As a life, relationship, and business coach, one of my main goals — on the business side — is to level up the performance of leadership teams; both externally and within my own organisations. There are countless models and frameworks out there which can be used to assess team behaviour and performance levels, but one of my all-time favourites is known as the Four-player Communication Model, and comes from psychologist David Kantor.
This model applies to any problem-solving team, and involves in-sync collaboration in order to reach commonly shared goals. Every role is simple enough to comprehend, yet getting them to be balanced enough to work perfectly together on a team definitely takes some effort!
Working within Kantor’s framework, below are the descriptions I give to senior executives I coach, in order for them to become more aware of what role they play, and what roles other people play within their team. Once they become familiar with, and aware of, the different roles, they can then begin to adjust their behaviour and balance out the team dynamics.
The main, and most fundamental role, in any situation is the mover. These are the people who initiate action for the team. This could be by way of a question, a suggestion, or bringing forth an issue to the table. In short, their role is to encourage the team to engage in open debate and discussion in order to get the ball rolling and move things along.
If the mover is absent from a team, the team will get stuck and lose interest in all goals. They will lack the ability to advance, come up with new ideas, or execute anything. Numerous teams are built up of highly motivated executives, but it’s important that there is a defined mover in the team; someone who can help the team advance — not someone there just being impatient and pushy. A good mover aims to serve the team as a whole.
While the mover is crucial, probably the most difficult role in the team is that of the supporter. The supporter is the one who seconds the motion. They jump up and get behind the idea, opinion, or plan at hand. Sure, a mover has the ability to kick-start things off, but without a supporter, little impact or real progress can be made!
The point here is that the supporter needs to support the idea, not necessarily the person — otherwise it won;t work. They need to get behind the idea and provide some good reasoning skills.
In many senior leadership teams, this is often a role that is missing. This is because members of top teams are usually used to driving and making all the decisions. The problem is that everyone wants to be movers and nobody wants to take the role of supporter. This is where they’ll struggle. When it comes to amazing teams though, members know that the role of the supporter is the golden key to effective decision making; and they’ll make sure to jump into it whenever they see a need for it.
So, while it’s the supporter’s job to add momentum to the mover, it’s the opposer’s job to provide a check and balance for the team. The importance of this role is to help ensure that all angles and perspectives are being looked at, and that all potential risks and negatives are 100% evaluated. The best opposers help their team avoid downfalls, and prevent them from missing out of any other crucial opportunities.
Thankfully, when it comes to senior leadership teams, finding enough opposers is generally not an issue. But, be aware, the point is not to just argue for the sake of arguing. A good opposer will bring up legitimate concerns and risks, and will be there to help the team assess all the options. There are too many instances of executives opposing without making a strong case or giving reasonable rationale. Bad opposers will make unnecessary attacks that threaten to destroy a team’s whole foundation of trust and effectiveness.
Last but not least, every team needs to have people who maintain a higher-level perspective, and constantly endeavour to keep the bigger picture in mind. These people are the observers of the team. They assist in guiding the process, and ensure that the team is taking all the options and factors into consideration. A team with good observers will have a solid process, and will be far less likely to get derailed.
Fact: every single truly effective team that I’ve ever worked with has demonstrated these four roles in action consistently. It’s also important to note that members do not have to stay in each role forever. In actual fact, in the very best teams, members accordingly move between roles as the conversation shifts, and they see the need to balance out the dynamic whenever it’s called for.
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