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In a challenging environment, people revert to what they know – to those behavioural styles which come most naturally.

It's the reason why assessment centres apply time and other pressures – to see how people react under fire.

In a VUCA world, it's crucial to understand how your team is likely to react to difficult situations. To do this, you need a common language we can use to describe differences in why people behave and react as they do, so that individuals, teams and organisations can ensure that their business response is appropriate and measured.

Here is our guide to how each Team Role responds in a crisis.

Although each of us has a number of interacting Team Role strengths which influence our behaviours, we've distilled characteristics into each Team Role for ease of reference here.

Belbin Team Role: Implementer

Implementers (IMP) are likely to struggle the most with changing events which disrupt plans and threaten efficiency. However, as practical and reliable individuals, they are also invaluable in imposing order on the ensuing chaos. In order to make transitions more manageable for them, leave them out of the ideas phase and include them only when at the stage of formulating plans to move forward.

Belbin Team Role: Plant

When faced with a brick wall, Plants (PL) want to think around corners, offering imaginative solutions to problems. Their immense value is in thinking laterally and coming up with answers that no one else has considered. However, this only works if the Plant is focused on the problem in question and if the proposed solution is practicable and delivered in a timely fashion. Ensuring these parameters are firmly in place is the responsibility of the rest of the team – don’t leave it to the Plant!

Belbin Team Role: Resource Investigator

Resource Investigators (RI) also respond well to quickly-moving events. Natural communicators, they are most likely to have an ear to the ground, so can be crucial in obtaining the up-to-the-minute information the business needs. They are well-placed to maintain the business relationships on which we all rely, and are key to seeking out new opportunities, such as taking in-person offerings online. As enthusiastic individuals, Resource Investigators tend to remain upbeat and may struggle with isolation or if surrounded by those whose response is more pessimistic.

Belbin Team Role: Co-ordinator

Co-ordinators (CO) are likely to take events in their stride and focus on progress and restoring control. Since they’re conscious of priorities, they are a sound barometer of whether the team’s efforts and talents are being used in the right way. With a strong Co-ordinator at the helm, each person knows what they need to do. However, it isn’t all plain sailing. Co-ordinators are likely to face challenges in achieving consensus and ensuring that all voices are heard, whilst keeping forward momentum.

Belbin Team Role: Shaper

Shapers (SH) thrive in challenging situations. They work well under pressure and are adept at responding to rapidly-changing circumstances with decisive leadership. However, without other Team Roles balancing things out, they are likely to take immediate, forceful action to quash the threat. There is a risk that they might ignore Monitor Evaluators whose careful analysis slows the response time.

Belbin Team Role: Monitor Evaluator

Monitor Evaluators (ME) are important voices in a crisis, because they undertake careful thought and analysis before announcing a decision, considering all possible ramifications. Unlike others, they are not swayed by emotional considerations. However, immediate crises rarely afford them what they would consider adequate time to arrive at decisions, so they are likely to be uncomfortable if placed under considerable time pressure. This departure from their comfort zone is likely to manifest as pessimism. This is a way of guarding themselves against the likelihood of making strategic mistakes.

Belbin Team Role: Teamworker

Teamworkers (TW) can usually be found at the heart of a crisis, offering help and ensuring that others have what they need. However, they struggle with the responsibility of making difficult decisions, so it’s best if that kind of work can be handled by others in the team. They may also find it difficult to operate at physical distance from the rest of the team, since they’ll miss the social element of teamworking more than will other roles. This said, a Teamworker tends to track the team’s pulse, so whilst they might find the situation unsettling if others do, they are more than willing to adapt to whatever needs to be done. And if morale can be boosted along the way, so much the better!

Belbin Team Role: Completer Finisher

Completer Finishers (CF) may struggle if changes are to be rushed through, as they will feel under immense pressure to ensure that the details are correct. As a result, they are likely to suffer the most with anxiety and may respond to this by taking on a heavier workload and working all hours to meet their commitments. They need careful management to ensure that they are able to meet deadlines without too great a personal cost. This said, their adherence to the highest standards is important in a situation which can lead others to cut corners.

Belbin Team Role: Specialist

Specialists (SP) tend to respond by seeking to learn as much as possible about the situation in question. This may frustrate others who want to take immediate action, but the Specialist will want to ensure that expertise is at the heart of any given solution. In a crisis, their tendency for information-gathering may seem unfeeling or even ghoulish to others, but it is generally governed by the idea that knowledge is power when it comes to tackling problems. As with this Team Role behaviour more generally, the key to getting the best from the Specialist lies in the ability to extract key points without suffering from information overload.

How do you respond in a crisis? How do the rest of your team? Knowing our Belbin Team Role strengths helps us to understand our contributions, and that of our team. It also helps to predict when difficulties may occur and give you insight on how to avoid them.

The only way of finding out your Belbin Team Role strengths is to complete the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory and ask for feedback from your colleagues. Find out how to start your journey here.

If you manage a team why not take a look at our workshops, designed to help your team take that step towards high performance.

If you help teams, why not join our Belbin Accreditation course so you can gain the depth of knowledge and practical tools to position yourself as a certified Belbin expert.

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