Have you ever wondered why teams sometimes work and sometimes don’t? Why do teams not always work well? Often the cause lies at individual level. Consider what team members are to themselves and what they are to others. This teamwork aspect has been studied at Cambridge and researchers have found a way to create a good and workable team. Dr. Meredith Belbin examined why some teams/groups succeed while others fail.
His team role analysis is found to be significant for supervisors and managers on their way towards a better performing team and project team to make business more successful. His major research not only shows that different people have very different and divergent skills which they bring into the team, but also what skills they are and how they can be measured. The studies showed "balanced teams" achieve the best results.
Belbin’s Team Roles
A Team Role is defined as “a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way”. They are important as they give a common ground to discuss about people’s and team member’s behaviour in a work environment. Belbin differentiates nine team roles:
creative, imaginative and unorthodox
2: Resource Investigator
extrovert, enthusiastic and opportunistic
mature, confident and encouraging others
challenging, dynamic and thrives on pressure
5: Monitor Evaluator
objective, analytical and discerning
cooperative, perceptive and diplomatic
disciplined, reliable and efficient
8: Completer Finisher
perfectionist, conscientious and accurate
single-minded, self-reliant and knowledgeable
Whilst some Team Roles are more “high profile” and some team members shout more loudly than others, each of the behaviors is essential in getting the team successfully from start to finish. The key is balance. For example, Meredith Belbin found that a team with no Plant struggled to come up with the initial spark of an idea with which to push forward. However, once too many Plants were in the team, bad ideas concealed good ones and non-starters were given too much airtime. Similarly, with no Shaper, the team ambled along without drive and direction, missing deadlines. With too many Shapers, in-fighting began and morale was lowered.
The Team Roles that Meredith Belbin identified are used widely in thousands of organisations all over the world today. By identifying our Team Roles, we can ensure that we use our strengths to advantage and that we manage our weaknesses as best we can. Sometimes, this means being aware of the pitfalls and making an effort to avoid them.