Roles to fill: How to become a high performing team

Question:

 

I enjoyed your column in the July 21 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee focused on team development. Can you expand on your comments and say more about the key roles that team members must fulfill for a team to become what you called “a high performance team?” Thanks.

Answer:
In the column the reader references, I discussed the concept of a “high performance team” within the framework of the stages of team development (i.e., forming, storming, norming, and performing). Along the way, I said that for a team to fulfill its potential and become all that it can be, each member of the team must be striving to be the best that he or she can be by improving in the key facets of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and team effectiveness. Per the reader’s request, in this column I will continue my discussion of important elements of team development by focusing on key roles that must be fulfilled by team members.
Just as a football team has a playbook it utilizes to craft its game plan, so, too, must any team have a playbook that outlines how it will operate. In organizational circles, such a playbook is normally called a “team charter.” The team charter specifies the team’s purpose for being, the work for which it is responsible, and the roles team members are to fulfill in carrying out the work.
Like a football team, an organization-based team must operate with consistency and efficiency. Each member of the team must understand what he or she is supposed to do and trust that teammates know their roles well, too. The figure associated with this column is a “team wheel” we have used for years at ODC, with our clients in team-based consultations. The wheel describes general roles that members of most teams need to fulfill. Let’s take a look at each of the roles associated with the wheel, in some detail:
• Process checker: The team process checker plays a critical role in reminding the team members to adhere to the processes they have established. Traditionally, the process checker’s role is to keep the team focused on the task at hand, document processes the team has established, remind team members of the process to be followed, and bring the team’s attention to areas in a process that do not seem to be working.


• Devil’s advocate: The devil’s advocate role appears naturally, based on the work style and personality of the individual members. Typically, the devil’s advocate is both outcome and decision focused, has a strong problem-solving orientation, encourages the team to challenge its thinking and underlying rationale, and asks questions that may be uncomfortable for others to raise.
• Self-assessor: All team members need to be self-assessors. The self-assessor reflects on the contributions he or she is making to the team’s process. In that sense, the self-assessor is very concerned with finding answers to the question, “How am I doing?” Typically, the self-assessor works to establish rapport, distinguishes between personal feelings and beliefs, deals effectively with differing opinions, and demonstrates self-insight and self-knowledge.
• Timekeeper: The team timekeeper ensures that the team’s interactions remain on-target and within the time parameters that have been established. The team timekeeper keeps track of how much time the team has spent on a task, ensuring that they do not exceed the time allotment. By reminding the team of time spent on a task, the timekeeper helps the team use its time efficiently.
• Scribe: The team scribe or record keeper is usually a rotating responsibility. The team scribe plays a valuable role in providing the documentation a team needs to remain efficient and well informed. Traditionally, the team scribe’s role is to keep notes during team meetings, distribute meeting minutes, etc.
• Reinforcer: The reinforcer role typically appears naturally, based on the work style and personality of the individual members. Typically, the reinforcer is relationship focused, has a people orientation, and encourages the team to include everyone and to manage their conflicts effectively.
• Full and active participant: All team members share certain responsibilities as they function in the participant role, including sharing information, resources and expertise, using established processes, allowing the members who are carrying out roles to perform their responsibilities, adhering to the guidelines that have been established, and accepting responsibilities.
• Peer-assessor: The peer-assessor is a role that each team member must fulfill by reflecting on the contributions his or her colleagues are offering to the team’s process. In that regard, the peer assessor is very concerned with finding answers to the question, “How are you (and/or we) doing?” Typically, the peer-assessor demonstrates empathy, uses paraphrasing, demonstrates an assertive interpersonal style, proposes workable, mutual solutions, and evaluates the effects of the process on the relationship.
• Facilitator: The team facilitator is sometimes referred to as the team leader. Traditionally, the facilitator’s role is to manage the team to help it achieve its goals, coordinate and facilitate team meetings, act as an external spokesperson for the team, train new members, remind individual members to use effective interpersonal behaviors, and remind individual members to adhere to the ground rules.
• Linker: The linking role is the most important of all of the team roles. Regardless of what other role is occupied, each team member must function as a linker if the team is to fulfill its potential. The primary concern of the linker is to facilitate and contribute to the formation of an effective team process by listening before speaking or deciding, keeping team members up-to-date on a regular basis, making themselves available, responding in a timely fashion, encouraging respect and understanding among team members, modeling high standards within the team by setting an example, getting involved and involving others in the problem solving of key issues, and helping establish achievable targets and push for improved performance.
Ultimately, versatility is implied in the model. Ideally, all members are able to fulfill all roles, when needed. The implication of this is that no team member is a “one trick pony” when it comes to team-based interactions. Ideally, the team is comprised of behaviorally versatile and nimble performers who can flex their contributions depending upon what the team needs in a given situation, meeting, exchange, etc.
Daniel A. Schroeder, Ph.D. is president of Brookfield-based Organization Development Consultants Inc. (www.OD-Consultants.com). He can be reached at (262) 827-1901 or Dan.Schroeder@OD-Consultants.com

Question:

 

I enjoyed your column in the July 21 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee focused on team development. Can you expand on your comments and say more about the key roles that team members must fulfill for a team to become what you called “a high performance team?” Thanks.

