Belbin Team Roles : Management Funda; V3 Issue 2

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

  1. Observe how each of your team members contribute and behave with other team members.

  2. Against each team member list down key strengths, weaknesses and characteristics observed.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?”

  5. 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’,
  • ‘Belbin's Team Roles’,
  • ‘Belbin's Ream Roles’,
  • ‘Belbin's Team Roles’,
  • ‘Belbin Team Roles’,

Word Jumble: Activity Corner; V3 Issue 2

To determine the answer to the following question solve the word jumbles and use the letters marked in bold in each of the jumbled word. All the jumbled words are team related words.

What did the team leader tell his new team member about working in his team?



Scoring direction to “Word Jumble ”

  1. Virtual  
  2. Empowerment
  3. Praise   
  4. Synergy               
  5. Ego                        
  6. Goals    
  7. Collaborate
  8. Kinship

"It's about teamwork."

FISH! : Book Review; V3 Issue 2

Title: FISH!

Authors: Stephen C. Lundin Ph.D., Harry Paul, John Christensen

Publication details: Hodder & Stoughton, 2006

Number of pages: 112 pages

One of your team members regrets not having become an actor. Another team member is bored with the tedious work and given a choice would love to become a cricket coach. As their manager is it possible for you to help them find passion, fun, and sense of pride, everyday in their work and feel “Thank God it’s Monday rather than Friday?” Yes! as per Fish!, a modern parable engineered to make you and your team enjoy your way to better productivity at the work place! The book teaches you that living your true potential is a choice that one can make every day.  Its unique formula addressing today's work issues including employee engagement and burnout will help you energise and enthuse your teams.


The book’s central character Mary Jane Ramirez was given the responsibility to turnaround the operations team that lacked energy, creativity, passion and good work ethics. For instance the team treated their customers as if the customers were interrupting them. During a chance visit by her to Seattle’s world famous Pike Place Fish Market, she observed that despite the mundane work, the fishmongers were cheerful, playful and enjoyed their work. The book tells the story of how Mary unravels the secret of their happiness and how her team adopts their four principles of choosing the attitude, playing at work, treating customers to make their day and being emotionally present for people to transform the operations department from a “toxic energy waste dump” to a place where people would vie to work in. Inspired by Mary’s teamher company had this inscribed at the entrance which also summarises the principles of this book... “As you enter this place of work please choose to make today a great day...Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be present when your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this sure fire remedy: find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support, or a good ear -- and make their day.”

The book demonstrates how the four principles can be implemented. For instance Mary’s team implemented ‘Choose Your Attitude’ by putting up an ‘attitude menu’ comprising items like ‘energetic’, ‘creative’, ‘supportive’ and ‘caring’ to serve as a constant reminder of ‘making the right choice’. Instead of playing like the fishmongers by having flying, smiling and talking fish the operation team implemented initiatives like joke of the month contest, turning small lights on when it is time to lighten up, posting signs saying “This is a playground. Watch out for adult children.” etc. There are also illustrations of consequences faced by people who were not working based on these principles. One of the characters describes how not being present for her colleague resulted in her colleague losing her job and the company losing a client and a lot of money.

Apart from the main principles Fish also illustrates other important success factors at work like not losing faith in oneself, learning and growing continuously, taking personal risks, not giving up on your team for you own career advancement and being persistent. These are again demonstrated through the numerous challenges faced by the central characters in the book. Throughout the book Mary exemplifies qualities of an ideal manager like implementing what she preaches, giving her team the adequate flexibility and authority to take decisions, being transparent about the problems, encouraging the team members to identify solutions rather than prescribing them herself etc.

If you loved “Who Moved My Cheese?” then undoubtedly you are going to love this book. It uses a deceptively simple and engaging story to convey its message. Take for instance the way the characters in the book describe the benefits of ‘Play’... “Happy people treat others well. Fun leads to creativity. The time passes quickly. Having a good time is healthy. Work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards.” This book can serve as an excellent guide for creating energetic, enthusiastic, creative and effective teams with the key learnings highlighted in quick read boxes, supported by inspiring quotations like “Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle...Meaning is something you build into your life.”  And you don’t have to be a manager to benefit from reading this book; you can apply the lessons in the book in any aspect of your life in order to keep yourself excited about what you do.

Now, Discover Your Strengths: Book Review; Nov'07

Title:Now, Discover Your Strengths

Author:Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton

Publication details:  Pocket books, Great Britain, 2005

Number of pages:262 pages


To motivate your team members to give superior performance you must correct their weaknesses right? Wrong! As per the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths”, focusing on their strengths is far more effective in achieving success than eliminating their weaknesses. Based on interviews conducted by Gallup of over 1.7 million employees the authors introduces a positive approach for discovering, focusing and using strengths and talents to create personal and professional success.

The authors consider the following two assumptions on which they think most organizations are built flawed and provide alternate assumptions they think are right.
“Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.”

The statement “Spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learnings and satisfactions will all help you detect the traces of your talents.” is quite useful for zeroing in on our talents. The book maintains that while with sufficient practice we might be able to learn different tasks well, we will never be great in these areas unless we have a natural innate talent for them.

Each copy of the book contains a unique ID code that allows you to take a Web-based interview (StrengthsFinder) that is fairly easy to take. This analyzes your instinctive reactions and presents you with your five most powerful signature themes like Achiever, Activator, Empathy, Futuristic, or Strategic. Once you know which of the 34 themes you lead with, the book shows you how to leverage them for powerful results at three levels: for your own development, for your success as a manager, and for the success of your organization.

The book reinforces a lot of unique ideas first published in Marcus Buckingham’s best selling book “First Break All The Rules”, ideas like manager being the most influential person for an employee’s stickiness to an organization, individualization (treating individual employees differently rather the same way to take care of their individual needs) etc.

It also provides a step by step strength based approach for developing and managing 3 HR processes viz., selection, performance management and career development. Here, I found some of the suggestions to be radical but credible. For instance in performance management system it talks about every manager holding a “strength discussion” rather than a “development discussion” with his team member. While the former is focused on how the employee’s strengths can be utilized at work, the latter typically focuses on areas of improvement. However, industry data of how companies have applied it practically for HR processes and benefited would have been useful for HR practioners.

This resourceful book is easy to read with its short concise chapters, varied examples and interesting case studies.  The report of my signature themes was a little too brief, nevertheless very useful.

If you are wondering is it OK to ignore our weaknesses then do note that the book does acknowledge that any weakness which comes in the way of superior performance needs to be minimized. For instance the book gives the example of Bill Gates. His genius at taking innovation and transforming them into user friendly applications is a “strength” whereas his ability to built an enterprise in the face of legal and commercial assault as compared to his partner Steve Balmer, is not. So he selected Steve Balmer to run the company allowing him to return to software development. Thus, the important message it imparts is…. “Capitalize on your strengths… and mange around your weaknesses.”