Roles that help the team to function effectively

It is a no brainer that when team members have clearly defined roles, it becomes easier to align their efforts toward achieving the team’s goals. Each person understands their specific responsibilities and how they contribute to the overall objective. This clarity fosters a sense of purpose and direction within the team.

Yes, in addition to the functional roles that focus on specific tasks and responsibilities, there are other roles that help a team function effectively. These roles are often referred to as “team roles” or “group roles” and are centered around the dynamics, coordination, and interpersonal aspects of teamwork. It’s important to note that these roles are taken by the given team dynamics and can be fulfilled by different team members simultaneously or rotate among the team members based on their strengths and the needs of the team.

We tend to think in stereotypes that is why I would not like to give names to these roles, but I would like to describe some examples.

There are people in the team that provide often overall guidance, direction, and help the team to make decisions. People who like to organise, manage teams activities and schedules. There is sometimes the need to help resolve conflicts and disagreements, the need to share, to support, to go against the flow to support creative thinking. All these roles (and much more) contribute to effective teamwork.

The team-effectiveness canvas is not a tool to identify those roles. It is pointing out to the need to create transparency about those roles in the team and maybe the roles that are missing.

I want to make it clear that I would not like to talk about personalities in the team, because although certain aspects are deep in our personalities, you still have the possibility to act differently in different situations / in different team dynamics. It is also important to make this differentiation because some team members take on a specific role because it is needed, but they may not feel comfortable with it all the time. This is something that can be addressed if it is seen as a function that is taken on for the team, but not if it is a fixed part of someone’s personality.

How can you identify the roles in the team

It is much more valuable to get the team talking about the roles, than to give them names. I suggest using a metaphor and playfulness to identify the roles in the team. For example:

First, make sure you have a safe environment and that the team is aware of its purpose. You may then,

  • have team members introduce themselves as superheroes and explain their superpowers, linking them to their perceived roles within their relationship.
  • Imagine you are the crew of a sailing boat. What responsibilities would you take on and why? Are you missing any responsibilities?
  • Divide the team into pairs or small groups and ask them to pantomime or act out different team roles without using words. Let the others guess which role they are describing and discuss who is taking that role often in the team. This interactive activity can be a playful way to illustrate the various roles team members see in themselves or others.
  • Create fun and colorful trading cards that represent different team roles. Distribute the cards among team members and ask them to trade cards based on their perceived strengths and preferences. This activity allows team members to playfully exchange roles and explore new perspectives.

If you want to get an idea about possible team roles you may use different group roles models. Examples of such models are:

  • Belbin Team Role Model
  • Social Identity Theory
  • Functional Theory of Group Decision Making
  • Benne and Sheats’ Group Roles

Again, be careful not to project the roles (behaviours, group functions) into personalities. The rule in using the team-effectiveness canvas is that each role is needed for the team to function properly.

The team-effectiveness canvas

Browse through the areas and click to get more information about the team-effectiveness canvas.

The team-effectiveness canvas
Team personality Atmosphere Team Strategy Health & Growth Our Roles License Effective decisions Conflict protocol Principles and commitments Structure learnings Smart actions 3 Focus Levels From dreaming to reality Engagement

3 Focus Levels

From dreaming to reality