Belbin’s Team Roles

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.

Action-oriented roles

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. The Completer – introverted team members who are detail-oriented and may also be perfectionists. Their tendencies make them ideal process, task, or product auditors.

People-oriented roles

  1. The Resource Investigator – these are curious and enthusiastic employees who use their inquisitive nature to discover new ideas that benefit the team.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. The Specialist – specialists bring expertise on a particular topic to the team and act as the authority on various technical and practical considerations.
  3. 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.

Key takeaways:

  • 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. 

Key Highlights

  • Origin and Purpose: Belbin’s team roles were developed by Dr. R. Meredith Belbin in 1981. Belbin, a British management consultant, researched team dynamics for nine years to understand strengths, weaknesses, and ways to enhance team performance.
  • Nature of Belbin’s Roles: Belbin’s team roles are behavioral clusters that describe how individuals interact within teams. Belbin emphasized that successful teams require a diversity of characters and personalities.
  • Three Categories of Roles:
    • Action-Oriented Roles:
      • Shaper: Dynamic and driven individuals who excel in motivating themselves and others. They are results-oriented leaders who thrive under pressure.
      • Implementer: Practical individuals who value structure, order, and discipline, prioritizing the organization’s needs.
      • Completer: Detail-oriented and sometimes perfectionistic team members who excel in auditing processes, tasks, or products.
    • People-Oriented Roles:
      • Resource Investigator: Curious and enthusiastic employees who bring new ideas to the team through their inquisitive nature.
      • Team Worker: Collaborative individuals skilled in resolving differences and promoting unity among team members.
      • Coordinator: Focused on objectives, they match talents with tasks and employ strong interpersonal and communication skills.
    • Cerebral (Thought-Oriented) Roles:
      • Monitor Evaluator: Decision-makers who rely on rational thinking and objectivity, crucial for strategic planning and problem-solving.
      • Specialist: Experts in a particular field who contribute technical and practical knowledge.
      • Plant: Creative problem solvers who generate innovative solutions and often prefer working alone.
  • Interpretation and Application:
    • Belbin’s roles offer a framework to assess team composition and balance. Organizations should evaluate whether there’s an appropriate mix of roles within their teams.
    • Teams that lack balance may face challenges. For example, a team dominated by Shapers might result in constant power struggles, while a team of Implementers and Completers might resist creative solutions.
  • Recruitment and Team Formation:
    • Organizations can use Belbin’s roles to guide recruitment processes, ensuring a balanced mix of talents in teams.
    • Understanding these roles helps teams perform effectively and fosters collaboration among individuals with complementary strengths.

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