“Four Player” Retrospective Exercise to Enable Better Business Outcomes
It takes many different mindsets and behaviors to make a team hum. I am appreciating a view of collaborative behaviors – The Kantor Four Player Model – developed by David Kantor (as part of his work on Structural Dynamics), and am finding it useful as a way to hold up a mirror to a team that is interested in understanding and improving their communication.
You may have heard of Kantor’s four behavior models, or roles:
No one role of Kantor’s is “better than another.” In fact, all four roles are necessary for a team to operate with efficacy. Furthermore, folks may shift roles from moment to moment during the course of a single interaction.
It’s useful to know that people on a team often show up with one of the four as their default behavior – leveraging the strengths of that style, while blissfully unaware of its downsides. (Or perhaps just expressing the dark side.) Low and behold, they are surprised by the conflicts and communication problems that result from their obliviousness of other people’s perception of them, or if another team member tries to take on the same role.
In this post, I offer an exercise that helps team members to:
- Become a better observer of self
- Begin to overcome default patterns of behavior and interaction
- Appreciate the diversity and capabilities of all the roles of Kantor’s four-player model
- Develop ways of listening, understanding, and communicating
All of this, when sustained, leads to better outcomes – for the team, the system they operate in, and ultimately the organization itself.
What’s Your “Thing”?
As mentioned above, people naturally behave differently in different situations, however, they often have a propensity towards a single way of “showing up,” one they are most comfortable with. Their “thing.” (See Immunity to Change.)
Having each team member identify their tendency towards one of the four roles as well as understanding the light and dark sides of that type of behavior can be powerful.
Expanding the field of view by having the team look at each individuals’ inclination and you might just help a team see why they habitually get stuck.
“You’ve got to know what your ‘thing’ is, and you’ve got to call it a ‘thing,’ whether it’s meanness, nastiness, un-forgiveness, arrogance, ego, resistance, rebelliousness or defiance. Everybody’s got a ‘thing,’ and once you call your ‘thing’ a ‘thing,’ we can give it a place to be or dismiss it.” – Iyanla Vanzant ℅ ACI
A View of the Roles of Kantor’s Four Player Model
I’ve assembled a view of Kantor’s four behavior models, recurring patterns of language, behavior, and conversational patterns. (Culled from a variety of sources… errors and omissions are my own doing…)
Dark or Shadow Side
Limiting Fears & Motivators
|Without movers, there is no direction.||
|Without followers, there is no completion||
|Without opposers, there is no correction||
|Without bystanders, there is no perspective.||
Game Play – Exploring New Behaviors
- Run a collaborative exercise (your choice – some suggestions below) in which all team members switch away from their “go-to” role – allowing them to explore new points of view and ways forward to better team dynamics.
- Each member has identified their default way of showing up.
- Here’s a link to the Kantor Institute’s baseline instrument (with options for individual- as well as team-assessments.)
- Collaborative gameplay materials (depends on the game…) E.g.:
- “Plan a party” improv game – (a variation on “the yes, and” standard…) – Great for distributed teams
- Spaghetti marshmallow challenge (A classic) – IRL only… haven’t figured out a virtual version, yet.
- Build something with legos (Cynefin game is a good one…) – again IRL
- Keep Collaborating and Nobody Explodes (Also works for distributed teams)
- Decks of Kantor four-player model cards – one team member (Here’s a print-ready PDF – Uses Avery Business Card Stock, 10 up on a sheet) – one of these days I’ll build a Miro.com version…
- Whiteboard with a summary of the four roles, similar to:
- Explain the details of the collaborative game of choice
- Explain that the team will be exploring various behavior modes during the game
- Describe in brief Kantor’s four-player model
- The four roles and their primary functions.
- Optional: Discuss the bright/dark sides… (I prefer to not do this, and let the team discover those during gameplay)
- Before starting the game of choice, have each team member share the results of their individual 4-player survey – their default way of showing up. (Perhaps have them pin the corresponding card from their deck to their shirt front.)
- Run the collaborative exercise instructing the players that they can only use one of their non-default behaviors
- They get to choose which one (silently)
- Participants do not share at the outset the non-default role they’ve chosen.
- Let the mayhem begin!
Circle up the wagons, and work through the following lines of inquiry:
- “Guess which role I was playing!” – have everyone guess each others’ role of choice
- What were the verbal and non-verbal clues as to which role someone was playing?
- During gameplay, was there representation of all four roles?
- If one role was missing (i.e., no one chose it during the game), what happened?
- How effective was the team during the game with the roles that showed up?
- Are all four roles present in the teams’ “Default Modes”?
- How did/do the four roles of the model complement one another?
- How did/do the roles “butt heads?”
- What are the potential “dark sides” of each of the four roles?
- Brainstorm/post-it notes to the collaboration board
- In what situations could a specific role be necessary? (e.g., chaos/mover)
- Optional: if there’s time, run the gameplay again, we each individual choosing a different (non-default) role.
This experiment might be the equivalent of buying a scale for folks who want to shed a few pounds: Useful only if they commit to a regular program of exercise.
Spend the balance of the debrief time helping the team to develop/refine agreements at both the individual (I) level, as well as the team (we) level.
- Where has the team been getting stuck, and how might they experiment in the future with the four roles to resolve those impediments?
- What happens in times of stress, when the stakes are high? (Softball question… people almost always resort to their default mode)
- What new behaviors might need to be developed on the team (both individually and as a group)?
- What existing behaviors are appreciated and might be amplified?
- The AWE question: And what else?
Brainstorm and commit to candidates for action that, for example, will help the team:
- More effectively share points of view
- Raise a flag if the dark side of a role is showing up
- Holler if a role is missing from a conversation
As Simon from the Agile Coaching Institute wrote:
Working groups often have a certain quality or ’thing’ slowing them down, repeatedly interrupting their flow, stealing their energy. Coach your teams to see this as part of their collective so they can be conscious to it, name it, and ultimately choose what to do with it. ~ Simon
By coaching a team towards improved dynamics and communication patterns, you’ll help them deepen their connections, improve their collective performance and ultimately achieve more desirable business outcomes.