It’s a question we hear a lot, and it suggests that organisations are misunderstanding what teams are there to do, and how to use Belbin to help them.
Finding and working to strengths is an ongoing process, not a one-off training session. And Belbin is a language that should be used whenever people are working together.
"The merits of a team should never be assessed without first considering its purpose. There is little point attempting to build a team or rate an existing team’s performance unless it is needed to perform a worthwhile task."
Find your ‘why’
The starting-point for any team is a clear objective. What is the team set up to do and what is it expected to achieve? What are the deadlines, resources available, expectations from stakeholders?
Belbin should be ‘done’ every time:
- the team meets
- allocates work
- increases or decreases in number
- whenever a particular pairing is needed.
Belbin should be ‘done’ during the debrief and again once the objective has been achieved.
Belbin is ‘done’ when a manager is looking to get the most out of their team and when they are checking they have given the right work to the right people. Belbin is 'done' whenever the team’s objective changes, when it's time to take another look at the strengths present in the team, and consider how its composition might be altered to better meet its purpose.
Discover your ‘how’
Once there is clarity of purpose, the team needs to discuss ‘how’ they are going to achieve the objective.
- What sort of work needs to be done?
- Who is needed in the team? (Top tip: keep it small.)
- What are the rules? What are the methods of communication?
Here, Belbin can shed some light on the behaviours at play – the way in which we interact with each other, and with the job at hand.
Once everyone understands their behavioural strengths (which includes feedback from everyone in the team), individuals can gain a bird’s-eye view of the team, discovering important resources amongst their colleagues and raising awareness of potential pitfalls.
For the team to be successful in meeting its objectives, it is key that this common understanding is owned and accepted by all team members, rather than leaving the team leader to pull the strings.
"In many cases teams, not managers, will figure out what the individuals on those teams should be doing and how they are performing."
Breaking it down
The Team Role Circle is a simple but effective pictorial representation of the strengths present in the team.
The diagram might give rise to a number of discussions…
- Are there too many occupying the Shaper segment? What does this mean?
- Are there any potential areas of conflict?
- Are there any gaps?
- Too many overlaps? Does it matter?
- Can someone make a Team Role sacrifice (sacrificing preferred roles for manageable ones) for this project?
Following this conversation, the team can start allocating work to each team member based not only on their skill set, but also on their Belbin contribution.
"Real teams always find ways for each individual to contribute and thereby gain distinction."
As the project progresses, Belbin should be used to help depersonalise conversations when relationships prove difficult.
A new person joins the team
Take time to see where they fit.
- Are you ‘overpopulating’ certain Team Role behaviours or does this person bring something new to the team?
- How should they be managed?
- Which relationships are going to easy to form, and which may need more work?
Remember: the most successful teams have access to all nine Team Role behaviours as and when they are required.
Someone leaves the team
- How does this effect the Team Role balance?
- What will you do to fill the void? Does it matter?
- What does the team need to do to avoid a negative knock-on effect?
Catch-up meetings/progress meetings
- Who is in the room?
- Who is likely to dominate and do most of the talking?
- Where is the critical thinker?
- To whom should you turn to for ideas?
- Who should chair?
At the end of the project
Everyone needs to debrief: on the work, on the objectives, and on their Belbin contribution.
- What did they learn?
- Were they given the right work?
- What would they do differently next time?
- How did a lack of certain Team Roles affect the team?
- How were conflicts resolved? Were they resolved?
If someone made a Team Role sacrifice, ensure they get the recognition they deserve, and ask whether they have they discovered a new strength.
And of course, remember to take time to celebrate your success!
Once you’ve crossed the finish line on a project, why not re-do the Belbin SPI and Observations? After all, unlike our personality, our behaviour isn’t fixed. It changes as we experience new ways of working, new people, new cultures and organisations. It is an indication of our growth, and how we learn.
So, tell us again: have you really ‘done’ Belbin?
We can help you at every step along the way. Get in touch and we’ll talk you through all the options. Whether an L&D or HR professional, a management consultant, or a manager who has some pretty tough objectives for their team to achieve, we have a solution for you.