Belbin’s team roles were developed by Dr. R. Meredith Belbin in 1981. Belbin, a British management consultant, spent nine years researching the strengths and weaknesses of teams and how their performance could be improved.
Understanding Belbin’s team roles
Belbin’s team roles describe different clusters of behavioral attributes that individuals may exhibit within teams.
In his book Management Teams: Why They Succeed Or Fail, Belbin outlined several roles that individuals tend to exhibit within teams.
These roles represent clusters of behavioral attributes that define how people interact, with Belbin noting that the most successful teams were those that had a diversity of characters and personality types.
The nine team roles, according to Belbin
Before we delve into the nine roles, it’s important to note that Belbin defined a role as “a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way.”
Note that the nine roles are also spread across three categories: action-oriented, people-oriented, and cerebral.
- The Shaper – dynamic, driven individuals who can motivate themselves and instill passion in others. Shapers remain positive, thrive under pressure, and are naturally results-oriented leaders.
- The Implementer – practical individuals who prefer structure, order, and discipline. These are the sort of employees who put the needs of the organization above their own.
- The Completer – introverted team members who are detail-oriented and may also be perfectionists. Their tendencies make them ideal process, task, or product auditors.
- The Resource Investigator – these are curious and enthusiastic employees who use their inquisitive nature to discover new ideas that benefit the team.
- The Team Worker – as the name suggests, team workers are those who strive for collaboration and unity. They are highly perceptive and excel at helping colleagues resolve their differences and work toward a common goal.
- The Coordinator – coordinators ensure the team is focused on its objectives and are well versed in matching team member talent to the most appropriate tasks. These individuals have excellent interpersonal and communication skills and employ a democratic approach when in a leadership position.
Cerebral (thought-oriented) roles
- The Monitor Evaluator – these team members make decisions based on facts and rational thinking. Whilst they may come across as overtly cold or serious, their objectivity and critical thinking skills are vital to strategic planning and problem-solving.
- The Specialist – specialists bring expertise on a particular topic to the team and act as the authority on various technical and practical considerations.
- The Plant – these employees are best able to solve complex problems with creative, imaginative, and sometimes unconventional solutions. Like the two other cerebral roles, Belbin noted that plants prefer to work alone.
Interpreting Belbin’s team roles
While Belbin did not provide explicit detail on how his roles should be interpreted, organizations should categorize each individual within a team to ensure it is balanced and effective.
In other words, is there an appropriate mix of the various roles?
Imagine a team comprised predominantly of shapers where each team member is constantly jostling to exert control the others.
What about a team full of completers and implementers who would prefer to stick to the rules and avoid creative solutions?
The introverted nature of implementers may also cause the team to lack the social skills to interact with key stakeholders.
When an organization discovers that a team is unbalanced, Belbin’s roles can be used to shape recruitment procedures to ensure the correct mix of talent is present.
- Belbin’s team roles describe different clusters of behavioral attributes that individuals may exhibit within teams. They were developed by management consultant Dr. R. Meredith Belbin in 1981.
- Belbin identified nine roles and categorized them according to whether they were people-oriented, action-oriented, or cerebral. The nine roles include the Shaper, Implementer, Completer, Resource Investigator, Team Worker, Coordinator, Monitor Evaluator, Specialist, and Plant.
- Organizations should use Belbin’s work to ensure their teams are balanced and are comprised of an ideal mix of roles.
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