Fill your farm's roster with team players

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What would your farm be like if it were filled with employees who want to see it succeed? Think about the ideal attributes of those employees—the qualities and behaviors that would make your operation run like a well-oiled machine. What comes to mind?

In the book The Ideal Team Player, author Patrick Lencioni gives business owners and hiring managers perspective on three main attributes employers should seek in their prospective employees—with the ultimate goal of hiring only this type of person.

Lencioni describes what he calls the ‘ideal team player’ and sets forth ‘three essential virtues’ that make up such candidates. The farm can function more efficiently and effectively with people who display all three of these qualities, because many common employee-related issues will be eliminated.

The three essential virtues

  1. Humble: Humility, Lencioni says, is the most important of the three qualities of an ideal team player. Humble people “lack excessive ego or concerns about status” and will “share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually,” writes Lencioni. This is the key attribute to seek in a candidate. Insecure or status-seeking people may not be willing to do or even notice what’s important for the farm to succeed as a whole—they’re too focused on themselves and their own agenda.
  2. Hungry: Having a hunger, or “fire in the belly” as it has often been described, is also key. Lencioni describes those with hunger as “always looking for more. More things to do. More responsibility to take on.” Managers don’t even need to ask them to work hard because “they are self-motivated and diligent,” writes Lencioni. To a “hungry” employee, the worst thing would be being viewed as a slacker. When an employee lacks hunger, managers can become very frustrated trying to motivate them into action.
  3. Smart: Lencioni is quick to note that by “smart,” he isn’t simply talking about intelligence, but more specifically, ‘people smarts’ or strong interpersonal and communication abilities. Smart people “know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way,” says Lencioni. Common sense around knowing how to deal with people can help create more teamwork and efficiency on the farm—while the lack of these smarts can destroy relationships and even entire organizations.

Lencioni claims that while the three attributes aren’t necessarily anything new in and of themselves, it’s “the required combination of all three” that makes the real difference. He asserts that “if even one is missing in a team member, teamwork becomes significantly more difficult, and sometimes not possible.” For a truly productive operation, every employee must be an ideal team player.

Build a “team player” culture

As your farm’s CEO, there are several actions you can take now to build the type of culture and practices that will allow you to more easily attract, hire and retain ideal team players for your operation.

  • Take a look at your current interviewing process, says Water Street Solutions Account Manager Larry Custer. What types of questions are you asking candidates? Are those questions helping you identify potential ideal team players—and weed out those who likely wouldn’t be?
  • Check up on the culture. What types of employee behaviors does the farm’s current culture foster and promote? Does the culture and all reward systems align with bringing about greater levels of teamwork and developing ideal team players?
  • Get the right role models. Who on the farm is currently being praised as a good example? The best way to ensure that there will be more ideal team players is to recognize and praise current ones, says Lencioni.