You may well have heard of Meredith Belbin; he created a practical and easy-to-use tool that can be perfectly applied to the workplace environment that’s still widely used across the world today – Belbin team roles. With extensive research spanning over a decade, Belbin revealed the pivotal part that behaviour plays within a team, leading to the identification of 9 different roles.
These are, of course, flexible (when working in a team things always change!) and it’s likely an individual will portray the characteristics of more than one of these roles, but what’s crucial is that each member of the team knows their position within the group – and understands everyone else’s position too. Hence, it is vital you define each to guarantee a highly effective unit; providing a purpose to each individual ensures the contribution and accountability of all.
In today’s article, we’ll be discussing the 9 team roles at work, and why these are essential to secure the success of your business. But, before we delve into these different positions, let’s take a look at Belbin’s theory and why behaviour overrides personality.
Belbin discovered 9 different clusters; his research found that the most successful groups were made up of a diverse mix of behaviours. These clusters can be defined as:
‘A tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way’
Each of these team roles at work has strengths and weaknesses, and an individual may comfortably portray 2 or 3 of these different trait clusters (a team doesn’t need to have 9 people to use Belbin!). However, by utilising this effective tool each member will have a greater self-understanding of their strengths, which leads to more effective communication between colleagues and managers. Great teams can be put together, existing teams can be understood and improved, and everyone can feel that they are making a difference in the workplace.
Ultimately, using Belbin’s roles will provide you with a more balanced team as you can identify areas of weakness and ensure these are not left exposed.
What are the 9 team roles at work?
The 9 Belbin team roles are descriptions of job duties that fall into three broad categories: thought-oriented roles, action-oriented roles and people-oriented roles.
Thought-oriented team members are critical thinkers. They may present new ideas or a fresh perspective, analyze different approaches by weighing the benefits out, or have specialised knowledge/skills.
Plants are free-thinkers and creatives that provide original ideas, suggesting innovative new approaches. As with each of the thought-oriented roles, Plants generally prefer to work alone and thus their ability to communicate suffers. And, whilst this may not fit with the traditional concept of a team, this tendency can be forgiven as Plant’s creative thinking typically leads to groundbreaking concepts and innovative solutions. As the name suggests, Plants are the members who bring about growth and progress.
Contributions: creative, imaginative, free-thinking – generates new ideas and provides solutions.
Weaknesses: too preoccupied to effectively communicate, ignores incidentals.
#2 Monitor Evaluator
Making decisions based on the hard facts and utilising rational thinking, as opposed to emotions and instinct, Monitor Evaluators are usually serious individuals who excel at strategic planning. If there is a particular obstacle to overcome within a project, a Monitor Evaluator will carefully consider all possibilities before devising a well-thought-out solution. Again, they tend to prefer working alone and will avoid the social dynamics, ultimately ensuring they make objective contributions. Often, a Monitor Evaluator will hold a managerial position due to their ability to consistently problem-solve, analysing the issue quickly and effectively.
Contributions: sober, strategic and discerning – see all options and judges accurately.
Weaknesses: lacks drive and ability to motivate others, can be overly critical.
As you may have guessed, the Specialist is an individual who is an expert within a specific field, therefore they will only contribute when a task requires their area of expertise. Whilst working in a team can be challenging for the Specialist, they are an invaluable asset, providing niche in-depth knowledge that few else can. Once in a working group environment, a Specialist will often become very engaged and want to share their knowledge with those willing to learn.
Contributions: single-minded, self-starting, dedicated – provides knowledge and skills in rare supply.
Weaknesses: contributes only on a narrow front, dwells on technicalities.
Action-oriented team members strive to get things done. They can be counted on to complete a task, meet a deadline and see a challenge as an exciting opportunity.
Shapers are extroverts who tend to challenge themselves and others to achieve the very best results. They are driven individuals who can push and motivate other team members, remaining positive despite challenges that may look to offset them. A Shaper will inspire unique strategy and are a vital asset to keep the team progressing; these traits often see them quickly enter managerial positions.
Contributions: challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure – has the drive and courage to overcome. obstacles.
Weaknesses: prone to provocation, offend’s people’s feelings.
One of the key team roles at work is the Implementer who likes to structure their environment and maintain order. They’ll focus their attention on the needs of the team, ensuring concrete plans are formed from the abstract ideas generated by the rest of the group. The Implementer is often considered the backbone of the group as they implement workable strategies that secure the progress of the team.
Contributions: practical, reliable, efficient – turns ideas into actions and organises work that needs to be done.
Weaknesses: somewhat inflexible, slow to respond to new possibilities.
#6 Completer Finisher
Often a perfectionist, the Completer Finisher will perform quality assurance throughout a project. They’ll notice the finer details, which allows them to scrutinise a finished task for errors that many others would have overlooked. However, in their strive for perfection, they tend to expect the same from those around them which can be a challenging issue for the Completer Finisher to overcome. Yet, this precision and desire for high-quality guarantees an organisation an excellent finished project.
Contributions: painstaking, conscientious, anxious – search out errors to polish and perfect.
Weaknesses: inclined to worry unduly, reluctant to delegate.
People-oriented team members use networking and relationship-building skills to complete tasks. They may be excellent active listeners and provide support to other team members to build cohesion in the group.
Coordinators are also often management material, yet have a very different approach to Shapers; they’ll tend to concentrate on helping a team member accomplish their individual objectives rather than the goals of the organisation. With this ability to identify talent, the Coordinator can utilise a team’s strengths effectively, delegating the appropriate task to the right person and ultimately directing a group with confidence.
Contributions: mature, confident, identifies talent – clarifies goals and delegates effectively.
Weaknesses: can be seen as manipulative, offloads own share of work.
A Teamworker is usually an extrovert with a friendly disposition, they tend to be excellent listeners and can assist with the functionality of the team. Should another individual be struggling with their workload, a Teamworker is likely to step in; they are highly adaptable individuals, enabling them to interact effectively and react to sudden changes. A Teamworker can establish a sense of harmony within the team, supporting other members and ensuring any personal conflict is swiftly managed.
Contributions: co-operative, perceptive and diplomatic – listens and averts friction.
Weaknesses: indecisive in crunch situations, avoids confrontation.
#9 Resource Investigator
Another extrovert, Resource Investigators tend to have a talent for networking and, they enjoy exploring new opportunities and investigating fresh perspectives on an issue yet tend to not generate the new ideas themselves. With their enthusiasm and outgoing personality, Resource Investigators are excellent at making business connections, finding potential opportunities that could assist the team and bringing these back for further analysis.
Contributions: outgoing, enthusiastic, communicative – explores opportunities and develops contacts.
Weaknesses: over-optimistic, loses interest once initial enthusiasm has passed.
Defining the 9 team roles at work: Conclusion
Belbin team roles identify an individual’s strengths, celebrates differences within a unit and allows for collaboration in its truest sense. Utilising this method will ensure you create a balanced team and pave the way for success, but it’s important to understand that roles may change throughout the course of a project and that each individual may fall under a number of clusters.
If you can clearly define these traits within your team, you can ensure each member feels valued throughout the course of a project; highlighting to all individuals the pivotal part another plays in the success of the team guarantees a meaningful and effective working relationship.
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