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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 2

Roles and Styles

Researchers who have studied team development and team process over time have described typical patterns of group behavior called 'roles,' or 'styles.' For example, Parker (1994) outlined four major styles: Contributor, Collaborator, Communicator and Challenger. In the following paragraphs, these four styles are briefly described. As you review these styles, consider your own behavior in teams. Which role or style best matches your behavior? Can you recognize any of these styles in your fellow team-members? How do you think your fellow team members would describe you?

  • Contributor: The Contributor is described as a task-oriented team member who is willing and able to share knowledge and information. Contributors like to provide technical and clinical information to team members. The Contributor may frequently take on the role of 'trainer' or 'mentor' to new members. They are described as dependable, responsible and helpful.
  • Collaborator: The Collaborator is described as a goal-directed team member who helps others remain focused on the overall purpose, mission and goal of the team. Collaborators are "willing to extend themselves beyond their traditional boundaries or comfort areas." They will "do whatever is necessary to get the job done" (Briggs, 1997, p. 42). Collaborators do not mind working behind the scenes. They are willing to take on a variety of jobs and duties in order to meet a goal. They are hard-working, flexible, open-minded and enthusiastic team members.
  • Communicator: The Communicator is described as a process-oriented team member. Communicators care more about team process than the end product. Communicators monitor the interpersonal climate of the team and take measures to improve relationships among team members. Communicators take an active role in facilitating consensus building and conflict-resolution. They show concern for integrating new members and maintaining positive interactions among existing members. They take steps to ensure a supportive team environment.
  • Challenger: Challengers are described as questioning and critical. They express their opinions honestly and directly. They are very concerned with maintaining high ethical standards and high standards of quality. They are not afraid to express a dissenting opinion if they perceive a 'higher good' in doing so. Challengers are willing to question authority "and will not accept decisions simply because 'that's the way it's always been done'" (Briggs, 1997, p. 45). Challengers force the team to think in new ways. Principled and candid, they have been described as the 'conscience' of the team (Briggs, 1997, p.45).

Keep in mind that these categories are in no way fixed. A given person may show different behaviors in different groups, or different behaviors in the same group at different points in time. However, Parker (1994) contends that most people tend to favor one of the four styles.

Team Roles

Several other approaches to the study of team roles and styles have been developed. Many authors have made distinctions between task roles, group-building roles and dysfunctional roles. A review of the research in this area appears in Berger's 2004 text. Below is a brief description of task-oriented, group-building and dysfunctional roles, as summarized by Berger (2004).

Task Oriented Roles: Task-oriented team members tend to initiate discussions, provide information, ask questions and clarify information. They provide opinions and ask others for their opinions. In sum, they "bring out facts, ideas and suggestions made by the group in an attempt to clarify the group's position" (Berger, 2004, p. 251).

Group-Building Roles: Team members who fall into this category are good observers and good listeners. They encourage other members, mediate misunderstandings, and negotiate compromises. They seek to establish harmony within the group. They relieve tension in the group through the use of humor and clarifying statements.

Dysfunctional Roles: Dysfunction can take many forms including dominating or monopolizing a team meeting, criticizing or denigrating others, displaying constant pessimism, rejecting all new ideas, and/or attempting to manipulate opinions. Tuning out, doodling, appearing uninterested or engaging in some other off-task behavior is another form of dysfunction. In sum, "dysfunctional roles interfere with achievement of the goals of the group" (Berger, 2004, p. 252).

The above categories are meant to be general descriptive guides. A given team member will show behaviors from all 3 categories at different points in time. However, as with Parker's (1994) model, individual team members tend to show a preference for the behaviors in one of the 3 categories. Which of these categories best describes your behavior in teams? Do you ever slip into a dysfunctional role? Which one? What particular skills would you like to develop further? If you notice that a team member has fallen into a dysfunctional role, how might you respond?

Self-Awareness

In the previous description of team roles and styles, you were asked to consider your own behavior in teams. What are you doing really well? What challenges do you face?

Cultivating awareness of your own behavior is an important part of being an effective team member. If you know yourself, you will be better able to build on your strengths and address your shortcomings.

 

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