I must admit I’m not usually a big fan of these types of lists because they typically have very hokey labels for roles. But during a WordCamp Orlando event, someone presented a team list that I thought was pretty good. They presented it in the context of building a community, but as I was listening it made me realize that the teams we are a part of are communities in a way.
My one word of caution about this list. Please notice that I’m using the word “roles” and not “people”. We’re complex beings. We’re not one dimensional. It’s possible an employee will play one role in a certain situation and a different role in another.
- Cheerleaders: This role provides support. They might not have a means or authority to help in terms of approving resources or the power to make an obstacle go away. But when you’re having a bad day, they will be there for you.
- Teachers: They provide subject matter expertise both in terms of maneuvering through office politics but also in terms of technical expertise. Most importantly, they are willing to share their expertise with the team.
- Helpers: This role is willing to help. Sometimes it’s because they like you. Sometimes it’s because they believe in the mission or goal you’re working on.
- Naysayers: They are the haters, trolls, etc. You must prove yourself with them OR ghost them and don’t give them credence. It’s important to note that sometimes you might be the naysayer leading the group.
- Watchers: This role is waiting to see if the effort will succeed or fail. If it fails, they will be the first to say, “I told you so.” If it succeeds, they will try to copy it.
When you’re building a team, you will have all of these roles on it. And dare I say that it might be better to intentionally look for people to play these roles. Even the naysayer and watcher roles. It will force us to think of the challenges ahead and proactively search for the value proposition. Sometimes it’s easy to surround ourselves with the cheerleaders, teachers, and helpers. Then we get blindsided when negative feedback arises.
As you bring the team together, have a conversation about how the team will communicate. Here are three rules to consider:
- Give team members a platform or medium to communicate. Team members need a place to talk about the projects they’re working on. It could be an enterprise collaboration solution or a small private group on Facebook. The important thing is that everyone feels a part of the team community.
- Ask team members for a commitment to safe and confidential communication. When you’re working on a team, there will be times when the group will celebrate and moments when they need to vent. Team members should feel safe when communicating with other members.
- Sustain good communications through consistency. When I see teams struggle, it’s often in the area of communication. And it’s because team members aren’t following communication rules #1 and #2. There are sidebar conversations, gossiping, etc. Team leaders need to maintain consistency.
Developing a high-performing team is hard and it takes time. But if we give people permission to play different roles, it could strengthen community within the team. In fact, maybe we could even go to individuals when we ask them to be a part of the team and say, “I’d like for you to be a bit of a naysayer. Make me convince you this is a good idea. Because if I can convince you, then we can sell the value to everyone else.”
The other thing to consider is as you’re putting together a team, what role are you going to play?
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while making cinnamon rolls for her team.12