Book Review: The Ideal Team Player
The Ideal Team Player is a book that focuses on how to recognise and cultivate essential qualities to become a good team member.
It follows on from the Five Dysfunctions of a team from the same author.
Where as ‘Five Dysfunctions’ looks at the internal dynamics between team members, that hamper trust; this book is is aimed at the virtues an individual must have to be deemed to be an ideal team player.
In my view, the book does reasonably well in arguing for in its view a set of non negotiables to do with teamwork which are
People Smarts (Maybe I'm too British - I read this as emotional intelligence)
However I found the explanation of each of these qualities to be laboured and repetitive. The 214 page book could have been half the word count and just as average.
It encourages team leaders to deeply interrogate new hires to ensure they possess these qualities. This too is supplemented with suggested interview questions which actually, I found quite helpful.
The Ideal Team Player desperately wants us to treat the 3 virtues as a loose framework, but comes across fairly dogmatic about how they are implemented.
For example under Hunger it states: ‘Hard working people don’t usually want to work 9-5 unless their life situation demands it’….If a candidate is satisfied with a predictable schedule and talks too much about balance there is a chance he isn’t terribly hungry’
Which for me felt like a bias towards working longer hours to prove you’re a team player.
Under humility, it ignores the nuances around why somebody may not act with humility in the workplace. Instead it tries to describe humility as an innate characteristic.
Whereas real life is more complex. There may be very real reasons for a normally humble individual to self-promote and act in their own interests. For example lack of fairness, being under recognised etc.
I was also dissatisfied with the book’s approach to applying the framework.
Where an employee falls short against the 3 qualities, there is a moderate leaning towards reminding the employee of their shortcomings. And if necessary daily. All under the guise of ‘development’. It all felt a bit too much like a new manager’s guide to performance management to me. And it was also a little lacking in empathy.
It’s not at all a bad read. It’s just let down by suggesting these 3 qualities are almost universal for any organisation.
There’s also a clear sell of the Table Group’s products and resources. And that’s fine I guess, I just didn’t buy-in to the framework. I found it too black and white.
It stays on the bookshelf (just) but for me, it’s not a go-to. Better books out there. Consider Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed, which truly gets behind how to harness the diversity of thought within a group. You can read my book review of that over here.
A self confessed Change obsessive and founder of Jigsaw Change Consulting. A London based consultancy providing an improvement lens on to workplace culture.