For decades, the Peter Principle has been a well-known adage.

According to this principle, managers “rise to their level of incompetence”. In other words, they exhibit particular technical skills in their role and, by way of reward, are promoted into management positions which require an entirely different skillset, and for which they are not necessarily suited.

Recently, researchers tested out this hypothesis, examining performance data for over 50,000 sales professionals at more than 200 companies. They predicted that organizations would “prioritize current job performance in promotion decisions at the expense of other observable characteristics that better predict managerial performance”.[1]

As suspected, they found that success in sales was predictive of promotion, and consequently that sales performance was negatively correlated with managerial success.

In his seminal 1970s research into why teams succeed or fail, Dr Meredith Belbin discovered nine distinct Team Roles—ways of behaving, communicating and interrelating with others—which formed the fingerprint of an individual’s contribution to a team.

For success at work, it is crucial for individuals to:

  • Understand and identify their strengths;
  • Play to these strengths when working;
  • Understand and value the roles they do not play, and seek to work with others whose Team Roles complement their own.

Whilst there is no one combination of Team Roles on which success is predicated, a person’s Team Role make-up influences their management style, and may mean that they are unable to play to their strengths as they did in a previous role.

A successful salesperson who is made a manager may well be promoted out of playing their preferred Team Roles. For example, a high-scoring Resource Investigator who thrives on getting out and meeting new prospects might find themselves ‘stuck’ in the office in one-to-one meetings with their team members. An individual with Specialist tendencies might enjoy attending conferences to share the latest developments in their particular technology with clients. Once they manage others, however, they might discover that time constraints force them to generalise, so that they no longer find themselves at the cutting edge.

For organisations, the costs of promoting workers with lower managerial potential are considerable, and may not be the most fitting reward for good performance.

Instead, a little time invested in considering the behavioural demands of the role—and how well these fit with the individual in question—could avoid a costly mistake and reduce employee turnover.

Next Steps

Belbin Team Roles can be used not only to identify an individual’s key strengths and preferred working styles, but also to analyse the behavioural demands of a job, so that the two can be compared side by side. 

Contact us to find out more!



[1] “Promotions and the Peter Principle” by Alan Benson, Danielle Li and Kelly Shue

Keep in touch

By submitting this form I understand that Belbin UK/Belbin Worldwide will share news and information with me via email. We will never share your details with third parties.

Find out Individual and Team strengths using Belbin Team Role Reports

Belbin Individual Reports

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

Belbin Team Reports

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

Working from home?

Finding out and using your Belbin Team Role strengths is critical when working remotely. Download our guides and articles to help you manage yourself and your teams.


Belbin Training and Workshops

A Practical Day of Belbin

11 Sep 2020

A (socially distanced) hands-on day to help you understand how to use Belbin - to help you, your managers, teams and organisation!

Book Now

Team Workshops

We can facilitate bespoke Belbin workshops (face to face and virtual) for you at all levels from board to new recruits.

Discover more

Online Belbin Team Role Accreditation

Belbin Accreditation is recommended for anyone who wants to use Belbin Team Roles to improve the performance of teams, and maximise working relationships.

Become Accredited