High performing teams must have five key roles filled to continue to function optimally. In a previous post, I talked about the importance of having balance for teams to function their best. By filling these key roles, that will be discussed in this post, you will ensure your team has the proper balance. These roles need to be filled, no matter the team size, function, or organizational culture. Let’s take a look at these five key roles now.
# 1 The Facilitator
Facilitate comes from the Latin word, facilis, which means easy. Facilitation in the purest sense means to make the team operate easier. At the core, this role is about implementing and using processes and tools that move the team forward. In a team meeting it is the simple act of using an agenda. On a project team, it is the project plan. And on a long standing team, it is the communication structure that ensures that everyone contributes equally. The facilitator is the person who has the ability and role of stepping back and looking objectively about what is and what is not working for the team.
#2 The Connector
This person has the skill and role of connecting people with different roles or perspectives in a way that promotes appreciation and understanding. The best connectors are inherently curious people who enjoy learning. They also have a knack for language and are able to translate what is being said so that there is a shared understanding in the group. A connector will spend equal time talking to everyone on the team, pollinating the group with ideas and good will. Lastly, the connector is also an important bridge to other teams. The connector’s role is to find out what is happening outside of the team and bring that information and ideas back to the group.
# 3 The Idea Generator
This is the person and role that is responsible for generating ideas. She is always thinking about new approaches and fresh ways of doing things. The best idea generators are always thinking, reading, and noodling on things that can be applied to the team. While the idea generators continuous flow of suggestions can be exhausting at times, the team needs this role to break inertia and to prevent stagnation.
# 4 The Risk Evaluator
Risk evaluation is needed to counterbalance the optimist and idea generator, who only sees the potential in a new idea. The risk evaluator’s role is to poke holes in a plan to make sure it will float prior to implementation. People who do this well naturally see the pitfalls, danger, and obstacles when presented with a plan or idea. Without proper appreciation for this role, the risk evaluator is often viewed as a “negative” person. Instead of trying to cheer this person into a positive frame of reference, make sure you give this role voice on your team. Your team will be prepared because you’ve answered the challenging and sometimes annoying questions that risk evaluators ask.
# 5 The Strategic Thinker
Every team needs someone who can fulfill the role of looking ahead to evaluate the risk, opportunities, and threats. The best teams not only focus on today’s execution; they also allot resources for the future to ensure they have the skills, tools, and strategy to win tomorrow’s battles. The role of a strategic thinker is to anticipate and articulate what lies ahead. People who do this well have what The Highlands Company calls a high time frame orientation. High time frame orientation, or foresight is the ability to easily see 5 to 10 years in the future. By filling this strategic thinker role, you will ensure that your team does not suffer obsolescence.
If you are like me, while you may have appreciated this information, there are probably some key questions we need to address. I will address these in order below. You might be asking:
- What if I don’t have people naturally gifted in those areas?
- My team is small, do I need to fill all five roles?
- I have more than five people on my team, how should I fill these roles?
- Most of these roles feel like my job as the leader, am I wrong?
First, put the person who is most suited and motivated to fill each role. It is amazing what people will do when the role and expectations are clear. Second, if you have a small team, give people multiple roles based on their natural ability, skill, and motivation. Third, on a bigger team, you can have multiple people playing one role. And lastly, while as a leader you are responsible for making sure all these roles are filled, don’t fall for the trap of assuming you have to do it all.