How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues
Over the past few years, I have read a few books, and listened to some audio teaching by Patrick Lencioni, I have been impressed with all of his teaching I have encountered. My introduction was a group exercise working through The Five Dysfunctions of a Team done in conjunction with a DISC assessment for the seven of us. There is something so accessible about his style of writing a parable to teach the main lesson and then break it down. And this book does that on an even larger scale, I would say almost two-thirds of this book is an extended story. But both the story and the breakdown make it memorable and easily accessible.
In the introduction Patrick Lencioni says "Of the three virtues, this one needs the most clarification because it is not what it might seem; it is not about intellectual capacity. In the context of a team, smart simply refers to a person's common sense about people." And it is more than just overcoming the 5 dysfunctions of a team. For most of those 5 can be taught, but the three essential virtues are harder to teach especially if someone is deficient in more than one.
"The ramifications of all this are undeniable. Leaders who can identify, hire, and cultivate employees who are humble, hungry, and smart will have a serious advantage over those who cannot. They'll be able to build stronger teams much more quickly and with much less difficulty, and they'll significantly reduce the painful and tangible costs associated with politics, turnover, and morale problems. And employees who can embody these virtues will make themselves more valuable and marketable to any organization that values teamwork."
I have been part of in house leadership programs at three different employers over the past 30 years. And yet this book in a simple story captures something that though very simple really and truly is essential to have healthy thriving teams, and through those teams healthy and thriving departments and companies. According to Lencioni the three essential virtues are humble, hungry and smart.
Humble - Hungry - Smart
"Of course, to recognize and cultivate humble, hungry, and smart team members, or to become one yourself, you first need to understand exactly what these deceptively simple words mean and how all three together make up the essential virtues of an ideal team player."
Patrick describes humble as - "Humility is the single greatest and most indispensible attribute of being a team player." And he hammers home his definition of it with a quote "C.S. Lewis addressed this misunderstanding about humility when he said "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." And to be honest this might be the hardest to measure.
In writing about hungry people Lencioni declares: "Hungry people are always looking for more. More things to do. More to learn. More responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity." They want to be the go to person. They love to serve and desire to be known as hard working and diligent.
This one is a little harder but Patrick states: "Of the three virtues, this one needs the most clarification because it is not what it might seem; it is not about intellectual capacity. In the context of a team, smart simply refers to a person's common sense about people."
Having finished this book shortly after transitioning jobs, I realize how important it is to have these traits personally, but also to see them in coworkers and in the management teams. Patrick in the breakdown offers some excellent advice for how to hire for these three characteristics, how to assess current employees, how to develop employees who lack one or more of the virtues and how to embed these virtues in your organization.
I have had a former director say on many occasions he wish he had more people like me. And though at times I struggle to live these three virtues I believe it is something I have done without knowing the framework, and now that I know the framework can work on my weaker areas. A few years ago I recommended a kid at work for an internal role change, when my director asked my why, I responded that 'you cannot teach work ethic' you can teach technology but character is much harder to change. I was correct and he flourished in his new role. Again it was an example of these three cardinal virtues.
To be honest this is one of the best business books I have ever read and as such I can highly recommend it.
Books by Patrick Lencioni:
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Death by Meeting:
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
The Five Temptations of a CEO
Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars
Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team:
The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family
The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
The Ideal Team Player
Audio Resources by Patrick Lencioni:
Light in the Darkness