Answer:
In the column the reader references, I discussed the concept of a “high performance team” within the framework of the stages of team development (i.e., forming, storming, norming, and performing). Along the way, I said that for a team to fulfill its potential and become all that it can be, each member of the team must be striving to be the best that he or she can be by improving in the key facets of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and team effectiveness. Per the reader’s request, in this column I will continue my discussion of important elements of team development by focusing on key roles that must be fulfilled by team members.
Just as a football team has a playbook it utilizes to craft its game plan, so, too, must any team have a playbook that outlines how it will operate. In organizational circles, such a playbook is normally called a “team charter.” The team charter specifies the team’s purpose for being, the work for which it is responsible, and the roles team members are to fulfill in carrying out the work.
Like a football team, an organization-based team must operate with consistency and efficiency. Each member of the team must understand what he or she is supposed to do and trust that teammates know their roles well, too. The figure associated with this column is a “team wheel” we have used for years at ODC, with our clients in team-based consultations. The wheel describes general roles that members of most teams need to fulfill. Let’s take a look at each of the roles associated with the wheel, in some detail:
• Process checker: The team process checker plays a critical role in reminding the team members to adhere to the processes they have established. Traditionally, the process checker’s role is to keep the team focused on the task at hand, document processes the team has established, remind team members of the process to be followed, and bring the team’s attention to areas in a process that do not seem to be working.


• Devil’s advocate: The devil’s advocate role appears naturally, based on the work style and personality of the individual members. Typically, the devil’s advocate is both outcome and decision focused, has a strong problem-solving orientation, encourages the team to challenge its thinking and underlying rationale, and asks questions that may be uncomfortable for others to raise.
• Self-assessor: All team members need to be self-assessors. The self-assessor reflects on the contributions he or she is making to the team’s process. In that sense, the self-assessor is very concerned with finding answers to the question, “How am I doing?” Typically, the self-assessor works to establish rapport, distinguishes between personal feelings and beliefs, deals effectively with differing opinions, and demonstrates self-insight and self-knowledge.
• Timekeeper: The team timekeeper ensures that the team’s interactions remain on-target and within the time parameters that have been established. The team timekeeper keeps track of how much time the team has spent on a task, ensuring that they do not exceed the time allotment. By reminding the team of time spent on a task, the timekeeper helps the team use its time efficiently.
• Scribe: The team scribe or record keeper is usually a rotating responsibility. The team scribe plays a valuable role in providing the documentation a team needs to remain efficient and well informed. Traditionally, the team scribe’s role is to keep notes during team meetings, distribute meeting minutes, etc.
• Reinforcer: The reinforcer role typically appears naturally, based on the work style and personality of the individual members. Typically, the reinforcer is relationship focused, has a people orientation, and encourages the team to include everyone and to manage their conflicts effectively.
• Full and active participant: All team members share certain responsibilities as they function in the participant role, including sharing information, resources and expertise, using established processes, allowing the members who are carrying out roles to perform their responsibilities, adhering to the guidelines that have been established, and accepting responsibilities.
• Peer-assessor: The peer-assessor is a role that each team member must fulfill by reflecting on the contributions his or her colleagues are offering to the team’s process. In that regard, the peer assessor is very concerned with finding answers to the question, “How are you (and/or we) doing?” Typically, the peer-assessor demonstrates empathy, uses paraphrasing, demonstrates an assertive interpersonal style, proposes workable, mutual solutions, and evaluates the effects of the process on the relationship.
• Facilitator: The team facilitator is sometimes referred to as the team leader. Traditionally, the facilitator’s role is to manage the team to help it achieve its goals, coordinate and facilitate team meetings, act as an external spokesperson for the team, train new members, remind individual members to use effective interpersonal behaviors, and remind individual members to adhere to the ground rules.
• Linker: The linking role is the most important of all of the team roles. Regardless of what other role is occupied, each team member must function as a linker if the team is to fulfill its potential. The primary concern of the linker is to facilitate and contribute to the formation of an effective team process by listening before speaking or deciding, keeping team members up-to-date on a regular basis, making themselves available, responding in a timely fashion, encouraging respect and understanding among team members, modeling high standards within the team by setting an example, getting involved and involving others in the problem solving of key issues, and helping establish achievable targets and push for improved performance.
Ultimately, versatility is implied in the model. Ideally, all members are able to fulfill all roles, when needed. The implication of this is that no team member is a “one trick pony” when it comes to team-based interactions. Ideally, the team is comprised of behaviorally versatile and nimble performers who can flex their contributions depending upon what the team needs in a given situation, meeting, exchange, etc.
Daniel A. Schroeder, Ph.D. is president of Brookfield-based Organization Development Consultants Inc. (www.OD-Consultants.com). He can be reached at (262) 827-1901 or Dan.Schroeder@OD-Consultants.com

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