How to make effective use of the people in your team

“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I'. And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I'. They don't think 'I'. They think 'we'; they think 'team'. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit.... This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” 

—Management guru, writer and educator, Peter Drucker

There are some models to explain how effective teams can work and how important team roles are. One way of viewing effective teams is to consider a balance of action oriented “Doers”, idea producing “Thinkers” and people centred “Carers”.

A balanced team

Effective teams need a balance of all these roles. Always hiring the best of the best without giving consideration to the mix of roles people fulfil within your team—outside of technical knowledge, experience, skills and ability—could be detrimental to your team’s success. 

As an example, if one team is full of ‘Doers’ who are all head down, focused on ploughing forward but not constantly reassessing if it is the right path forward—this can impact the team’s effectiveness. Are they doing the right things?

Or what if your team is missing ‘Thinkers’? Then you risk the right ideas won’t get put into action because you don’t have people coming up with new ideas, plans and ways of thinking about solutions.

If another team has too many ‘Carers’ who are all going home happy, have enjoyed their time in the office but haven’t achieved anything because they’re too worried about the team chemistry—this can also impact the team’s effectiveness.

How to use it

Once you have achieved a balanced team, it needs to be used. Effective leaders know when to draw on the different roles. 

There are some practical steps managers can take to make the most effective use of the people in their teams:

  • Do the Doers know what has to be done and do they have the resources available to get on and do it?

  • Are the Thinkers being challenged so they can come up with innovative ideas and plans?

  • Are you using the Carers to take care of the individuals and team relationships?

  • Are there people who can balance all three roles? Can they take on some leadership responsibility?

Action step:

Perhaps you could consider creating a Team Roles Grid which identifies the role for each of your team members and develop an action plan to ensure you start, or continue to make the most effective use of people in your team.

Just calling a group of people a “team” does not in practice transform them into a team. Many of us need to understand more about teams before we can contribute to them or lead them.

To realise the full potential of the team, we need to understand each other’s preferred way of working and how these contribute positively to achieving the goals of the team. With this better understanding and insight, not only will performance be increased but recruitment to the team will be easier and staff retention greater. A major contribution to the bottom line on all counts.

As a more detailed team role inventory, Horizon Management Group are big supporters of the Belbin Team Roles model, developed by Dr Merideth Belbin at Henley Management College in the UK. For more information on how you can use this very powerful tool, please contact us.

Amy Phillips