Working in diverse teams
Working in diverse teams

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Working in diverse teams

4 Identifying roles in team tasks

Read the following case study of Mark and his team experience in France.

Case study 2: Mark

When I was at college and learning to speak French we had a one-week residential in France as part of the course. One of the tasks we had to complete one afternoon was to interview French people in the street asking their thoughts on the town in order to practice our vocabulary. We then had to record their answers and put together a presentation on this later in the day to present to the rest of the group. We had a limited time to do this and worked in small groups of three people. In class, I was put in a group with Sam and Ahmed, and we met in a café later that day.

In a sense there were three parts to this team exercise and to be honest each of them came with their own issues.

The first thing we had to do was to put together a list of questions we would ask people. We had a lot of disagreement over this as Sam was very good at coming up with ideas, but in my opinion she was not very good at thinking through whether these would actually work in the time we had. I mainly took the role of proofreading the questions and discounting those that would not work or reframing them so that they would get to use the vocabulary we needed to use. Ahmed did the recording of the questions as Sam came up with them and kept us on track so that we didn’t waste the entire afternoon discussing this and not actually getting anything done.

The next problem we had was in finding people who were willing to be recorded. Again time was against us and we needed to get at least five recordings to use for the presentation. We had a rather ‘lively discussion’ about the way to go about this as Sam was quite happy to just approach anyone and see if they would answer it whereas I thought this was going to waste too much time. I felt we should have a strategy here and consider what kind of person we wanted to speak to and how we could best identify those most likely to give us what we needed.

I must admit this got quite heated and I think without Ahmed there to smooth things out and keep things focused we may have ended up wasting our time squabbling about this. As it turned out we did use a bit of both approaches and while I was sometimes right in the people I suggested, if it hadn’t been for Sam’s willingness to approach people and her lively manner I am not sure we would have got the five interviews done at all.

The last part of this task was putting together the presentation. We all felt like we should contribute something as we were all sharing the mark. We each took one of the interviews which left us with two more to present. I must admit I was a bit nervous doing this part in case I let the group down and Ahmed suggested Sam present the other two as she really seemed to really enjoy this part. I must admit her style of presenting was the best. We agreed that Ahmed and I would work on the visual presentations we were going to prepare in advance as this is what we were more confident with.

Thankfully we did manage to get the project completed in time and while there were definitely some pinch points and we did clash a bit the outcome was a great success. We got an excellent mark for the group and we all felt that no one had done more than someone else. I think we actually worked really well as a team as it turns out and I am not sure we could have done this quite as well if we had had to do it without any one of us being part of this.

Activity 5 Identifying strengths and weaknesses

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Consider the different personalities involved in Mark’s team and identify their strengths and weaknesses. If you had to compare them to the 9 team roles Belbin describes, which role do you think would best describe each of them?

Table 4 Mapping Belbin’s team roles onto Mark’s team

Positive traitsNegative traitsPossible Belbin identifying team role
Sam
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Mark
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Ahmed
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Words: 0
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Discussion

You may have come up with something like this:

Table 4 (completed) Mapping Belbin’s team roles onto Mark’s team

Positive traitsNegative traitsPossible Belbin identifying team role
SamComing up with ideas; confident to have a go; confident in front of people and meeting peopleDoes not think things out strategically so can waste timePlant/Resource investigator
MarkKeeping the task on track and ensuring the job got done in the time; smooth over disagreements between other team membersNot an ideas person or strategistCo-ordinator/Team worker
AhmedConsiders and plans strategy for successStrategic thinking may take too long to complete task in time allocatedImplementer/Monitor/Evaluator

Don’t worry if you did not use the same Belbin identifier for each of these characters. As noted before, many of these roles overlap and it is hard to put one person in just one of the roles.

When you consider your own preferred team style you may find that it is difficult to identify just one that seems like a good fit for you. This does not matter. The key here is to understand that different personalities all bring something to a group task. If the group was made up of people who were all the same, while this may be very comfortable and lead to few disagreements, it may not lead to the best results. Each person in the case study brought different skills and strengths and it was only by recognising and making use of these that the task was performed so well.

Spend a few minutes reflecting on teams you have been part of. Can you identify some of the team roles that people have played? Would the team have worked better with a different mix of people or did the mix of people within the team contribute to the success of the team effort? Record your thoughts and any examples you have to evidence this in the Workbook pages for Week 2 in the toolkit (Use this link [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   to open the toolkit in a new tab or window and come back here when you are done).

WDT_1

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