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Working in diverse teams
Working in diverse teams

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2.1 Key functional roles

If a team is going to function successfully, what functional roles need to be assigned to people?

Image of two people holding large jigsaw puzzle pieces and preparing to slot them.
Figure 3 A successful team includes different people, each with different roles, coming together
  • Team leader or chairperson

    A team leader of chairperson is needed for chairing meetings, clarifying the aim of the meeting and its agenda. They may introduce each item on the agenda and guide the discussion, summarising the key points from any discussion and any decisions taken. In some teams this person may have a key role in decision making and the allocation of tasks and activities.

  • Record-keeper/note taker

    All teams need someone who takes notes in a meeting and records what has taken place and been agreed on. This could be a role which is assigned to one person always, but equally it could be rotated at each meeting. The key duty of this team member is to record any decisions taken and agreed on in the meeting. It is important to record who is going to do which task and the timescale for this. The note taker will also record the date of the next meeting, who was present and any apologies received from people unable to attend.

  • Document controller

    Most meetings will refer to some documents or have to produce reports periodically. The role of this person is to take responsibility for the documents in terms of filing and sending out to team members. If this is a large task then this may be a separate person in the team, but it could also be a role taken on by the team leader in a smaller team.

  • Timekeeper

    This person has responsibility of ensuring that the meeting is on schedule and to check progress on actions agreed. Again this role could be undertaken by the team leader in a small team.

  • Treasurer

    If there are finances associated with the team function then this may be a role which is assigned to one team member. They will have responsibility for checking and banking any funds as well as providing reports on accounts to the team.

Did you identify any of these roles in Activity 2? If some of these are roles which you did not think of but you could identify in your team examples go back and add them to your table now.

What can happen without role allocation?

Why is it important for us to pay attention to the different roles that people play in a team? What would happen if a team did not have people who were identified with different functions? Would it really matter?

If these functional roles are not given due attention, then the team can drift aimlessly. Things that need to get done won’t get done on time and arguments are more likely to happen. Ultimately the goal is unlikely to be achieved successfully. Therefore you need to decide who is going to do each of the main functional roles.

Functional roles in a team can be allocated (as in the example of the School Parents Association Jane is part of where key roles were elected by parents). Alternatively, people may take roles that they are familiar with or roles could be rotated. The important thing here for the achievement of the team goal is that the responsibility for each functional role is taken by someone in the team. In a small team it may be that one person covers more than one role.

Next you will look at the different behavioural roles in a team, specifically looking at Belbin’s 9 team roles.