When it comes to team interactions, it’s tempting to believe that we should think and work in similar ways in order to be the most effective and experience the least conflict. Yet while a team made up of people who think alike is probably not going to experience much conflict, chances are they also won’t be especially dynamic or creative..
After studying teams for decades, subject matter expert Glenn Parker has found that the best teams form when each individual (including the leader) understands that there are four primary types of team players, and that all are important.
- The collaborator enjoys a big-picture focus, helping the team keep the longer-term goal in mind.
- The contributor appreciates the details and provides a task-oriented viewpoint.
- The challenger likes to ask tough questions and keeps the team on track.
- The communicator is the people-person, focusing on mutual trust and team spirit.
Of course, every strength can also be a weakness, and each of these styles sometimes goes too far.
- The collaborator can get stuck in big-picture thinking, keeping the team from moving forward.
- The contributor can be a perfectionist, mired in details and losing sight of the goal.
- The challenger may become relentless and forget that playing “devil’s advocate” isn’t always necessary.
- The communicator can appear frivolous to others, focusing on team spirit to the exclusion of the goal.
Every style contributes when it’s used appropriately for each situation. It’s the leader’s job to help team members (including themselves) identify their style and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses so that each person understands what role they play.
And it’s each team member’s responsibility to go two steps further. Knowing your role – your preferred, natural style – is just the beginning. You also need to understand and acknowledge the value of other styles. And you need to challenge yourself when another style might be more useful or appropriate in a particular situation.
There’s strength in diversity. All styles are good and necessary to create a balanced whole and achieve the goals set for your team and your organization.
Recommended training resource: Hosted by Glenn Parker, the popular video, Team Building: What Makes a Good Team Player? profiles each team player style and gives easy-to-follow examples of how the styles can come together and form a winning team.
The Parker Team Player Survey helps individuals identify which of the styles they most resemble while providing a basis for increasing their effectiveness as a team player.