The 9 Team Roles according to Belbin
Putting together the ideal team
To form a well-functioning team, Belbin first suggested that the personality profile of team members is based on traits that are developed to varying degrees. To find out how the composition of a team of different personality types affected team performance, he conducted behavioural analyses of team members at Henley Management College. As a result, in the early 1980s, he was able to identify eight different team roles in his model and, following further research, added the role of specialist. He defined three overarching roles into which the nine team roles could fall:
- Action or Task role
- Thinking role
- Social role
The Action or Task roles: Shaper, Implementer, Completer Finisher
The Shaper is dynamic, energetic and ambitious. They focus on the essential core issues, take responsibility quickly and thrive under constant pressure. They reject unclear and imprecise information and statements, so they look for structure, formulate sub-objectives, ensure rapid decision-making and have tasks completed immediately. They challenge and motivate their colleagues.
However, they tend to be provocative and argue easily with team members, but do not hold grudges. They can be perceived as arrogant, especially by outsiders, and their hectic behaviour can cause anxiety in the team.
Their role in the team? As the person responsible for a work package, they are one of the team's equals and feel comfortable in a team of equals.
The Implementer is conscientious, dependable and disciplined. They work hard, efficiently, systematically and methodically. Always down-to-earth and based on facts, not assumptions. This person translates concepts into workable plans, needs stable structures and works to build them. However, they are critical of change and inflexible to new solutions.
Their role in the team? Responsible for setting clear goals and structuring the approach.
The Completer Finisher is reliable, conscientious and caring. They ensure deadlines are met, pay attention to detail and avoid mistakes. Worried about missing anything, they prefer to check and control things themselves rather than delegate. They think a lot about all sorts of things, are overly conscientious and precise, and easily lose track of things.
Their role in the team? They are needed as a reminder when the team is working too superficially or not on time.
The Thinking roles: Plant, Monitor Evaluator, Specialist
The Plant is creative and imaginative. It is the clever one who can solve difficult problems, as their unconventional approach makes them good at finding new alternatives.
However, they tend to overlook details and trivialities and make careless mistakes.
Their role in the team? They are the problem solvers and the ones who develop new strategies.
Above all, the Monitor Evaluator is objective, analytical and dispassionate. They take a detached view, consider all the relevant options and are able to weigh up the team's ideas. As an analyst, they stay out of practical matters and rarely speak unless asked. Hardly able to motivate or inspire others and loses interest when criticised.
Their role in the team? They can be used as an auditor or assessor, as they will find a place in a review where their opinion will be heard.
The Specialist is dedicated, egocentric and likes to work without interruption. They have a wealth of knowledge, background information and skills that the other team members lack, and concentrate on the technical part of a project. However, they are relatively uninterested in the social side of the project. They tend to get bogged down in technical details and therefore tend to make informative contributions rather than focusing on the big picture.
Their role in the team? To provide the necessary expertise and to compensate for the team's lack of information.
The Social roles: Co-ordinator, Teamworker, Resource Investigator
The Co-ordinator is determined, confident, decisive and communicative. They coordinate the work process, identify relevant problems and delegate tasks to those who can do them best, always with the objectives in mind. The Co-ordinator can be perceived as manipulative. This can lead to team members distancing themselves from them, especially on a personal level. This feeling is reinforced by their tendency to delegate their personal tasks.
Their role in the team? They are good project managers because they can allocate and coordinate tasks.
The Teamworker is personable, communicative, diplomatic and harmonious. They ensure a pleasant working atmosphere and harmony and can be described as the social soul of the team. They avoid rivalry and therefore find it difficult to assert themselves, to act decisively in difficult situations and are therefore not good decision-makers.
Their role in the team? They act and support from the background, make important social contributions and are needed to ensure good teamwork.
The Resource Investigator is outgoing, extroverted, enthusiastic and communicative. They find it easy to make, maintain and use useful contacts outside the team. They initiate the implementation of new ideas and alternative solutions. However, they are often overly optimistic in setting the course and can easily lose interest in the project after initial enthusiasm.
Their role in the team? They should be used as a conduit to the world outside the project team.
Potential and challenges of the Team Roles
However, as good as this sounds in theory, the model cannot be fully implemented in practice.
For one thing, even the best team role cannot eliminate conflicts and antisocial behaviour, which can have a massive impact on a team's productivity. These cannot be solved by the Team Role.
Secondly, the roles cannot be strictly separated. People automatically take on more than one role and sometimes show one role more than another, depending on the need. In addition, people cannot be recruited according to their roles, but rather according to the existing skills required for the project.
However, two points should be noted: An individual team role does not necessarily correspond to the functional or organisational assignment, and there are team roles that are more important for project success than others.