3.1 Belbin’s team roles
There are many different theories of personality styles but one of the most popular and influential that is associated with working in teams is Meredith Belbin’s 9 team roles (2018).
Belbin identified nine clusters of behaviour or roles which have been developed and amended over the years. He suggests that an individual is more likely to be effective if they play the roles that they are most inclined to play or more skilled at. While you can adopt other roles, you will work best when playing one of your preferred roles. By ensuring that there is a balance of these roles in a team there is a greater likelihood that the team will perform well. Interestingly none of the roles are identified as being better than any other and each role is seen to have strengths and weaknesses associated with it.
It should be noted that there are weaknesses in the framework Belbin has described. As research has shown, some of these roles are not easy to distinguish from others and there are other frameworks to describe personality that may work better for describing recognisable types. Nevertheless there is enough to commend here for you to take a look at the different roles that Belbin identified and consider how this relates to your own experience of working in a team.
Table 2 Belbin’s 9 team roles and their likely strengths and weaknesses
|Strength/style||Role name||Team function||Negative aspect|
Systematic, structured, dependable, efficient, common sense, loyal, reliable
|Implementer||Turns decisions into defined tasks, sorts objectives and pursues them logically||May be inflexible and have difficulty changing their well thought out plans|
|Motivated, energetic, competitive, achievement driven, assertive||Shaper||Gives shape to discussion, looks for pattern and practical considerations and feasibility of the project||May challenge others and be aggressive at times|
|Confident, mature, able to get others to work to a shared aim||Co-ordinator||Often chairs the meeting. Sets agenda, clarifies group objectives, and establishes priorities||Can sometimes be manipulative and delegate too much work to others|
|Innovative, creative, inventive, original, imaginative, unorthodox, problem-solving||Plant||Source of original ideas. Original and radical proposals. Solves difficult problems||Good at coming up with ideas but may have difficulties communicating them|
|Quick, good communicator, networker, outgoing, affable, seeks and finds options, negotiator||Resource investigator||Sales person, diplomat. Goes outside the team to bring in ideas, information and developments||Initial enthusiasm may not be maintained to the end of the project|
|Serious, prudent, critical thinker, analytical||Monitor/evaluator||Measured and dispassionate, advises objectively and stops the team committing to misguided tasks||Works slowly and analytically and comes out with the ‘right’ decisions but can be cynical and dampen enthusiasm of others|
|Mediator, supportive, sociable, flexible, adaptable, calming influence, listener, perceptive||Team worker||Operates like cement especially during stress and pressure. Tries to reduce conflict between members and builds relationships||May not be able to take decisive action when necessary|
|Accurate, attention to detail, high standards, quality orientated||Completer/finisher||Maintains sense of urgency with relentless follow-through to ensure that the job is delivered on time and to specification||Often a perfectionist, they can worry about detail and be reluctant or refuse to delegate work to others|
|Technical expert, highly focused capability and knowledge, driven by professional standards||Specialist||Provides knowledge and specialist skills to subject area||Contribution to the team may be narrow and they may not be interested in matters outside their field|
Activity 3 Identifying your personality style
Look at the column in Table 2 that describes the styles and personalities associated with each of the 9 team roles of Belbin. Select the descriptions which you would most associate with yourself. Are there more styles highlighted in any of the boxes than others? In the box below, record which, if any, of the Belbin roles that this suggests you may fall into. Have a look at the roles these types play in a team and some of the disadvantages associated with these roles. How accurate would you say this is in terms of identifying some of your preferred team roles?
How did you find that? Don’t worry if you found that there wasn’t a clear role which matched for you. The reality is that for most people there are a number of different roles that ‘feel like you’.
Now complete Activity 4 which will get you thinking about what ‘type’ of personality would be best suited in different situations.
Activity 4 Matching team roles to team issues
Using Belbin’s theory of team roles it is possible to see that different ‘types’ of team player may be useful in different situations depending on the kind of problem facing the team or the stage in the team’s development. Can you match which team role may be best in helping out in these situations?
Table 3 Different team roles for different situations
|Problem/issue||Team role which may help|
|Newly formed team|
Table 3 (completed) Different team roles for different situations
|Problem/issue||Team role which may help|
|Conflicting team||Team worker or co-ordinator|
|Mediocre performance||Resource investigator or shaper|
|Newly formed team||Shaper|
There are not necessarily any right or wrong answers here as each of the roles could bring something different to the task. The key is the awareness that having a balance of different roles in the team can solve these kind of problems should they occur.
Next you will use the case study of Mark to highlight the importance of identifying different roles for individuals in a team.