Team Role Theory - Belbin Team Roles
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Belbin Team Roles

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A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them.

Dr. R. M. Belbin

Belbin Team Roles are used to identify people's behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. This information can be used to:

  • Build productive working relationships
  • Select and develop high-performing teams
  • Raise self-awareness and personal effectiveness
  • Build mutual trust and understanding
  • Aid recruitment processes

A team should be put together for a specific purpose. Each team member should be chosen to ensure that the correct balance of skill and behaviour is achieved.

This doesn't mean that you need nine individuals, each with one strong Team Role in each team. Each of us can play two or three Team Roles well, and should learn to adapt our behaviour to the needs of the of team's objective.

Team Role DEFINITION

Belbin Team Roles measure behaviour, not personality, and so can be defined as:

A tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way.

Dr. Meredith Belbin

The Team Roles that Meredith Belbin identified are used widely in thousands of organisations all over the world today. By identifying our Team Roles, we can ensure that we use our strengths to advantage and that we manage our weaknesses as best we can. Sometimes, this means being aware of the pitfalls and making an effort to avoid them.

The NINE TEAM ROLES

PLANT (PL)
PL Pete CA

The first Team Role to be identified was the Plant. The role was so-called because one such individual was “planted” in each team. They tended to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.

MONITOR EVALUATOR (ME)
ME Debs CA

One by one, the other Team Roles began to emerge. The Monitor Evaluator was needed to provide a logical eye, make impartial judgements where required and to weigh up the team’s options in a dispassionate way.

CO-ORDINATOR (CO)
CO Nigel CA

Co-ordinators were needed to focus on the team’s objectives, draw out team members and delegate work appropriately.

RESOURCE INVESTIGATOR (RI)
RI Jill CA

When the team was at risk of becoming isolated and inwardly-focused, Resource Investigators provided inside knowledge on the opposition and made sure that the team’s idea would carry to the world outside the team.

IMPLEMENTER (IMP)
IMP Vix CA

Implementers were needed to plan a practical, workable strategy and carry it out as efficiently as possible.

COMPLETER FINISHER (CF)
CF Tom CA

Completer Finishers were most effectively used at the end of a task, to “polish” and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.

TEAMWORKER (TW)
TW Dave CA

Teamworkers helped the team to gel, using their versatility to identify the work required and complete it on behalf of the team.

SHAPER (SH)
SH Deborah CA

Challenging individuals, known as Shapers, provided the necessary drive to ensure that the team kept moving and did not lose focus or momentum.

SPECIALIST (SP)
SP Jo CA

It was only after the initial research had been completed that the ninth Team Role, Specialist emerged. In the real world, the value of an individual with in-depth knowledge of a key area came to be recognised as yet another essential team contribution.

BALANCE is key

During his research, Meredith found that each of the behaviours were essential in getting the team successfully from start to finish. The key was balance. For example, Meredith Belbin found that a team with no Plants struggled to come up with the initial spark of an idea with which to push forward. However, once too many Plants were in the team, bad ideas concealed good ones and non-starters were given too much airtime. Similarly, with no Shaper, the team ambled along without drive and direction, missing deadlines. With too many Shapers, in-fighting began and morale was lowered.

Strengths and ALLOWABLE weaknesses

As well as the strength or contribution they provide, each Team Role also has an associated allowable weakness: a flipside of the behavioural characteristics, which is allowable in the team because of the strength which goes with it.

For example:

  • Plants could be unorthodox or forgetful
  • Resource Investigators might forget to follow up on a lead
  • Monitor Evaluators could be overly critical and slow moving
  • Co-ordinators might over delegate leaving themselves little work to do
  • Implementers might be slow to relinquish their plans in favour of positive changes
  • Completer Finishers could be accused of taking their perfectionism to the extremes
  • Teamworkers might become indecisive when unpopular decisions need to be made
  • Shapers could risk becoming aggressive and bad-humoured in their attempts to get things done
  • Specialist may have a tendency to focus narrowly on their own subject of choice

How do I find out the Team Role strengths and weaknesses of my team?

In a nutshell, Belbin Team Role reports give a common language to show clusters of behaviour that are needed in the workplace. The reports can be purchased directly from our website, and need no interpretation - we've done that for you!

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