were team players (namely, Andy Dalton and AJ Green).

Jeff and Clare are left wondering what to do.

At this point, one of LHS's core values comes in to play: "Fear doesn't get a vote."

We don't make decisions based on fear.  We sleep on it, do more research, talk to others, get more opinions before we make a rash decision.

Bobby needs to realize this, for he is willing to make an unwise decision based solely on fear, the fear of losing out on a "star" and not getting the help the need right now.

So to get new insight into their new devotion to hiring ideal team players, Jeff and Clare examine the workers from a previous, difficult project.  It's a great case study to see if smart, hungry, and humble really works . . . and if it was responsible for the difficulties at the previous project.

Of course, knowing that this is a fable, you can surely guess the answer to what they find!

The ultimate realization is that you have to smart, hungry, and humble in equal amounts.

If you are too smart, you are likely to be deficient in another area.  That won't work.  Or if you are too smart and go out of your way to fit in, maybe you are just a people pleaser and can't put your foot down or voice your own opinion when necessary (something I've certainly struggled with).

If you are too hungry, you are constantly viewed as a climber.  Think of some of the administrators you've maybe worked with.  Were they here to really do a great job, or were they here just to add something on their resume to make them look better for the next job?

If you are too humble, you become trampled as you won't ever stand up for yourself.  You'll ultimately lack the confidence to do anything worth while - as you'll be trying too hard to give credit to others - and you'll fall behind when it comes to hunger.

Just for fun, self evaluate here.  Draw a Venn Diagram with three interlocking circles (one for smart, hungry, and humble) and see where you think you fit.  And then, and here's where it gets really interesting, ask someone to honestly (that's the key) fill it out for you too.

How interesting would that be?

Okay, back to the book -

As if to hammer home the point about valuing strategy over culture (and how stupid it is), Lencioni ends the chapter I just finished reading with this exchange among Jeff, Bobby, and Clare:

Jeff was shocked. "So you agree that Ted wasn't an ideal fit?"

Bobby shrugged in a guilty way.  "I had my doubts about his humility. But when you're desperate --"

Clare finished his sentence for him. "You do stupids things."

And neglecting culture in the name of strategy is as stupid as it gets.

So the team arrives at two key decisions.  First, instead of jumping to hire Ted, the team is going to promote internally one of their best workers who exudes smart, hungry, and humble.  The thinking is he will grow into a great leader and eventually fill (if not exceed) the shoes that Ted would have.  Second, the team is going to have to fire Nancy.  Or at least make her aware of how she is failing to fit into their culture, namely because she has no sense of being smart or humble.  I haven't gotten to this part yet, but I'm predicting she will quit instead of improve.  She will hop to the next company that values strategy over culture where she will become just as cancerous as she was in their company.

And the next chapter brings us to one of the most difficult things possible: Jeff interviewing (or re-interviewing) Nancy.

As someone who struggles in the area of confrontation, I was squirming while I read this.  I could not do what Jeff is doing.  I would - as of right now in my life - struggle to have this conversation.  I struggle with that, whether it falls under smart, hungry, or humble.  But I am self-aware enough to know my weaknesses.  And that is one for sure.

Sure enough in interviewing Nancy, it becomes clear she is hungry, as in off-the-charts hungry.  But she has a disdain for being smart (she said it was a waste of time to be nice to people) so that illustrates how she lacks people skills.  And she is willing to be humble when it makes her better at her job.  So she is off-the-charts in hunger, fine with humility, but totally lacks being smart.

You can work with someone who has 2 of the 3.

Ultimately, Nancy claims she will work on being a better team player.  We shall see what happens.  I'm still sticking by my prediction, though.  There is no way she is going to change that much.

The book flashes ahead a month into the future.

And here is where the fable just kills me.

Of course, everything is going to be rosy.  All employees who are ideal team players are thriving.  The two jobs, though difficult, are months ahead of schedule and all the employees who weren't identified as smart, hungry, and humble are all gone, most willingly.

Come on.  It's not like the magic work fairy waved her wand!

But that is how Lencioni chooses to wrap things up.  All is well in the land of ideal team players.  So much so that they are able to rehire a solid engineer who quit previously due to the toxic culture and lack of team spirit.  Even Nancy decides to come around and even mentors new employees.  Come on!  I can hardly take it.

Still, the concepts behind this book are far more interesting than the fable.  A solid read, nonetheless.

On to the next summer read now: Bruce Pirie's Reshaping High School English.

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