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Are People in Your Team Playing One of These Roles?

February 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 540

You have been developing an offer for months. Now as you are preparing to launch, one person on your team continues to disrupt meetings with negative comments about the product. What do you do? Well, eventually you fire him of course. And in so doing you rid the team of the annoyance. You also rid your team of the unconsciously chosen voice of important undercurrents and sobering perspectives. When he has left, the team will most likely unconsciously single out someone else to play this vital role.

There is often one person in a team who plays out the least attractive emotions or voices the most annoying point of view. When teams are given opportunity to reflect on the voice, often they find that the annoying emotions, ideas and challenges reflect their own misgivings about proposals being discussed. Wilfred Bion showed that this person has been unconsciously positioned by the rest of the team to play this role. When people work as a group they display roles and actions resulting from deeper, unconscious frameworks. Bion highlighted this effect in his work with teams when he described the two different groups acting within any group of people working together:

The work group operates in a rational way to complete the task the group has formed to accomplish.The basic assumption group plays out the underlying assumptions to present a particular group behaviour.

It is very useful to be aware of what is happening in a group. There are a number of models we can use to make these hidden structures explicit. One such structure, from David Kantor, presented in The Fifth Discipline Field Book identifies four roles people assume in any conversation.

Mover: who posits a point of view or suggests an action.Opposer: who challenges the suggestion of the Mover.Supporter: the mover and opposer will each have a small group of supporters to their view.Bystander: who silently observe the interchange and develop perceptions that may be shared in the breaks.

Each of these roles is essential. Not everyone can contribute vocally to each topic. Bystanders often feel the name is accusatory. But the silent people in a conversation, if they are fully present and giving attention, provide the fabric on which conversation and insights are embroidered.

Once you have identified the roles people play keep the information with you and confirm your perceptions. Then reflect on the roles you have identified and how effective they are and how flexible the team is in these roles.

The following questions can help a team begin to genuinely examine its roles, without much chance of treading into areas too deep or painful:

Is everyone in the discussion empowered to contribute? Who is the person chosen by the team to face-off on uncomfortable or unresolved issues? Who is playing what role? Are the stances flexible - do movers move and opposers accept? Can players change stance? What would happen if the chief opposer left the field and no one filled the void? What would happen if bystanders were formally given an opportunity to initiate a proposal (this is the way to bring in quiet members - acknowledge that they may be good bystanders and are filling an important role (they may be reflectors) but they may have something to offer the group if contracted with up front)? Have existing structures shut down certain stances or movement between stances (e.g. dominating leadership shuts down opposers or bystanders)? Do supporters support based on the issues under discussion or on personal relationship or political expedience? What negative patterns continue to be played out?

At StrategyWorks we assist leaders and their teams, with those crucial conversations for clarity, decisions, action and outcomes. These conversations can be frustrating when people are not heard, the team cannot make decisions or the way forward remains vague. Leaders contact us at StrategyWorks when they are ready to do something different. In the process those involved in the conversations feel understood and challenged. At the end of the intervention, the leaders and their teams feel focused and released around a clear plan of action.

Come and visit us on our website at:

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Source: EzineArticles
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