Box of Crayons Blog


What the #CoachingHaiku Contest Taught Me about Team Roles

One of the seven essential coaching questions in The Coaching Habit is “What was most useful for you?” Wouldn’t it be great if we could all sit down and ask one another this question after every team project?

Recognizing what worked and what didn’t — and where there was friction between individuals — is critical to team learning and future interactions between team members.

Often, tension between team members is actually tension between roles. Not between the people themselves.

What role do you play? (And whom are you driving crazy by taking on that role?)

Les McKeown, author of The Synergist, has a great thought process when it comes to describing different roles and leadership styles that exist in the workplace. He talks about the visionary, the operator and the processor.

Visionaries like to come up with big ideas and don’t care much for “trivial” details. That pretty much sounds like me. And, although I’d like to think I inspire my team with my ideas, I know that they can also send my team into panic mode.

Operators are essential in getting things done. According to Les, operators are the ones who take the big ideas from the visionaries and turn them into tasks that work toward the common goal. They like to move — and move quickly!

Processors focus on systems and processes — they create order. They ask for details, analytics and timelines (things I’ve often not thought of myself after launching a new idea). Their logical focus, consistency and attention to detail are always needed in order for teams to accomplish anything.

Let me share a practical example.

Coaching HaikuCurrently we are running a #CoachingHaiku contest. It’s going well — we’ve received hundreds of entries, the individual components of the project are moving forward as they should, and members of various teams are effectively managing it on top of their usual tasks.

All in all, even though we’ve still got a few days to go, I’d rate the contest as a success, and I think most people involved would agree.

That doesn’t mean it has all been smooth sailing, or that there wasn’t resistance in its planning stages.

Box of Crayons’ #CoachingHaiku contest is the result of collaboration between our team members, stemming from one of my typical “Let’s do this!” ideas that sent the operators and processors scrambling.

The operators, as usual, jumped into action to get things done — even if they resisted the initial idea — and started to tackle the various tasks and get everything moving.

Naturally, the processors wanted to know the structured details, and who can blame them? After all, without the details, the contest wouldn’t happen. The processors assessed the risk, analytics and so on to decide if my visionary idea could work and how to make it work — they hammered out the process, and then the operators moved on the tasks.

Without the operator, the quick tasks wouldn’t get done. Without the processor, the project as a whole wouldn’t get done. Without the visionary, there would have been no idea to turn into a project. It’s easy to forget that we all need one another to accomplish our Great Work.

It’s important to remember that without these various leadership styles, Box of Crayons might not have excelled in the ways it has — this #CoachingHaiku contest is the perfect reminder of that.

With our team of visionaries, processors, and operators, I’ve seen an idea move from concept to action to completion, and that’s a testament of how well roles can work together when you acknowledge their existence and the distinctive skills involved.

And, let’s not forget, the #CoachingHaiku contest has also been great fun. (Don’t forget to submit your haiku before March 24!)

One Response to What the #CoachingHaiku Contest Taught Me about Team Roles

  • Shai

    I enjoyed this.Thanks for a nice read. I’m curious to know if these roles ever overlap and if they do, what happens? Should they?

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