5 People Every Team Needs

Team MtgIt’s clear that successful teams have diversity built in.  They have people with different skills and abilities needed to complete the project.   However, each team needs diversity in personalities as well.  Here are five key people every team needs to help them succeed:

  1. Instigator – This is the person who jumps in and gets things going.  Often they are the first person to offer up ideas in a brainstorming session.  They will tackle the hard tasks so that progress is made.
  2. Revolutionary – Here is the person who loves to challenge status quo and will offer up the off-the-wall ideas that can spark true innovation.  They bristle at “that won’t work” comments.
  3. Devil’s Advocate – This is the one who will question every idea and every suggestion, no matter who makes it.  While this can be annoying it helps identify risks and will improve the final solution.
  4. Cook – They are the key to pulling together all of these different approaches and personalities.  Like a great cook they can take all the different thoughts and ideas and mix them together to formulate a workable idea or solution.  As well, they will help calm the chaos and dissension in the ranks.
  5. Chief – The team looks to this person for wisdom, guidance and arbitration.  They are the ones who will resolve the conflict and make sure everyone is moving in the right direction at the right pace.

Team members may take on each of these roles at different times in a project.  On some teams there are one or two people who stay in one role the entire time.  It doesn’t really matter if people shift in their roles as long as things are progressing.

If not managed well, the revolutionary and the devil’s advocate can become problems within the team and derail the project.  They play critical roles in finding new, innovative ways of accomplishing the goal.  Unfortunately, since these personalities question everything and challenge every idea they can become a negative factor and create chaos.  The cook helps bring everyone together but the chief must insist on problem resolution to keep things moving.  If not balanced these two overwhelm the team and cause the instigator to start acting independently just to get something done.  Now the focus has been lost.

Interestingly the project leader may not be the Chief, often they are, however if they have not earned the trust of the team or are weak in some area another person can end up playing this role.  For the team and for the leader this is less than ideal, yet it will naturally happen.  To see who is acting as the chief look at whom people are asking for help and guidance.  The team leader needs to ensure that they are a safe place for people to share concerns and they must be willing to settle the disputes.  Building consensus is critical for team success.

Enjoy and embrace the variety of personalities on the team.  Encourage each member to assume one of these roles at varying times.  Manage the conflict that questioning behavior can trigger to ensure success.  By effectively managing and utilizing the strengths of each character you will help create a team that can achieve amazing results.


Filed under Leadership, Project Management, Team Building

10 responses to “5 People Every Team Needs

  1. Pingback: 5 People Every Team Needs | Relationship Capita...

  2. OK, I’ll be the Chief if you’ll be the Cook!

  3. If you insist! Wait, you are the Grand Poobah. 🙂

  4. Hi Carol,
    This is a nice way of looking at team roles. The Devil’s Advocate stands out for me for special mention. You correctly point out that they will be good at highlighting risks and improves the final solution. I’d just like to underline that point. There’s a couple of things I’d add:
    1) Sometimes the people who are your biggest detractors can have some of the most useful feedback.
    2) If you can act on all the detracting feedback the detractor sees that you are serious about improving the status quo. They then talk to their colleagues and friends about how their feedback has been taken into account. They can end up becoming one of the projects biggest supporters.
    All the best,

    • Francis,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I personally like Devil’s Advocates and often play that role. Your points about how they can become your biggest supporters is right on the mark. By truly addressing their concerns you have a better solution and an ally.

      Have a great day!


  5. What happens when you are wearing all the hats?

  6. Pingback: Top 5 Posts of 2013 | simplifypersonalproductivity

  7. Marcos Alves

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for sharing this tips. Really, I like and I know the worth of Devi´s Advocate when well managed could be of a great ally to the entire team and lead to a successful project. I have had first-hand experience of this nature! Thanks. God Bless you!

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