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The Four Contributors of a High Performing Team

(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)

Have you ever noticed that you find certain aspects of your role at work energizing… and other aspects absolutely exhausting? You look over at your coworker happily working away on the thing that makes you want to pour a stiff drink and wonder… How does she do it?

The logic puzzle here might be simpler than you think. Let’s take a minute to look at who you are, and how you fit into the ecosystem that is your workplace.


In every successful work ecosystem, you’ll find a combination of four types of role players: creators, builders, sustainers and disruptors. All four bring unique perspectives and offerings. The trick is to find the harmony that ensures each person is actually playing to their strengths.


Creators are the “Big Idea” people. These bright-eyed dreamers burst on the scene with a vision to create a start-up, add a new business line or take the whole damn company into new and unknown territory. They aren’t sure exactly how to get the thing done, but they see the need and they know how to inspire.


The builder (that’s me at my core) takes nebulous ideas or the early success of the creator and expands on it. Think of an architect with the skills of a tradesman… this person knows how to put up the scaffolding so the dream becomes reality and the value proposition goes up. Builders build, grow and have Ciara’s song “Level Up” as the backdrop to their days.


The sustainer does whatever it takes to keep things purring like a Chevy. The sustainer ensures everything runs smoothly and nothing falls through the cracks. They are highly operationalized and thrive on finding ways to be more efficient. Think project managers and CFO’s. If you hear someone say, “the devil is in the details,” you may have met a sustainer.


Disruptors are the most misunderstood and unappreciated members of many teams, but their input is invaluable. They’re the person who comes to mind when you hear the words “challenger” and “skeptic.” The disruptor pokes the bear—and may even seem to enjoy the reaction. They’re the one who suggests you burn it all to the ground and start over.

I know…who wants that person on their team, you ask? Well, you do. Because they don’t fall prey to groupthink. They aren’t stuck in a rut because of sunk costs. Disruptors are unafraid to challenge the status quo and often instigate a pivot at just the right moment.


Now, many of us don’t fit neatly into one package. For example, because I have the unique opportunity to meet and learn from people across industry, new ideas light up my brain all the time. I’m constantly bringing my team new paths to follow. But my comfort zone isn’t as a creator, it’s as a builder. Fortunately, I have true sustainers and creators on my team who fill in my gaps and allow me to do what I do best.


It can be intimidating, exhausting, and dare I say even boring to be tapped for one role and secretly desire to be in another. It’s like playing ice hockey in sneakers – you’re in the game, but can’t find your stride.

In my coaching practice, I often run across creators and builders who find themselves sustaining the success they helped achieve. And while the success is commendable, they now feel stuck and unchallenged because they aren’t creating or building in the same way. When I remind them of who they are at their core, a light bulb goes off and new energy gets unlocked again. It’s at this point that the real work of finding a new challenge begins.

So, if you’re feeling stuck, let’s dig in and take a closer look:

  • Who are you? A creator, builder, sustainer or a disruptor?
  • Are you honoring that role? Are you offering the highest and best use of your talents in your current position?
  • What can change? Are there ways to lean into what works for you as a creator, builder, sustainer or a disruptor? Can you delegate that which does not? Or perhaps a different role might suit you better?
  • What about your team? Could a discussion about team dynamics alleviate mismatched expectations?

Don’t underestimate this exercise. Stepping back and answering these questions honestly could change everything about how you see yourself and how you’ll choose to move in your career going forward. Creators, builders, sustainers… even those damn disruptors… we need them all, but we need them in harmony.


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