The 9 Team Roles according to Belbin

The project team should be selected on the basis of existing skills, but in practice the project team is usually made up of people who are currently available. These may well be capable people who simply lack project management training. However, sufficient project management skills are essential for managing projects, as this is the only way to manage tasks and activities that require a systematic approach. In a relatively short period of time, these people can be trained to understand and apply the concepts and methods of project management, but then it is a matter of delivering the required services as part of a project team in a targeted and reliable manner. Here it becomes clear that, in addition to knowledge and experience, the personality of the individual team member is also important for the performance of the project team. This is where Meredith Belbin's Team Roles model comes in. According to this model, people complement each other in terms of their different knowledge, skills and personal characteristics, while also covering nine roles in terms of personality areas.
Five people at a business meeting.


Putting together the ideal team

Whether a team "works" depends not only on professional qualifications and project management skills, but above all on the social skills of its members. The term "social skills" is a collective term for human characteristics such as self-awareness, self-confidence, sociability, empathy and assertiveness. Those who are able to find an acceptable compromise between social conformity and their own needs, to form a team from non-conforming members of a group, to overcome conflicts or to find consensus are considered socially competent in project management.
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 
This enabled him to structure characteristics, identify strengths and weaknesses and make suggestions for filling roles in a team.

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.
Completer Finisher

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.
Monitor Evaluator

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.
Resource Investigator

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

The Belbin Team Roles can be applied comprehensively in large project teams, in smaller teams individual team members will have to take on multiple roles, but that is human nature. Although it is relatively easy for project managers and team members to identify their strengths and weaknesses, this is personal knowledge, which is particularly protected in many cultures. The team can be strengthened in terms of personnel, certain team members can be promoted (which is often well received), but also removed from the team (which can lead to negative reactions). Team members who work more in the background or take on quiet roles are also important to the productivity of the team as a whole, and their contributions can be recognized by knowing their roles. Everyone can put themselves in a role, reflect on their own behaviour and that of other team members, and consider what needs to be done to move the team forward. Role clarity can improve cooperation and communication between team members and make project work more efficient.
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.


Belbin's Team Roles attempts to explain and facilitate team building and team leadership, thereby contributing to an understanding of effective teamwork. By understanding their own strengths and weaknesses through self-assessment, e.g. questionnaires and subsequent feedback from independent observers, team members can better integrate into the group. This can increase motivation as important contributions to the project and the team can be made and become visible according to personal abilities. The development of the team building process and the predictability of an individual's role behaviour in the team is made possible by relatively simple means. Based on the Belbin analysis, it can generally be said that teams are particularly strong when they include a wide range of heterogeneous personality and role types.
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.

Team Roles according to Belbin - the author
Author: Dr. Roland Ottmann
Keywords: Project management, Team roles

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For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.