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"There's nothing really new about Belbin – which I think is a good thing. Why? Because its endurance gives it credibility. It's got depth. And it’s also got great purpose.

I was first introduced to the Belbin Team Roles back in the 90’s, but have to say that I didn’t fully appreciate their effectiveness. So when I was recently asked to attend a Belbin course in London, I must admit to being a little sceptical.

I'm currently working as a Team Coach at the Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln, where we're delivering an exciting new course. It’s a BA(Hons) in Team Entrepreneurship, where the process requires our 'students' to start and run a business of their choice. The clue as to how they do this is in the title – and teamwork will be critical to their success. Our course is based on the Team Academy (Tiimiakatemia) model which originated in Finland over twenty years ago.

Attending the Belbin course in London was a bit of a 'lightbulb' moment, as although I'd 'known' about Belbin for many years, it was a bit like knowing that you have a new set of spanners in your toolbox – they're very pretty, but useless unless you use them! However, an enthusiastic presentation from Belbin and an interactive day made me see just how important the application of the Belbin principles would be.

We call our first year Team Entrepreneurs 'penguins'. (If you want to know why, just think about how a colony of penguins move around.) They very quickly made sense of the Belbin Team Roles and began to use them whenever they split into teams to work on the various tasks and challenges that they are set. They've recently spent some time in Hungary with Team Entrepreneurs from Debrecen University. When they asked how they choose who takes on which roles within the team, the answer was "we use Belbin".

I've lost count of how many times I’ve mentioned Belbin in a conversation to be told, "Ah yes! I'm a Plant/Resource Investigator…etc" and I now say, "Great! How do you use that information?" Quite often, I get a vacant look in return.

A Belbin Team Role isn't a classification. It’s an accurate way of predicting how an individual is likely to behave in a team environment. This information can save time, money, and frayed tempers, and should be at the fingertips of anyone who has to manage people who work as a team in almost any situation.

Our Penguins are living proof of this, and are demonstrating that by first focussing on 'who' and their individual Team Roles, they can effect a far more sustainable 'what, when and how'."

Find out more about using Belbin for team coaching.

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