How to lead the activity:
1. Give the brief context of the tool for how you plan to use it (Team-building? Strategy? Personal reflection?).
Explain that you will be describing four different roles. As you are describing them, tell people to reflect on if that applies for them.
2. Describe the roles
It is best if you can avoid reading it as a list, but instead describe it in your own words. Explain the four roles in a number of different ways. For example, possible language might be:
- East • People in this role generate lots of ideas and see the big picture. They look at a situation and wonder what else might happen. They are rarely at a loss for a new idea. They might be quickly sidetracked with the new possibilities, or overwhelmed. This can result in losing time. They like thinking about the future and experimenting.
- South • People from the South are relationship people. While the East people see ideas, the South people see relationships. They are value-driven, using the relationships around them to accomplish tasks. They are supportive, feeling-based, and tend to see the health of the group around them as most important. Because they are so feeling-based, they may have trouble saying no to requests and may internalize blame or accept responsibility even if they are not responsible. Again, the relationship people.
- West • Where East is idea generation, and South is relationship, West is into data and information. West people want to see all the information before making a decision, weighing all the sides of an issue. They use data and logic and are often practical and thorough in tasks. Because of their emphasis, they can be seen as entrenched and even stubborn, or sometimes indecisive because they get so mired in details.
- North • And finally North, sometimes called the warrior. They like to act, and enjoy rising to challenges. They are assertive, active and tend to sometimes act before thinking. They carry a sense of urgency and are not always tactful. They can lose patience with others and may try to be in control, or to move ahead without the support of the group.
As you describe each position, physically signal where that position is in the room. You will next be moving people to that place in the room.
Don’t give people the handout at this stage. If you do, people will often focus too much on details, saying “This line applies to me. This line does not.” Instead you want people to get the general feel of each team type.
3. Get people moving
Answer any questions, but quickly get people moving into the four groups. Give them the first task: to talk about what it’s like in that position. This helps them understand that group.
Some individuals may show some resistance saying things like, “But I’m all those things.” Encourage them to find a spot that best fits them. They can listen in on others’ conversations if that helps. Sometimes people will create Southeast or Northwest positions. That is fine. Stand with any people who are alone so they can have a dialogue (or encourage them to converse with a nearby group: for instance, encourage the Southeast to chat with the South group but share in the large group from their own perspective).
4. Large group dialogue
Give a question for the small group to answer. Then facilitate a dialogue with the large group. Give each group a chance to speak. Repeat this a couple of times with appropriate questions. For example:
- What do you like about your role?
- Either: What do others find annoying about your role? or What annoys you about the other roles?
- What would help you work better with the other roles?
During this conversation, notice the styles surfacing even in how people talk. When the North people go first, make note of that aloud. Or when the Souths ask permission from the other groups to go next, acknowledge that. Or when the Wests make a list… Or when the East ask, “Can we just add one more thing?” Each time this is a chance to help people internalize the concept and see how it works.
Stay light and encourage humor, especially as groups share what annoys them about the other groups. People laughing helps them learn and remember.
After the sharing, people need a chance to think about how they might use this. If people got it, often the remainder of the group meeting or workshop will include references and jokes about the roles. Encourage it!
You may want to share stories. Two examples:
- In a board meeting, a religious social change group did this. Out of a group of thirty, about five were South and ten North. The remainder were all East. The sole two people in the West were the staff. The facilitator gave extra attention to expression from the West, including the sense of isolation and frustration with keeping the East people in check. After much conversation, the group decided to include more West roles in their group.
- A coalition asked for a nonviolent direct action trainer to work with them. When they did this tool, there were no Norths! “Why?” asked the trainer. Slowly, members talked about how the more rowdy, agitative members had been subtly –– and sometimes not so subtly –– encouraged to leave. “They always wanted to be confrontative,” said a coalition leader. “Well,” announced the trainer, “without North energy you won’t be able to sustain a direct action campaign. Rather than continuing this training, we are going to focus on whether you want to reach out to the past groups or how to bring in other groups that bring that energy. Because you can’t win a direct action campaign without North energy.”
Finally, give them a chance to share in small groups or, if the group is a working group you might want to keep them in the large-group. If the group is relatively balanced they might even pair up with a role different from their own and share how they could work better together.