Team Leadership Toolkit

Team Development

Belbin Team Roles

Everyone, by nature of their background and personality, has one or two preferred roles in a team - roles in which they feel most comfortable and are also most effective. Some people bring creativity to a team by introducing new ideas, others are good at planning and scheduling, others are good at chairing, and so on. The key point is that people have preferred team roles and that often, the key to success lies in getting the right mix of team roles.

In the 1960ís Meridith Belbin carried out research into this, showing that teams with a good balance of team roles performed better than teams with a poor balance, even when the latter had more capable and brighter individual team members.

His research laid the foundations for these ideas and he developed his Team Role Analysis described in more detail in his book Management Teams - why they succeed or fail, R Meredith Belbin. This also contains a self assessment to help you identify your own preferred team roles.

Team Role Wheel

The ideas have been taken forward and many organisations (particularly in the USA) now always use team role analysis for project teams, either for selecting the team or as a means of team-building.

 

Belbin Team Roles

lightbulb Plant: Often creative, imaginative & unorthodox, Solves difficult problems. Not always good at communicating with & managing ordinary people.
telephone Resource Investigator: Often extrovert, enthusiastic, & communicative. Explores opportunities & develops contacts. Has been known to lose interest once initial enthusiasm has passed.
conductor Coordinator: Mature, confident, & trusting. A good chairman. Clarifies goals, promotes decision making. Not necessarily not the most clever or creative member of a group.
whip Shaper: Tends to be dynamic, outgoing, highly strung. Challenges, pressurises, & finds ways round obstacles. May be prone to impatience & short lived bursts of temper.
statue of liberty Monitor Evaluator: Sober, strategic & discerning. Sees all options. Judges accurately. Sometimes appears to lack drive and ability to inspire others.
a team Teamworker: Usually social, perceptive & accommodating. Listens, builds, & averts friction. Sometimes not sufficiently decisive in crunch situations.
gears and cogs Implementer: Disciplined, reliable, conservative & efficient. Turns ideas into practical actions. Can sometimes appear to be a little inflexible and unwilling to adjust.
an alarm clock Completer Finisher: Painstaking, conscientious, & anxious. Searches out errors & omissions. Delivers on-time. May appear to be inclined to worry unduly and be reluctant to delegate.

Commentary

The Belbin self assessment is often used by teams as part of a team-building session - it helps team members to understand better where others are "coming from". People who complete it are often amazed at some of the aspects of their personality that it can highlight. Even without that, an experience team leader can use the ideas behind Belbin together with the descriptions to make their own estimate of people's preferred team roles and allocate tasks within the team on that basis.