November 4th, 2023

As business coaches, one of the things we work on with our clients is not only helping them find and retain top talent, but also helping them coach their team to help increase productivity and growth within the business. And one of the ways we do that is we help them learn how to distinguish their employees by two different categories. And while neither one is good or bad, it does affect the way that you interact with, train, and retain those team members. So today I want to talk a bit more about role players versus growth players, and how you can use that knowledge on your own team.

Role player

So how do you spot a role player? By their behavior. When you put a role player in a new, ambiguous situation, they’re clearly uncomfortable with it, and they don’t like it. They’re resistant to it. You ask a role player to take on a brand new function, and they might say, oh, really? Sure? You can just see they don’t want to. Often they’ll say, “if you need me to, I’ll do it, but I’d rather not.”

You can also spot a role player by how they respond to feedback. A role player avoids it, is uncomfortable with it, might get defensive about it, and pushes it away. They do not want the feedback or they struggle with the concept of it.

Growth player

Growth players, however, like to take on new and ambiguous situations, and they’re very comfortable with being uncomfortable. They want to stretch themselves and expand. Or even if they don’t like the feeling of discomfort that comes from growing, they value it. They want the challenge.

When it comes to feedback, they are hungry for it. They search it out. They’re omnivorous about it. They want to use it to get better. They take it to heart and take ownership of it.

Let’s say you give a growth person the following feedback:

When you did the Sandhurst project, you didn’t lay out the expectations in the proper way, and as a result, they expected us to get them that proposal within 48 hours, when you and I both know it takes somewhere between five and seven business days to do a really good proposal. So in the future, please make sure you set really good expectations with them.”

A growth player might respond to that by saying, “You know what? You’re right. I’ll do better in the future. Thank you for the input.”

A role player says, “Yeah, but this… you didn’t understand this and that,” and they start defending against it, as opposed to taking ownership, embracing it, and using it to improve.

Embracing the differences

Now, does that mean that you should only hire growth players? Absolutely not. There are plenty of positions within your business that need the dependability and structure that a role player provides. But some key positions require growth players. Once you are able to distinguish between the two, you can look at the role you’re trying to fill, and plan accordingly.