Roles in a group
To ensure that your team makes continual progress there are some essential roles to consider. If no one does these roles the team can drift aimlessly. The following roles can be assigned to group members for the duration of a task, shared between members, or swapped at predetermined points in time.
A group needs a leader or coordinator, someone who at least will chair meetings and coordinate discussion. This person has responsibility for clarifying the aims of a meeting, its agenda, for introducing each topic for discussion, for summarising discussions, clarifying decisions and ensuring there is a person responsible for decisions that require actions. Download a Leadership checklist.
Secretary / Minute-taker
This person takes notes/minutes in meetings, recording what has been decided, who is doing what, when the next meetings are, and so forth. If the minute-taker is not sure of a decision made in a meeting they need to clarify with the group and ensure any notes are accurate. The notes/minutes from the meeting should be distributed to all team members as soon as possible after a meeting (preferably with 24 hours).
This person needs to follow-up with team members to ensure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. Chasing up to ensure all members undertake tasks in the agreed time-frame. This person should work between meetings and should report on progress at the beginning of each meeting.
Meetings mostly have a limited time in which to run, but lots of things to achieve. Unless your group is careful with time management agenda items may not be discussed, nor decisions made and actioned. A time frame for each item should be associated with an agenda, established by the meeting chair or agreed by members at the beginning of the meeting. The time keeper should warn group members when time for an item is elapsed and allow the group to decide whether more time is to spent, or move to the next discussion item. If more time is spent there should be some warning regarding the amount of time that will leave for other agenda items.
Other roles in a group
There are other roles in a group that need to be accepted by group members at different stages, but they are in addition to the four key roles above.
Other roles can relate to:
- creativity in meetings (idea generator, devil's advocate, mediator, expert ... see Running Good Meetings);
- creation of a document (writer, editor, proof reader, publisher ... see Writing together);
- preparation for a presentation (presenter, critical friend, audience ... see Presenting together).
'A group of students had four members called Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it but Nobody realised that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.'
(Gibbs, G. (1994) Learning in Teams: A Student Guide. Great Britain: Oxford Centre for Staff Development. p7)