Belbin's Team Roles

When looking at any team, it is quickly apparent that each member of the team adopts their own role in order to best contribute and use their skills in a way that is beneficial to the goals of the team as a whole. Sports highlight this concept perfectly. On any sports team, whether it be football, basketball, baseball, etc., the players all have different positions. Each player is assigned a position, and the specific responsibilities that go along with that position. When a sports team is performing at a high level and winning their games, it is because all of the individual players are doing their jobs correctly and it is adding up to excellent performance.

It is a similar story for teams within any business organization. The members of such a team will either be assigned roles, or they will gradually take them on as time goes by.

Belbin’s Team Roles

Teams who are able to successfully accomplish their goals on a regular basis usually have a healthy mix of the various team-roles that were identified by Dr. Meredith Belbin. These nine roles are grouped into three categories of three.

Belbin’s Team Roles and Orientation

People Oriented Roles
These are roles that people take on who are generally good communicators, and enjoy working with others - either on the team, or from the outside.

• Coordinator. This person will take a leadership role within the team and be the person whom everyone else on the team feels like they can talk to when problems come up. Even if the project is being overseen by a higher-ranking manager, most teams need someone like this to step up and lead the day to day activities of the group. Usually, this is a person that everyone on the team respects and will listen to.

• Team Worker. A team worker is someone who really holds the group together, and is willing to sacrifice personal achievement or accomplishment for the better good of the team. Every good team will have at least a few people who fall into this category, although too many 'team players' on one team could be a bad thing as the team might lack the strong leadership needed to make decisions.

• Resource Investigator. Taking on the role of resource investigator is something that a person will do who is curious about new ideas and loves to think outside the box. Just like the previous two roles, this person is liked by the rest of the team and is comfortable with communicating with people on and off the team in order to get the answers and information that is needed.

Action Oriented Roles
Getting things done is what people who fall into this category are all about. Rather than being the ones to talk and discuss, these are the people who would rather get down to business and finish the job.

• Shaper. A shaper is someone who is going to take the lead on many projects and do their best to extract the best possible performance from the team. The status quo isn't going to be good enough for this person, and they don't mind being confrontational when necessary to see their vision come to life. While a team full of shapers could be in constant conflict, having at least a couple on the team is great for motivation and innovation.

• Implementer. Once there are ideas and plans in place, the implementer wants to get right to work bringing them to life. Communication might not be the strength of someone who fills this role, but they are absolutely essential to reaching milestones and completing projects. This person usually enjoys the challenge of the process, and will be detail-oriented in getting their job done right.

• Completer-Finisher. Someone on every team needs to be concerned with the small details at the end of a project, and that is the Completer-Finisher. Deadlines usually serve as strong motivation for this personality type, and others on the team may not appreciate their level of worry over getting everything done in a timely manner. However, a detail-oriented person is invaluable when it comes to confirming the quality of the work that is being completed.

People, Thought and Action Oriented Roles

Thought Oriented Roles
Ideas are the engine of any organization, and a company that stops having new ideas is one that will soon be in big trouble. Those people who fill the 'Thought' roles on a team are crucial to innovating and keeping the organization moving ahead.

• Plant. This is the creative person on the team, and the one who is always coming up with the latest and greatest idea. While the 'plant' role is vital on a team, this person might not always understand that some of their ideas aren't practical, and they won't necessarily work within the constraints that they have been given as far as time line or budget.

• Monitor-Evaluator. It is probably best to think about this person as being one step away from a 'plant', in that they usually take the ideas that are generated within the team and then put them to the practicality test. Some ideas are great, and some are just not feasible, and the Monitor-Evaluator on the team will usually be the person to sort the good ideas from the others.

• Specialist. As the name would indicate, this is a person who has a specific skill set that plays a crucial role within the team. When something comes up that falls within their area of expertise they are ready to jump into action and take the lead. While specialization is their strength, that in turn limits their versatility and usefulness to the team when their particular skill is not in demand.

One of the first things that members of a newly-formed team need to do is figure out where they fall in with the rest, and what role they are going to take on. These roles usually develop naturally over time, depending on the makeup of the team and the specific task at hand. A good manager will observe the roles that are being filled on the team, and step in when necessary to balance out the composition of the group.

You may also be interested in:
Mintzberg's Management Roles | Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team | Birkinshaw's Four Dimensions of Management | Waldroop and Butler's Six Problem Behaviors | Cog's Ladder | Leader-Member Exchange Theory | Belbin's Team Roles | Benne and Sheats' Group Roles | Margerison-McCann Team Management Profile | The JD-R Model.

Key Points

  • Belbin identified nine team roles and categorized them into three groups: Action Oriented, People Oriented, and Thought Oriented.
  • Each team role is associated with typical behavioral and interpersonal strengths.
  • He also defined characteristic weaknesses that tend to accompany each team role and referred to these as "allowable" weaknesses.
  • A good manager will observe the roles that are being filled on the team, and step in when necessary to balance out the composition of the group.
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