One of my favourite frameworks for thinking about team work was published in a book called Dialogue by Bill Isaacs.
The model suggests that if a group is to make progress it needs to have 4 distinct roles handled effectively.
Firstly it need Movers. These are people who float ideas, lead initiatives and generally make things happen. Spontaneous, action orientated and often extrovert – happy to put their ideas out there. In a community I often think that these Movers are akin to entrepreneurs.
But a productive group also needs skilled Followers. These are people who can take the energy and ideas of the Movers and build on them, add to them, take of the rough edges, put in the hard work and generally get the job done. They are close to what Mike Southon calls cornerstones. People who help turn the vision into reality.
But in addition to Movers and Followers a productive group also needs effective Opposers. These are people who are going to check the facts, collect the evidence and if there is an objection to be raised, they will raise it. Constructively, powerfully and effectively. They will skilfully play the role of the Devil’s Advocate and if there is a weakness or a fault-line in the thinking they WILL find it.
And finally a productive group, or I would argue and enterprising community, needs Bystanders. They stand back from the cut and thrust of the idea and its development but will instead provide perspective, an overview and perhaps some historical context. They also help to manage the group process, ensure that deadlines are met and that resources are available when they are needed most. They may well ‘chair’ the conversations.
People can play more than one role in the model, but in an effective group or community all 4 roles are played well.
Yet we seem to be obsessed really with just one of them. The Movers. The Entrepreneurs. We spend a lot of time and money developing the entrepreneur, but very little time developing people to play the other three roles.
One of the marks of the enterprising community for me is that it knows how to engage its Movers and Entrepreneurs and equip them with the Followers, Opposers and Bystanders that they need to really build a successful project, whether it is business start-up, a community project or a campaign.
We often rely on advisers or mentors to play these roles. But when an entrepreneur works with a group of their peers, drawn from their communities and markets who know how to follow, oppose and bystand skillfully, I can guarantee that they will get much more value.
And they will also win lots of advocates for them and their work.