Belbin’s Team Roles

This workshop was all about Belbin’s team roles and how each member of a team tends towards a different role within their group, based on personality traits and skills. Belbin was a management consultant who observed this theory in the late 70s. He tested a theory that those with the highest IQ will perform the best, but actually found that this wasn’t at all the case, and instead it was about diversity and how each individual can bring their own skills to benefit the team as a whole.

To start the workshop, we were asked, without any context, to write down the first thing we’d need to do to plan a party. There were a number of different answers given, and this showed how everyone thinks and works differently, introducing us to the topic.

After this, we were asked to complete a ‘Self Perception Inventory’. This gave a list of statements, for which we had to give more or less points to each one, based on how much they sounded like us. After this, the scores were added up and this then gave us the role that we most tended towards.

This was just one quick way to get an understanding of Belbin’s theory, however if you wanted to look into this in more depth with your team, it’s best to spend longer on this to get a more accurate profiling. It’s important to note that just because you’ve tended towards one role, doesn’t mean you should pigeonhole yourself into this, everyone can be successful in other roles too, and the more you grow and learn, the more this can change.

Belbin identified 9 different roles, that could be grouped into ‘thinking’, ‘people’ and task’ orientated. Each role has obvious strengths, as well as allowable weaknesses, something that will be inevitable so these shouldn’t be seen as a negative, but instead something that both the individual and the group can be aware of, so they can help this person through any difficulties this may cause.

The thinking orientated roles are:

  • Plant – the plant loves to be creative, has lots of ideas and thinks differently, coming up with ideas that may not have been explored before. The plant is good at problem solving and loves getting hands on. Their weakness is that they tend to not focus on deadlines or being on time, which can be an issue in time conscious projects.
  • Monitor/evaluator – The monitor/evaluator thinks strategically, they see lots of different solutions and can visualise the outcomes to see what will work best. They like to be logical and work things through thoroughly. Their weakness is that they can sometimes be quite negative, they’re realists so can sometimes shoot down any ideas that they don’t see as logical.
  • Specialist – The specialist likes to work hard to be really good at one particular subject. They like learning and will spend a lot of time becoming an expert in their chosen subject. They prefer to work alone, however this isn’t necessarily a negative thing within a team environment, instead it means they won’t need a lot of direction. Their weakness is that they can often neglect other subjects, and be too focused on one particular thing.

The people orientated roles are:

  • Resource investigator – The research investigator likes engaging with and talking to people. They love networking and meeting new people and are really enthusiastic about discovering new things. They go out and find what’s available that they can then bring back to their team. Their weakness is that they can often find their enthusiasm dwindling quite quickly, and instead of finishing things will want to move onto the next, more exciting thing.
  • Coordinator – The coordinator acts as an overseer of the group. They aren’t necessarily the leader, however often move up into leadership roles throughout their careers. They are able to identify other’s skills and so know who should be doing what, and are also confident in their own ability to delegate. Their weakness is that they can sometimes be seen to be doing all the delegated, but not actually doing any of the work themselves.
  • Team worker – The team worker helps to keep the team working together well. They can help to diffuse any tensions and can recognise when people need help. Their weakness can be that they tend to avoid conflict, they like everyone to be happy and so tend to avoid situations that can cause arguments.

The task orientated roles are:

  • Shaper – the shaper is very goal focused, they want to get the job done and will work hard to do this. The weakness in this is that they can be seen to sometimes disregard others and can be seen as a bit rude, if they focus more on their task rather than the rest of the group.
  • Completer/finisher – This role isn’t quite what is sounds – it doesn’t necessarily mean that this person always gets the job done, and in fact can oftentimes not finish at all. The completer/finisher is a bit of a perfectionist and will work on something or as long as it takes to get it right. Their weakness is that they can be a bit of a worrier, they need everything to be perfect so will be very conscious of their work.
  • Implementer – The implementer likes to do things in lists, they’re methodical and like to have everything written down so they know what they’ve done and what to do next. Their weakness is that they can be quite inflexible; if they’ve got a schedule and a list they’re working through, it can throw them off if someone comes in with a brand new idea to start working on.

These roles are not static, but they allow a team to find what the positive attributes of each team member are, and what they can bring to the group. It also allows them to identify the gaps in a team, and discover easily how to fill these.