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Does your team play by the rules?

There are any number of rules that govern your team and your organisation – some written in the handbook, some unspoken – your social contract.

Company policies are often put in place with the best of intentions, but over time, rules can grow obsolete, preventing, rather than enabling, effective working.

Depending on the individual in question, people either disengage or begin to break the rules haphazardly, both of which can be damaging.

But rule-breaking can be positive too. There’s a crucial difference between breaking the rules recklessly and in defiance of authority, and listening to independent thinkers who can help ensure the long-term success of the organisation.

When it comes to rules:

1. Build consensus.

If a team can agree on its own rules of engagement, its members are much more likely to respect the rules. Discussion should focus on how the rule in question helps the organisation to meet its objectives and whether it is in keeping with the company’s or team’s values.

2. Explain your reasoning

Where consensus decision-making isn’t an option (and it isn’t always), be ready to explain the reasoning behind it. Perhaps the rule is a compromise to tackle a complex situation. It might not feel like a perfect fit to any party, but understanding the thinking can help to alleviate any difficulties.

3. Be open to change

As leaders, we need employees to tell us when rules just aren’t working anymore. This means keeping the door open and making it clear that you don’t have all the answers, and that things can change in future.

4. Be ready to deal with mistakes

People make mistakes, but how those mistakes are handled determines what happens next. If a team has fostered psychological safety, people will be ready to admit mistakes and failure without fear of recrimination. If a team is governed by fear, no one will tell you about potentially damaging errors, or offer creative suggestions for a better way forward.

What can Belbin tell you about your team’s approach to the rules?

Your Belbin Team report can tell you a little about how your team approaches rules. If you have a strong Implementer/Completer Finisher culture, for example, you’re likely to find that people will work within the rules until told otherwise, even when those rules are no longer fit for purpose. You’ll need to ensure that ways of doing things are reviewed and changes introduced sensitively.

The Belbin Team report

Once all the team members have a Belbin Individual report, all the data can be put togther to produce a seven-page Belbin Team report.

One of the pages is called Team Role Averages. This is a great starting point to find out more about the culture of the team, based on the collective Team Role behaviours.

This can be used at a team, department and organisational level. The potential uses are endless.

For example...

If there is a predominance of Plant and Shaper behaviour, for example, you’ve got a team of change agents, who’ll be constantly searching for new ways of doing things. There’s a risk that people will be taking new ideas and running with them… in several different directions. You’ll need a Co-ordinator to harness this energy, build consensus and get everyone pulling together.

Belbin’s Team report can help you identify the best elements of team culture, and those which might pose a potential risk to the team. Other pages of the report offer more detail about who might be best suited to different kinds of work, so you can be sure that you make the most of each person’s contribution.

With all parts of the team working together, you’ll foster an environment where people work willingly within the terms of engagement, and are free to pursue and share their creative approaches to change with the rest of the team.


Of course, each of us works within more than one Team Role style, but here’s our quick guide to rule breaking by Team Role.


Plants tend to break the rules creatively. Rules are inflexible and reflect old ways of doing things.

Resource Investigator

Resource Investigators talk their way around the rules. There’s always wiggle room and time for a bit of negotiation, right?


Co-ordinators manipulate the rules. They recognise that rules have to bend around what’s good for the team and needed at the time.


Shapers break the rules to win! All’s fair in love and… competition.

Monitor Evaluator

Monitor Evaluators will only follow the rules if they’re logical and make sense. If the law – company or otherwise – is an ass, it will lose their respect. Expect them to debate rules at length!


Teamworkers tend to think that people are more important than rules. It’s a judgment call, but sometimes people’s needs come first.


Implementers don’t break the rules – they think they’re there for a reason. They believe that if you break the rules, the system falls apart.

Completer Finisher

Completer Finishers tend to take the approach that, on the whole, rule-breaking causes too much anxiety. If rules get in the way of quality or high standards, however, all bets are off.


Specialists believe you have to learn the rules so that you can learn why and how to break them.

Can we help?

If you would like to find out how using Belbin, the global gold-standard team tool, can help your teams, please get in touch.

You can call us +44 (0) 1223 264975 (speak directly to a member of the team), or email [email protected].

If you would prefer, please fill in the form below.


We look forward to helping your teams to become high performing.

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