Team Building Roles are those based upon relationships. It is the Power of Influence.

In keeping with the sports metaphor, there are at least six Team Building Roles that an effective SuperVisor will play:

Team Building Roles of a SuperVisor

Coach
Referee
Scorekeeper
Cheerleader
Team Player
Water Boy

Coach

The coach is the mentor and the director of operations. He has the Super Vision – the ability to see the big picture, to know the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and the strategic vision to direct the plays. He sees things the players themselves may not be able to see and leads the team accordingly. He hopes that the team players will get the big picture, and it’s his duty to try to pass it on to them, but he can’t count on it. They may not yet have the maturity to see things from a larger perspective.

Referee

The referee sets the boundaries and enforces the rules. As long as a player is in-bounds and abiding by the rules of the game (policy), he can play freely within that framework. But if he goes out of bounds or violates policy, the referee has to call foul and assess a warning or a penalty. If the offense is bad enough, he may remove the player from the game. SuperVisors do this, too. But the key is to clearly define the rules and the boundaries, then give your “players” as much freedom to play the game as possible.

Scorekeeper

Feedback is essential to good performance. A player needs to be able to look at the scoreboard during the game to see how the team is doing. But the feedback has to be immediate – not at the end of the game and certainly not at the end of the season. There’s nothing inherently wrong with annual evaluations, although the benefits of annual evaluations are being challenged more and more. But if that is the ONLY feedback you are giving during the year, your players will be demotivated.

Take at look what happens to morale when annual evaluation time rolls around. We have been taught that because employees want constructive feedback, because they like being told about their short-comings and recommendations for improvement, morale should soar. But generally it is just the opposite. An effective SuperVisor gives constructive feedback on an almost daily basis to keep the morale and motivation of the team high. As we will see in the Dynamic of Change, morale and performance are intricately linked together.

Cheerleader

As hard as it might be for some of you to imagine yourselves in mini-skirts and pom-poms, your role is also to cheer the team on – to celebrate the victories of the team and encourage the players to peak performance. My Chief of Staff, Barney Barnes, used to call himself the CEO at the Sheriff’s Office – the Chief Encouragement Officer – because he understood the importance of this role.

Think about a football game where a team member fumbles the ball. The cheerleaders don’t blast him publicly for losing possession. They regroup and yell “Go defense!” Now, it’s the coach’s role to deal with the problem of the fumble. But here’s the key as it relates to supervision and leadership: resist beating your players up for well-intentioned mistakes. Ask yourself, “Did he INTEND to fumble the ball?” Hopefully not. If the fumble was intentional, you have a ‘hole ‘nuther problem that needs to be dealt with through progressive discipline (which we will explore later in the Dynamic Leadership series when we get to the Dynamic of Discipline). If the fumble was a well-intentioned mistake then the player should be restored and the error corrected for the future just like we discussed in the Organizational Role of Risk-Taker.

Team Player

Every now and then, a good SuperVisor needs to get out on the playing field. Not ALL the time, but SOME of the time. If you are out there ALL the time, then why am I paying you extra? Remember the mission statement for a SuperVisor: your job is to “Accomplish pre-determined objectives through OTHERS.”

But from time to time, show your players that you are not afraid to get back in the game and help them out. It might be performing something small like directing traffic at a wreck scene, backing them up on a car stop, or shagging an alarm call. But there is something powerful and encouraging about seeing the leader out there on the playing field. I always made it a point to show up unexpectedly in the field and find a way to help or encourage a deputy.  However, the higher you are on the organizational ladder, the less time you will have to get out on the field. First-line SuperVisors should be out there the most, but higher-level SuperVisors must not neglect this role.

Water Boy

For years, I taught Dynamic Leadership with only five Team Building Roles. Then it dawned on me that I may have overlooked one of the most important ones. The Water Boy takes care of the needs of the team – he is the servant.

This principle of leadership was driven home to me during a 36-hour manhunt for a bank robber who had “posted a bush bond” in a big swamp along the Edisto River near Dorchester County. It was hot, South Carolina Summertime and I took the responsibility to take water to my men who were on the perimeter. My intent was not to do anything special. I was just trying to meet a need and be useful. But one of my lieutenants later told me that I had taught him a powerful lesson in leadership by taking him a bottle of water. After that, I made it a point to ALWAYS be the one to take the water, pick up the pizza, or otherwise try to meet the needs of my team.

If you think about it, servant leaders have always been the ones that we look up to throughout history. Consider George Washington or Stonewall Jackson, two of my favorites. In fact, the greatest Leader who ever lived said, “I came not to be served, but TO serve” and, “He who would be the greatest among you must become the servant of all.”

An effective leader will play all of these Team Building Roles on a regular basis. You are, at various times, the Coach, the Referee, the Score Keeper, the Cheer Leader, the Team Player, and the Water Boy. The one thing you are NOT is a spectator. So get in the game!


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  1. […] upward slope as your team accomplishes more and more of its pre-determined objectives. Your Team-Building Roles are the key to encouraging your people during times of […]

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