When a team is performing at its best, you’ll usually find that each team member has clear roles and responsibilities to which they are fully committed. Sometimes however, despite clear roles and responsibilities, a team can still fall short of its full potential.
Dr Meredith Belbin studied team-work for many years, and observed that people in teams tend to assume different “team roles”. A “team role” is defined as “a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way” and named nine such team roles that underlie team success.
Creating More Balanced Teams
Belbin suggests that, by understanding your team role within a particular team, you can develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses as a team member, and so improve how you contribute to the team.
Team leaders and team development practitioners often use the Belbin model to help create more balanced teams. Teams can become unbalanced if all team members have similar styles of behaviour or team roles.
If team members have similar weakness, the team as a whole may tend to have that weakness. If team members have similar team-work strengths, they may tend to compete (rather than co-operate) for the team tasks and responsibilities that best suit their natural styles. So you can use the model with your team to help ensure that necessary team roles are covered, and that potential behavioural tensions or weaknesses among the team member are addressed.
Understanding Belbin’s Team Roles Model
There are nine team roles which are categorised into three groups: Action Oriented, People Oriented, and Thought Oriented. Each team role is associated with typical behavioural and interpersonal strengths. Belbin also defined characteristic weaknesses that tend to accompany each team-role.