Within any group, there are many roles making up the list generally included when considering group dynamics. All these roles are helpful to the success of the team, but there are some that are absolutely necessary for the team to accomplish its mission. These roles are being played out in many different groups.
This paper will focus on teams in the workplace and the roles that are a necessity for success. According to Benne and Sheats, there are two main categories of roles in group dynamics (1948, Functional Roles of Group Members). These are Task roles and Maintenance Roles. Task roles are helpful in making sure the group stays focused on the given assignment. Maintenance roles, on the other hand, deal with the connections and rapport that team members build upon and help keep the group cohesive. Each of these main categories contains subordinates.
For Task Roles, there are: The Initiator, The Information seeker/giver, The Opinion seeker/giver, The Elaborator, The Coordinator, The Orienteer, The Evaluator, The Energizer, The Procedural Technician, and The Recorder. Maintenance Roles include: The Encourager, The Harmonizer, The Compromiser, The Gatekeeper, The Standard Setter, The Commentator, and The Follower. Although these ideas were set forth in 1948, they still hold true for today's group dynamics.
It is important in examining the roles in group dynamics to elaborate on each role. The Initiator is the person in the group who is going to bring fresh mental material to the table. This person is going to be of significant help in brainstorming sessions. The Information Seeker/Giver is the sage of the group, helping to simplify key issues. The Opinion Seeker/Giver brings to the group a sense of duty and standards.
The Elaborator is the person who illuminates the others through illustration. The Coordinator is usually a well-organized person who will help "gel" the proposals of the team. The Orienteer is like the steering mechanism for the group helping guide and maneuver on their way to the finish line. The Evaluator takes the common sense approach to assessing the team's progress.
While The Energizer is the booster that many people need when they hit a creativity road block, begin to get bogged down, or begin succumbing to the complexity or outright difficulty of the task assigned to the group. The Procedural Technician is always there to perform those mundane but necessary tasks others avoid. Finally, there is The Recorder. This is the person who will do as the name implies, record the group's findings and debates.
Next, is to look at the Maintenance Roles. These include The Encourager. This is the member of the group who generates cohesiveness by objectifying differing viewpoints among the group. The Harmonizer helps smooth out disagreements. The Compromiser solves discord through splitting differences in solutions equally. The Gatekeeper is the one to make sure everyone in the group stays involved.
The Standard Setter looks long and hard at group methods and the caliber of their results. The Commentator is ready with an opinion on the function and evolution of the group. Lastly, there is the Follower. This is unfortunately where many people fall in large groups. Followers simply become inactive and do not truly contribute to the group according to Benne and Sheats (Benne and Sheats, 1948). Of these, there are three that are tantamount to the success of the team. These are "The Initiator, The Orienteer, and The Energizer...because they are goal-directed roles" (Benne and Sheats). Without The Initiator bringing new challenges to the table, the team will likely stagnate and begin to splinter. This can be good and bad.
The upside is that a non-productive team may splinter into smaller teams that will become more efficient and begin the problem-solving process again. The downside is that this can cause hurt feelings and animosity in the workplace because of the development of cliques and feelings of being left out. The second of the trio, The Orienteer, is vital because of their steering abilities in the dynamic. Without this, the group can become sidetracked by unimportant issues, lose sight of why they are there, or even become bogged down by the diversity of the group in general.
Those in managerial roles that are first-rate often assume the orienteer role with their employees. According to J. Miller, "Employees need to know what they are expected to do, and they need to have the room to execute the details in a way that makes the most sense to them" (J. Miller, 2006). The top notch manager will be able to direct his employees, yet still empower them. Finally, there is The Energizer. This person may be arguably the most important of the three.
Think about how many sports teams have won victories in seemingly impossible underdog situations, all because one or two people were able to get them "fired up" and keep them that way to see the game through. One can see this take one of several forms. There is the coach. This person is able to encourage and excite team' members with pep talks and quiet, private words of encouragement. There is the cheerleader, who is always upbeat and encouraging. Lastly, there is the captain or the one who leads by example.
This person is often compared to a steadfast warrior' who outwardly gives 110% all the time even if they are hurting or have serious doubts about being able to accomplish the task at hand. In the workplace, this will be the team member who never has a bad word for anyone, the person who always has his or her tasks completed on time or early and is willing to help others that may be struggling. In the article Empowerment and Professional Pratice it states, "Ultimately, the goal of all learning is a continued development of employees and in their capabilities" (I. Mabbot, 2006).
People often have self doubt in difficult situations, and the energizer can be a huge help in lifting them back up and keeping their feet on the path. Managers often assume this role with their employees. "The authentic leader is someone whose character drives the success of the organization. These leaders are more interested in empowering their teams than power, prestige, and money" (S. Williams, 2005). These people are also relationship builders that develop strong relationships with their employees, which in turn produce a greater level of motivation (E. de Nijs, 2006).
As one can see, there are many roles that can be played within the team dynamic. However, there are definitely three that stand out above the rest as being highly important to the team accomplishing its goals. Any team that is going to succeed will need The Initiator, The Energizer, and The Orienteer or risk failure.
References Benne, K. and Sheats, P. (1948). Functional Roles of Group Members. Journal of Social Issues, Spring 1948, p. 41-49.
De Nijs, E. (2006). GRACE at Work. p.47-49.
Kreitner-Kinicki. (2003). Organizational Behavior, Sixth Edition, 424-425. The McGraw-Hill Companies.
Mabbot, I. (2006). Public Health-Power, Empowerment and Professional Practice. Nursing Standard, p. 36-36.
Williams, S. (2005). Authentic Leadership. Business Book Review Library, p. 22
Miller, J. (Jan/Feb 2006). Attend to the talent. CA Magazine, p. 49-50.