Tip #26 An Easy to Use Tool for Effective Boardroom Discussions

Posted on: November 1, 2017
Tags: Tips for effective boards

For this Tip for Effective Boards I would like to share excerpts from an article by Athens Kolias, with her permission.  Athens is a friend and colleague from San Francisco, California who consults on project management and board governance (Athens@order4orgs.com).  In her article, Athens describes David Kantor's Four-Player Model, a simple and easy to use tool, that can be used for understanding and improving group process in the boardroom.

In her article entitled "What Kind of Player Are You in Conversations," Athens writes:

"The Kantor Model says that in any conversation, people organically reflect the unspoken needs of the group and situation, through filling at least one of the four Player roles (1): 





Initiate ideas

Voicing: your true voice; encourage others' true voice


Complete what's said; support what's happening

Listening: as a participant


Challenge what is being said

Respecting: the coherence of others' views


Provide perspective on what is happening

Suspending: your certainties

What's interesting is that all four roles are needed for an effective dialogue, and in fact, we move in and out of each role seamlessly without thinking.

A healthy conversation and team, according to Kantor, consists of all of these roles and actions being used in balance.  None is omitted.  All of the people in the conversation are free to occupy any of the four positions at any time....

  • Without Movers there is no Direction
  • Without Followers there is no Completion
  • Without Opposers there is no Correction
  • Without Bystanders there is no Perspective

... We need someone to drive the conversation, and someone to fill in the blanks.  We need someone to step back and provide a broader perspective, as much as we need someone to look at all sides of the issue and make sure we are not forgetting something.  Absence of any of the Player Roles equates to communications and decision-making risk, evidenced by a narrower perspective, and failure to consider alternatives. (2) ....

So how do we ensure we are taking leadership roles in the way we have our conversations?  By cultivating the skillsets of Listening, Suspending, Respecting and Voicing, within the Four-Player model, we can shift towards a higher quality of interactions with others. (2)

Next time you are in a group conversation, look at who is filling which role during that conversation.  Notice the balance that occurs when all four roles are present.  Notice what dysfunctions creep in when any of the Player roles are missing?  You might share the Kantor Four-Player model with your project team or your Board of Directors as a training exercise, to bring collective awareness towards purposeful interactions.

Moving from ad hoc or unconscious behaviors to systematized models of behavior (whether project management or governance principles or communications intelligence) we become aware of a deeper meaning to our actions.  We look beyond the casual conversations towards the transformational dialogues which can change our world." 

Footnotes for Athens' article 

  • http:collectiveleadership.weebly.com
  • Isaacs, W. (1999).  Dialogic Leadership.  The systems thinker, 10 (1), 1-5.

So, in your boardroom discussions, check periodically to make sure all four roles are being played.  Also, as an individual board member, identify which role or roles you tend to play.  Strive to develop comfort with all four roles.

The Policy Governance® system provides a foundation for effective group process.  For more information about the Policy Governance® system, please go to www.BoardsOnCourse.com/policy-governance.


Policy Governance® is the registered service mark of Dr. John Carver. Registration is only to ensure accurate description of the model rather than for financial gain. The model is available free to all with no royalties or license fees for its use. The authoritative website for Policy Governance is www.carvergovernance.com.