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I.  The Right Team Members

 In Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong   Carl E. Larson and Frank M. J. Lafasto explain that it is imperative to select the right people is the underlying message of this chapter.  People make up teams, and competent people are needed to create a competent team.

   There are two types of competencies in teams:  technical competencies and personal competencies.  Both of these need to be present in every team for it to function.

A.  Technical Competencies

     Technical competencies revolve around the technical skill levels of the team members.  When selecting team members, there are two questions that need to be answered:  1) What are the critical technical skills?; and 2) What is the balance of these skill among members? Rather than opting for identical skills for every team member, a good balance of people is important.

B.  Personal Competencies

      Personal competencies are the qualities, skills, and abilities of members that allow people to function as a team.   Successful teams take the time to identify and promote the required personal competencies.


C.  Team Selection Criteria

     In selecting a team, Larson and LaFasto recommend that the selection of members should be done relative to the team structural model presented in the previous chapter.  The three types of teams, the problem resolution team, the creative team, and the tactical team, each have their own requirements for team members.


Type of Team


Primary Characteristic

Member Selection Criteria

Problem Resolution Team



street smart

people sensitive

high integrity (trust)


Creative Team



independent thinkers


tenacious - not easily discouraged


Tactical Team




action oriented

sense of urgency


D.  Common Features of Competent Team Members

    Although each type of team structure requires different talents of the team members, there are three features in common for all competent team members.  First, the members must be talented, with the essential skills and abilities for getting the job done.  Second, the team members must have a strong desire to contribute to the team.  Third, the team members must have the capability of collaborating effectively.  This means that the members must work well with others.  Larson and LaFasto write that it is a job of the leader to remove people not capable of collaboration.

    By selecting the correct team members you get increased confidence, which can lead to a "self-correcting team," with the ability to adjust to adversity and challenges.  Selecting competent team members will also lead to respect among team members.


II.  The Value of Variety in Team Membership

   "If managers have a narrow range of behaviors, one way that they can expand their flexibility (without changing their own behavior) is by carefully choosing the people they gather around them." say Hersey and Blanchard (297).  Team members should complement the manager's style, not replicate it (Hersey and Blanchard 162).  When a company must select a work force, they should look for workers equipped with, or capable of acquiring, the competencies and values needed through an effective selection technique.   Wellins suggests a selection system that meets these criteria:   1) identifies a good candidates; 2) is legally defensible; 3) is seen as fair; 4) is efficient (Wellins 26). 


III. Types/Roles of Team Members in Literature

An early work on types  of group members was Karen Horney's Our Inner Conflicts, published in 1945.  Horney classifies group members by their orientation with the group:  1) going toward, 2) going against with conflict, and 3) going away with alienation. 

Another early study of "Pattern Variables in Roles" was presented by Parson in 1951.  This includes emotionally charged roles (e.g. friendships) and emotionally neutral roles (e.g. business) (Schein 1992: 135).

Many of the works on team building list several roles of team members.  The central idea is that a team is most effective if there are a variety people filling these roles, and that there should be a balance between roles.  For example, the Team Leadership Seminar by Seminars International included eight roles crucial to team success:  1) initiator/creator; 2) contributor, 3) elaborator /clarifier;4) supporter; 5)  expresser (emotions); 6) negotiator; 7) summarizer; 8)  and leader.  Dee lists these types of team members (67):  1) task leader; 2) social-emotional leader, 3) tension releaser, 4) information provider, 5) central negative, 6) questioner, 7) silent observer, 8) active listener, 9) recorder, and 10) self-centered follower.  Parker lists four team member types: contributor, collaborator, communicator, and challenger.   Aubrey  lists another four team member types:  1) party animals; 2) plodders; 3) stars; and 4) firecrackers (Aubrey 72).  Francis and Young (Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building 28) list 1) core team members; 2) supportive team members; and 3) temporary team members.



IV. Role Definition/Clarification

a.  Role Relationships

Defining the roles of team members is important. Roles, accountability, and responsibility are intertwined in any organization, and in team based organizations it becomes important that everyone understands their role. 

Parsons (1951) defined roles as 1) emotionally charged, 2) emotionally neutral, 3) collectively oriented, and 4) collectively oriented. Interteam roles are ideally emotionally charged and collectively oriented .  By encouraging communication between team members this is possible.  It could lead to problems, however, if the members can't get along, for in an organization based on teams interpersonal conflicts impair productivity more than in situations where roles are emotionally neutral  and self-oriented

An early study by Allport (1961) shows four aspects of roles:

1.  Role expectations - what others think a role incumbent is responsible for and how he or she should perform that role.

2.  Role conception - what the role incumbent thinks his or her job is and how the role incumbent has been "taught" to do the job.

3.  Role acceptance - what the role incumbent is willing to do.

4.  Role behavior - what the role incumbent actually does.


The definition of "role" in the team setting is given by Francis and Young  (Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building 123):  "a role is an explicit definition of the contribution that a person makes to his or her team."  Roles should be clear, explain Francis and Young, through the definition of the concept of roles, a balance of roles, role negotiation, and role flexibility.

An appealing work on team roles appears in Team Building Activities (Pheiffer).  This article was based on Edgar H. Schein's "What to Observe in a Group" (1976).  The activity is titled "The Symbols Role Sheet,"  and includes a description of 14 team player roles.  Each role is defined and a graphic symbol (drawing) is given for each.  These are  1)  Clarifier; 2) Compromiser; 3) Consensus Taker; 4)  Encourager; 5)  Follower; 6)  Harmonizer; 7)  Information Seeker; 8)  Informer; 9)  Initiator; 10) Opinion Seeker; 11)  Orienter; 12)  Reality Tester; 13) Standard Tester; and 14)  Summarizer.  For example, the clarifier role is defined as "Interprets ideas or  suggestions; defines terms; clarifies issues before the team; clears up confusion."  Its symbol is a pair of glasses.   As a team building activity, members are asked to evaluate themselves on "how I see myself" and "how others see me."

    The baseball analogy is used by Tim Hildebrandt (1989).  He lists twelve roles from baseball (e.g. pitcher - starts the game, raises the issues, is excellent judge of character) and shows how they are useful in work teams.

   Peter Scholtes in The Team Handbook explains three aspects of team roles:  a team has formally designated roles (especially leader, facilitator, technical expert, and quality advisor); team members should understand which roles belong to one person and which are shared or switched; and everyone is involved in the team (6-12).





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