Milestone Blog

The Ultimate Team Player

Posted by Soderquist Leadership on Jan 20, 2017 8:00:00 AM


As we ramp up into the New Year, I wanted to reflect on some of my key learnings on leadership in 2016 and how I want to apply them in 2017. In August, I heard Patrick Lencioni, at the Global Leadership Summit, speak on his new book titled The Ideal Team Player. Patrick’s key message was that to be an ideal team player, you needed to be three things: Humble, Hungry, and Smart. I loved the simplicity of his message, and as I reflected on this, I think there is genius in this concept.

To explain these three virtues as Patrick Lencioni describes, I thought I would use a personal story that helps me define them. I have always felt stories are much better than definitions to describe concepts like these.

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So much has been written by some of my favorite authors on the importance of leaders staying humble. Jim Collins talked about humility as a key characteristic of great leaders in his book, Good to Great. Ken Blanchard talked about how humility tames your judgmental nature in his book Leading at a Higher Level and Tim Irwin shares my favorite quote from C.S. Lewis in his book titled Impact – “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, It’s thinking of yourself less.” When I think of this quote, I think of John Pepper, retired CEO of Procter & Gamble and former chair of Disney. John was one of the leaders I admired when I worked at Procter & Gamble, and my personal story describes how such a strong leader, stayed humble.

It was 1990, at P&G’s year-end meeting in Cincinnati, where all of us were told that our then current CEO, John Smale was going to retire. When they announced Ed Artzt as the next CEO, he received a nice and polite applause. Later in the meeting, they brought John Pepper up on stage to speak at the meeting, where he received a 10 minute standing ovation by the entire auditorium of employees.

You see, John Pepper was the employee’s favorite to get the CEO role, and this was their way to show appreciation to John. A few years ago, back in Cincinnati, over lunch at the Red Fox Grill in Cincinnati, I asked John Pepper how he felt about that day, back in 1990. His response to me was: "it was not 10 minutes long", and he went on to talk about how terrific a boss Ed Artzt was to him over the next 5 years, completely changing the subject of our conversation from him to Ed – “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

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When I think of people who are hungry, I think of continual learners. Someone who has the passion to always get better, is self-motivated, and always thinking about the next big idea. Sam Walton, the famous founder of Walmart, defines “hungry” to me. The first time I heard about Sam, was when I was working in Florida in the early 80’s and Sam was visiting a fairly new discount drug operation in my area. He ran into one of my employees in that store as he was walking around with his famous yellow pad.

They talked for 20 minutes or so outside the store as Sam shared all the impressive things he saw in the store, all of which he would take back to his home office in Bentonville and apply, as appropriate. Sam looked for the next big idea, every day he was visiting stores and competition – it was part of why he was so successful. Years later in the late 80’s, I moved to NW Arkansas to help start the first supplier team with Walmart, and Sam was still visiting competition with his yellow pad!

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Smart is more than your IQ, it’s about having common sense about people. Smart people have good judgement and intuition around other people and the teams they are involved, both at work and in their personal life. They also understand the impact of their words and actions with their people. I met a “Smart” man in Nashville, Tennessee several years ago named Joe Scarlet. Joe was a friend of Don Soderquist which is how I got the introduction to visit with him at his offices in Nashville. Joe had retired from Tractor Supply as their CEO a few years earlier and was running the Scarlet Leadership Institute.

When we met at his office there was a sign on his wall, I will never forget, which said “Leaders are always on stage.” I loved that statement, and Joe was quick to share stories with me on why he believed this statement was so true – to him a leaders actions make a huge impact on their people – Joe is a “Smart” man.

So as you think about your leadership journey in 2017, remember - Humble, Hungry, & Smart. You will be a better team player and leader if you pursue these 3 virtues.

Want to hear more about John Pepper, retired CEO of Proctor and Gamble and his leadership? Download the free video and discussion kit below to hear John talking about acting on what you believe.

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Written by:
Tom Verdery
Executive Coach and Executive in Residence
Soderquist Leadership

Topics: Leadership, Teams

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