Going Virtual (Pt. 1): 4 Common Team Roles

By now, your team has likely moved to a completely remote environment. Gone are the days when teams and projects overlapped and bled into each other. You can no longer assume you’ll have the opportunity to discuss the project’s next steps when bumping into someone at the water cooler or lunch room. Being successful will require you to define projects, roles, responsibilities, timelines, and so on even more clearly.

Adopting 4 Roles. To better leverage each employee’s strengths in this dynamic environment, organizational research on global virtual work teams can provide some useful tips. Team members tend to adopt roles according to their task-social orientation, and each role offers an important, unique contribution


Challengers are low-social, high-task, and they tend to excel at raising the bar and holding others accountable, especially as deadlines approach. Resist the temptation to shut them down. It may not appear that they’re working hard throughout, but their ability to raise the bar and push others will be vitally important as deadlines near.


Encouragers are the high-social, low-task type who focus on engaging teammates and creating a caring, collaborative environment. This can be incredibly valuable as teams navigate through the stress of rapid change. But they shouldn’t over-use this strength. Merely “being supportive” may come off as disengaged or uninterested. Purely social “soft skills” are less tangible and noticeable in remote working relationships, and may be seen as less valuable. Instead, Encouragers can show they care by picking up slack for others and taking more noticeable ownership for ensuring team cohesion.


Pacesetters, who are high on both task and social, are driven to rally the team, solve problems, and personally ensure tasks are completed. On your team, defer to Pacesetters early. Allow them to establish processes and get the necessary balls rolling on specific task assignments.


Pragmatists tend not to over-emphasize either the task or social focus, but embody a blend of both. If you’re working with a Pragmatist, it’s worth the effort to seek out their involvement. Don’t get frustrated if they might not be as proactive as you’d like. You’ll find them surprisingly flexible and ready to jump in tasks to help the team.

When considering these common team roles, also remember that each person is a unique – yes, even messy – blend of characteristics – not able to be neatly categorized. Recognizing the unique talents and drivers of each team member is the first step toward leveraging them successfully. Need fresh insights to keep your remote team engaged and moving forward? Contact LWF today for ideas to help create a clear plan to incite growth and excite hope. In our next blog, we’ll discuss how to better recognize and adapt to a typical team’s dynamics.