As Team Players, What Does it Mean For Us to be Humble, Hungry, and Smart?


In Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Ideal Team Player,” he introduces the concept of ideal team players possessing three essential virtues: Hungry, Humble, and (emotionally) Smart. These virtues are crucial for effective teamwork, and individuals lacking in any of them may struggle in organizational cultures. Lencioni identifies potential pitfalls in individuals with two out of three virtues, shedding light on the risks they pose to teams.

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For instance


  • Humble and Hungry, but not Smart: These individuals may unintentionally create issues due to a lack of understanding of others and their impact on them.
  • Humble and Smart, but not Hungry: Termed as the “loveable slacker,” these individuals may appear charming but lack the drive to contribute proactively to the team.
  • Hungry and Smart, lacking Humility: Described as “skillful politicians,” these individuals may prioritize personal interests over effective teamwork.

Lencioni’s book provides insights and actions for us as award-winning custom builders to cultivate these virtues and improve teamwork. The notion of being a ‘team player’ is a constant buzz in discussions surrounding interviews, performance evaluations, and feedback sessions. It’s universally acknowledged that possessing this quality is highly desirable in an employee or potential hire. However, despite the widespread use of the term and its recognized importance, finding exceptional team players remains a rare occurrence.


Why is that the case?


Perhaps it’s because, although we all have our subjective views on what defines a team player, there lacks a formal, practical framework to pinpoint the specific qualities that ideal team players should possess.

Lencioni asserts that when a team member significantly lacks one or more of these virtues, building a cohesive team becomes challenging, and in some cases, nearly impossible. Leaders should, therefore, prioritize hiring individuals who exhibit these attributes and actively cultivate these qualities within their existing teams.


Our Three Core Virtues:


  1. Humble:

Humility in a team member is evident through a lack of excessive ego or concerns about status. We readily share credit, freely praise others, and sometimes relinquish deserved credit in favor of celebrating the team’s collective victory. Humble team players display a strong alignment towards the team’s goals, prioritizing collective wins over individual achievements. We are self-confident but not arrogant.

  1. Hungry:

Hungry team players are intrinsically motivated, diligent, and always seeking more. Our team do not require constant prodding from managers; instead, they actively pursue additional responsibilities and consistently think about the next steps and opportunities for the team.

  1. Smart:

In this context, ‘smart’ refers to emotional intelligence and interpersonal awareness. Our emotionally intelligent team ask insightful questions, actively listen to others, and remain fully engaged in conversations. We demonstrate excellent judgment and intuition regarding group dynamics, fully aware of the impact their words can have on the team.


Our Leadership Strategies Using this Framework


Hiring the Right People

We move away from the traditional approach that overemphasizes technical skills and instead, adopt a participatory and conversational interview style to assess a candidate’s team player qualities. Utilizing top-grading in the hiring process to evaluate candidates holistically against the “Humble,” “Hungry,” and “Smart” criteria. We also delve into a candidate’s past experiences through probing questions and reference checks to understand their motivations and potential fit within the team.

Continual Development of Our Team

We recognize that humility, hunger, and smartness are skills that can be consciously developed. Therefore we regularly evaluate team members against these three virtues and identify areas for improvement, creating individual development plans for those needing improvement and implement rigorous performance management follow-up when necessary.


The Ultimate Importance

Having exceptional team players is not just a preference; it’s a prerequisite for effective teamwork. Solid teamwork unlocks the true potential of teams, fostering behaviors such as trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and a focus on results. Individuals who embody humility, hunger, and smartness contribute to the creation of incredibly successful teams.

Our concept of genuine team players possess three critical virtues: Humility, Hunger, and Smartness. We use  practical leadership strategies using the three virtues framework, both in hiring the right people and continually developing existing teams. From transforming traditional hiring approaches to fostering continuous development, we can ensure our team embody the essential qualities for unparalleled successful building industry.