But these are the ‘teams’ who are often in dire need of help when it comes to performance.
DDI’s 2021 Leadership Report reveals that only one in three CEOs rate their organization’s frontline leadership as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’. And what’s more, they tend to drop their rating of their top team’s effectiveness year on year during their first five years of tenure.
As Jon R. Katzenbach said, top teams don’t have any of the features needed to make an effective team. And describing them as such can devalue the term and damage the concept of teamwork within the organisation.
Why? Because not only is the top team steering the ship, it’s also setting an example for teamwork throughout the organisation. It isn’t enough to have a strong CEO. Without an effective leadership team, performance suffers and internal politics threatens organizational viability.
There are a number of key differences between the characteristics Belbin identifies for high-performing teams and so-called ‘teamwork’ in leadership teams.
McKinsey’s 2001 study indicated that success at the top level was not just about ‘heroic leadership’ but the ability to make progress on three fronts simultaneously:
The study showed that the most effective way to resolve sensitive performance issues in top teams was to take an oblique approach: to address real, critical strategic issues that required their attention. In so doing, they worked on all three initiatives concurrently. They built trust, witnessed visible progress in their own performance, and experienced positive communication as a by-product.
Researchers also found that consultancy should be light-touch. Rather than taking over the reins, a coaching approach allowed top teams to discover and remedy problems for themselves, so that they were better equipped to do so in future.
Belbin Customer Survey 2018
Dr Meredith Belbin’s unique study of managers, conducted at Henley Business School during the 1970s, identified the nine Team Roles via a business simulation game.
Whilst many personality tests may feel too self-conscious at top level, Belbin works to identify behavioural strengths, as evidenced not only by the executive themselves, but by the rest of their team.
Since feedback can come from others in c-suite, a Belbin Individual Report can help leaders better understand their place in the leadership team and how they might need to adapt their style when working in the senior team.
The Belbin Reports allow leaders to hit the ground running. They provide actionable content which can be applied to real scenarios. No abstract frameworks or artificial concepts which can cause scepticism because of their disconnect from the reality of work. And they open discussions, whilst giving ownership of solutions to the top team.
Understanding the behavioural strengths and weaknesses of other team members can help c-suite to shape their objectives as a team in their own right, rather than simply seeing opponents across the table in the boardroom.
The language of Team Roles can be used as a shorthand to establish intentions. For example, when working on broad strategy, it can be useful to acknowledge that hammering out the details (a Completer Finisher contribution) won’t be needed until later in the process. This will avoid the meeting becoming bogged down and losing pace.
Those with strong Monitor Evaluator tendencies might be asked to sit out the initial scoping phase of a project and invited to analyse the viability of an idea once it is fully formed.
For a leadership team introducing new people, the Belbin Team Reports can offer valuable insights into the kind of behaviours that may be missing in the leadership team.
Looking at secondary Team Roles can help to balance the top team more effectively and enable top team members to take on more challenging work. And where there are gaps, the team can learn how they might draw on external resources to increase behavioural diversity and ensure competitive advantage.
Talking Team Roles can help executives express dissatisfaction, depersonalise conflict and resolve issues which might otherwise end in heated debate, or be swept under the carpet.
Few top teams are given coaching to work as a team, and many might think that experience provides everything necessary for high performance. Having an awareness of Belbin Team Roles is a good reminder that there are other factors at play, and that behaviours can be a constructive lens for discussion.
Once progress has been made on all three fronts, success will have bought time and inclination for inquiry and reflection. By inviting feedback from peers in the leadership team and from those they manage, leaders set the example of reflection and growth throughout the organization.
McKinsey, 'Teamwork at the top'
Top teams face unique problems. But they are also uniquely placed to find solutions. To develop better strategies that increase stakeholder confidence; to perform more consistently, and to set the example of a high-performing team for the rest of the organization.
Belbin is quick to understand and apply. It is practical and accessible to all, whilst having the depth and nuance to deal with issues at the top level. Our facilitators have a wealth of experience in improving leadership team performance. And, once the top team has confidence in the methodology, the process can be cascaded down to teams on the ground.
The practical insights and focus on peer feedback perfectly complement the action-reflection cycle, so executives can see progress in real-time.
What are the challenges facing your leaders? Is your top team a Belbin team? Are you ready to analyse your team’s behaviours en route to tangible results? Our team of experienced consultants and facilitators are ready to take your call.
Before you can analyse your teams, you need to look at each individual's contribution. So, the first thing you will need to do is to generate a Belbin Individual report for each member of the team.Find out more
Whether you're forming a new team, introducing new people to an existing team, or trying to resolve issues within a team, a Belbin Team report can help you to manage it.Discover more