Healthcare Informatics and Technology Investors
Healthcare Informatics and Technology Investors

Belbin Team Role Theory

Ever questioned why many teams just seem to work and others hit the rocks? When things don’t operate, it is obvious to all and it often has a strong effect on the people involved, as well as the project or objective to be accomplished.

In the 1970s, Dr Meredith Belbin and his research team at Henley Management College set about observing teams, with a view to finding out where and how these deviations come about. They wanted to determine the dynamics of teams to discover if – and how – problems could be pre-empted and averted. As the research progressed, the research unveiled that the difference between success and failure for a team was not based on components such as intellect, but more on behaviour. The research team started to discover separate clusters of behaviour, each of which formed distinct team contributions or “Team Roles”.

A Team Role came to be defined as:

“A disposition to behave, contribute and relate with others in a specific manner.”

It was found that different individuals exhibited different Team Roles to various stages.

The nine Team Roles

The initial Team Role to be described was the “Plant”. The role was self-styled because one such individual was “planted” in every team. They inclined to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.

One by one, the other Team Roles began to come out. The Monitor Evaluator was needed to provide a logical eye, make impartial assessments where needed and to weigh up the team’s options in a dispassionate way.

Co-ordinators were needed to center on the team’s objectives, draw out team members and delegate work suitably.

When the team was at risk of becoming detached and inwardly-focused, Resource Investigators provided inside knowledge on the opposition and made sure that the team’s idea would channel to the world outside the team.

Implementers were required to plan a serviceable, manageable strategy and carry it out as efficiently as feasible.

Completer Finishers were most efficaciously used at the close of a project, to “polish” and inspect the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest criteria of quality control.

Teamworkers helped the team to gel, applying their versatility to identify the work required and complete it on behalf of the team.

Challenging individuals, known as Shapers, supplied the necessary push to ensure that the team continued running and did not lose direction or momentum.

It was only after the initial research had been completed that the ninth Team Role, “Specialist” emerged. The simulated management exercises had been intentionally set up to require no previous knowledge. In the real world, however, the measure of an individual with in-depth knowledge of a fundamental area came to be recognized as yet another essential team contribution or Team Role. Just like the other Team Roles, the Specialist likewise had a weakness: a disposition to center narrowly on their own matter of choice, and to prioritise this over the team’s advancement.

Balance is Key

Whilst many Team Roles were more “high profile” and some team members shouted more loudly than others, each of the behaviors was requisite in getting the team successfully from start to finish. The key was balance. For example, Meredith Belbin found that a team with no Plant scrambled to come up with the initial trigger of an idea with which to push forward. Yet, once too many Plants were in the team, negative ideas concealed good ones and non-starters were afforded too much airtime. Similarly, with no Shaper, the team ambled along without drive and focus, missing deadlines. With too many Shapers, in-fighting began and team spirit was depressed.

Strengths and Allowable Weaknesses

As well as the strength or contribution they supplied, each Team Role was also found to have an “allowable weakness”: a flipside of the behavioural features, which is permissible in the team because of the strength which goes with it. For instance, the unorthodox Plant could be amnesiac or scatty; or the Resource Investigator might forget to follow up on a lead. Co-ordinators might get over-enthusiastic on the delegation front and Implementers might be sluggish to give up their plans in favour of positive changes. Completer Finishers, often motivated by anxiety to get things right, were found to take their perfectionism to extreme points. Teamworkers, occupied with the welfare and morale of the team, found it troublesome to make conclusions where this morale might be compromised or team politics, involved. Shapers chanced becoming aggressive and bad-humoured in their efforts to get things done.

How Do I Find Out My Team Role Penchants?

To find out which of the 9 Belbin Team Roles you have an affinity towards, and which ones you don’t, you need to begin by filling out a Belbin Self-Perception Inventory.

This is a questionnaire that takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. Your scores are rendered by our e-interplace programme (developed in 1988 and updated ever since). Your report is returned, and sent back to you within minutes.

The Team Roles that Meredith Belbin discovered are used widely in thousands of organisations all over the world today. By identifying our Team Roles, we can ensure that we use our strong points to advantage and that we manage our weaknesses as best we can. Sometimes, this implies being aware of the pitfalls and making an effort to avoid them.