After the success of ‘Team Chandrayaan’, ISRO Chief Madhavan Nair mentioned in one of his interviews that the team’s success was not because the team comprised of brilliant individuals. So if not individual brilliance what made them succeed? I would say definitely the right mix of team members, among other things! Would you like to achieve this mix in your team? One way to do this is by using the ‘Belbin Team Roles’ model.
What are the Belbin Team Roles
Over several years, Meredith Belbin and his research team at Henley Management College, England, studied the behavior of managers from world over observing that people in teams tend to assume different team roles. A ‘Team Role’ is “a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way". Their research identified nine distinctive team roles known as the ‘Belbin Team Roles’ as underlying the success of teams. The following table summarizes the same.
Some points to remember are…
The nature of team assignment determines the ideal team composition. If the assignment must be finished very fast, then one needs strong Shapers and Finishers. If the assignment is related to development of new products, then one needs more Resource Investigators, Plants and Specialists. Typically to achieve the best balance, there should be…
- A Coordinator or Shaper (not both) for leader.
- A Plant to stimulate ideas.
A Monitor Evaluator to ensure honesty and clarity.
One or more Implementer, Team Worker, Resource Investigator or Completer Finisher to make things happen.
One’s behavior and interpersonal style within a team is to some extent dependent on the situation. It relates not only to ones’ own natural working style, but also to the interrelationships with others, and the work being done. A person may behave and interact quite differently in different teams or when the membership or work of the team changes.
Belbin team roles represent tasks and functions in managing the team, activities and are not personality types or thinking preferences.
While one may have ideal and preferred team roles, it does not mean one cannot or should not assume other roles. A team member can even adopt more than one role if the number of team members is less than nine.
Benefits of using the Belbin Team Roles Model
By understanding your team role within a particular team, you can develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses as a team member, and thus improve your contribution to the team.
As the team leader you can use the model to balance team roles before a project starts. Ensure that each needed role in the team can actually be performed by somebody and is assigned to somebody. Teams can be unbalanced if all team members assume the same team roles. Say there are too many Shapers in the team. Each Shaper will want to pull the team in a different direction weakening the team in the process. The good news is well balanced teams are less risk-bearing and typically will require less of your management attention.
You can use also use the model to identify reasons for and manage interpersonal differences within an existing team. Use your analysis of your team as a guide in developing your team's strengths, and managing its weaknesses.
Steps in analyzing your team using the Belbin Team Roles model
Observe how each of your team members contribute and behave with other team members.
Against each team member list down key strengths, weaknesses and characteristics observed.
Compare each person's listed strengths and weakness with Belbin's descriptions of team roles, and determine the one that most accurately describes that person.
Next to identify potential weakness, areas of conflict and missing strengths ask yourself questions like… “Which team roles/strengths are missing from your team?” “Is there a prevalent team role that many of the team members share?”, “What are the potential areas of conflict?”
Consider the options you have to improve as a team. For instance is it possible for a team member to improve how he/she works with others to avoid potential conflict of their natural styles or can new skills be added to the team through addition of new team members to address potential weaknesses.
The Belbin Team Role model is used by over 40 percent of the top 100 companies in the UK, the United Nations, the World Bank and thousands of organizations throughout the world to enhance individual and team performance.
Now you may be thinking that while individuals are likely to excel when given a role that exploits their strengths, it is not always possible to do so. You may have to deliver through the team members you already have. However, an understanding of the required team roles will help your team members to contribute in a manner that improves the effectiveness of the team. And that is where you as their team leader can help. Of course don’t forget to also ensure the presence of the other factors that are equally important in getting a team to perform at its best. And undoubtedly you will have a winning team to successfully launch your own Chandrayaan.
- Watson B, ‘An Introduction to Belbin Team Roles’, http://www.housing.sc.edu/rsl/pdf/Training/Students/Week2ReadingBelbinSt.pdf.
- ‘Belbin's Team Roles’, http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_83.htm.
- ‘Belbin's Ream Roles’,http://changingminds.org/explanations/preferences/belbin.htm.
- ‘Belbin's Team Roles’, http://www.12manage.com/methods_belbin_team_roles.html.
- ‘Belbin Team Roles’, http://www.leadershipsolutions.co.nz/belbin.cfm.