In Leadership

An effective leadership team begins with the strengths and roles of its individual members. The article below shares the top four roles every team needs in order to be effective. CK

Article written by Bruce Eckfeldt originally appeared in Inc.com on May 25, 2020. 

As a strategic business coach, one of my main goals is to level-up the performance of the senior leadership team. There are many models and frameworks I use to assess team behavior and performance. Each of them has pros and cons in different situations.

One of my favorites comes for the psychologist David Kantor and is called the Four-Player Communication Model. It applies to any team solving problems and collaborating to reach common goals. Each role is fairly simple to understand, yet getting them working together on a team can be a balancing act.

Here are descriptions I give to senior executives so they can be more aware of what role they are playing and what roles other people are playing in the situation. Once they are more aware of the roles, they can start adjusting their behavior to balance out the dynamic.

1. The Mover

The primary role in any discussion is the mover. They are the ones who initiate action for the team. This could be a question, a suggestion, or putting an issue on the table. Their role is to encourage the team to engage in discussion and debate and move things forward.

Without a mover, a team will get stuck and become apathetic. They will lack the ability to advance, come up with new ideas, and turn ideas into action plans. While many teams are made up of highly-driven executives, it’s important that the mover help the team advance, not just be impatient and pushy. A good mover serves the team, not their own personal agenda.

2. The Supporter

I like to say that while the mover is key, the hardest role on the team is the supporter. This is the person that seconds the motion. They take a stand and get behind the idea, opinion, plan, etc. A mover can kick things off, but without a supporter, they will make little impact or progress.

The key here is that the supporter needs to support the idea, not the person. If the supporter comes across as a sycophant currying favor for political gain, it won’t work. They need to put their weight behind the merits of the idea and provide a good rationale.

Often when a senior leadership team is struggling, I see this role missing. Because members of a top team are often used to driving and making decisions, they all want to be movers and nobody wants to take the role of supporter. On really great teams, members know that the supporter role is key to effective decision making and jump into it when they see the need.

3. The Opposer

If 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. It’s a key role to help make sure that all angles are being considered and possible risks and downsides are fully evaluated. A good opposer will help the team avoid pitfalls and prevent the team from missing other opportunities.

Typically, finding enough opposers is not a problem on a senior leadership team. However, this is not just arguing for argument’s sake. A good opposer brings up legitimate concerns and risks and is there to help the team assess all options. Too often I see executives opposing without making a strong case or providing sufficient rationale. Bad opposers will make ad hominem attacks which will destroy a team’s trust and effectiveness.

4. The Observer

Finally, every team needs to have people who maintain a higher-level perspective and keep the bigger picture in mind. These are the team’s observers. They help guide the process and make sure the team is considering all of the options and factors. A team with good observers will have a strong process and be much less likely to go down rat holes and spin their wheels.

Every effective team I’ve worked with has demonstrated the use of these four roles consistently. However, members don’t need to stay in each role forever. In fact, in the best teams I work with, members will move between roles as the conversation shifts and they see the need to balance out the dynamic.

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