Group projects. Everyone’s least favorite words.
What used to be a dreaded activity in school and university is commonplace in the workplace. To be honest, a company cannot achieve its goals without successfully carrying out group projects.
So, think back. When was the last time you thought a group project went smoothly?
What did you like about it?
Was there conflict?
Was everyone on the same page?
Did you feel like you were contributing something worthwhile?
Belbin tests are used exactly for this purpose – to ensure your teams are built to achieve your project goals most effectively. Here, you’ll learn more about the Belbin test, Belbin team roles, and common misconceptions.
Simply putting together a number of people and expecting them to work as a team is not enough.–Meredith Belbin
What are Belbin tests?
Belbin team role tests were researched and devised by Meredith Belbin in the 1970s to predict the success of management teams.
Belbin was convinced that by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each individual, the most effective management teams could be created.
The basis of the theory is that teams need to be made up of diverse individuals, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. This ensures that team members do not compete for the same tasks that they are naturally adept at.
In the words of Belbin:
A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role that is understood by other members.
Breakdown of the Team Roles
The nine Belbin roles are organized into three subcategories: people-, action-, and cerebral-oriented roles (social, action, thinking). These Belbin subcategories are further divided into three roles respectively, giving you nine roles: resource investigator, teamworker, co-ordinator, shaper, implementer, completer-finisher, plant, monitor evaluator, and specialist.
Each role lists strengths and “allowable weaknesses.” Belbin emphasizes that there is no such thing as a perfect team. What’s important is that team members understand and recognize each other’s advantages and disadvantages.
Looking for more in-depth explanations? Keep on reading!
Social (People-oriented) Roles
Resource investigator – Resource investigators are excellent at communicating and negotiating with individuals inside and outside the company. They are highly enthusiastic and are adept at finding and developing promising ideas. Their relaxed and social personalities make them very likeable but beware because they can lose steam and enthusiasm as the project progresses.
Where they thrive: e.g., product sales
Teamworker – Teamworkers are collaborative individuals who like to help the team work together without friction. They may facilitate this by completing tasks that need to be done, resolving interpersonal conflicts, and supporting team members who may feel neglected. While agreeable, perceptive, and good at listening, teamworkers can be indecisive and hesitant to say or do anything that could be unpopular with the group.
Where they thrive: e.g., senior positions
Co-ordinator – Co-ordinators are skilled at identifying the talents of each member and delegating tasks accordingly to achieve a project’s goals. They are seen as mature and confident. However, too much of a good thing can be bad – co-ordinators can tend to over-delegate, leaving few tasks for themselves. Some team members could find this manipulative.
Where they thrive: e.g., team lead
Shaper – Shapers are driven and passionate go-getters who work great under pressure. They like to challenge the status quo, set unique goals, and get results. But in their drive to get things done, shapers can become aggressive or poorly humored and can hurt people’s feelings.
Where they thrive: e.g., head of product marketing
Implementer – Implementers are structured, organized, and practical. They excel at creating concrete plans and ensuring they are implemented from start to finish. While highly disciplined, implementers can be seen as a bit inflexible when it comes to changes or new ideas.
Where they thrive: e.g., data-driven analyst
Completer-finisher – Completer-finishers are highly meticulous individuals who have an eye for details. They can use their perfectionistic tendencies to review and improve certain aspects of a project. However, because of their perfectionistic tendencies, they can be prone to anxiety and a fear of doing something wrong.
Where they thrive: e.g., tech support, quality assurance
Thinking (Cerebral-oriented) Roles
Plant – Plants are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. They’re the team members who come up with new and innovative ideas. However, the flip side of this is they often prefer to work alone and can be called “absentminded.”
Where they thrive: e.g., product design
Monitor Evaluator – Monitor evaluators are rational, strategic, and objective thinkers. They excel at analyzing a problem and finding an effective solution. Their allowable weakness is being overly analytical and critical because they think with so little emotion.
Where they thrive: e.g., project management
Specialist – The role of specialist was actually added later to the Belbin team roles by Meredith Belbin. Specialists have in-depth knowledge in one area and are the go-to people in these instances. The downside is that specialists can overload team members with information and tend to be only engaged when it comes to their area of expertise.
Where they thrive: e.g., analysts, technicians
Common Misconceptions About Belbin Tests and Teams
Belbin is a psychometric test.
Well, first of all – what is a psychometric test? According to the Collin’s Dictionary, it’s a test designed to test a person’s mental state, personality and thought processes.
This would be, for instance, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. However, the Belbin team test measures “clusters of observable behavior.”
In order to have an effective team, you need nine people, each of whom fulfill one of the Belbin roles.
Actually, many people can fulfill two roles in a team setting. For example, someone could be a teamworker and a completer-finisher. Meredith Belbin considers four team members to be the magic number – large enough for all the roles to be fulfilled but small enough that there isn’t role overlap.
A harmonious team is a successful team.
Think again! Although the teamworker in the group may wish and wish for team harmony, this is in fact not the best method of evaluating team effectiveness.
Do you remember a time where a group you were in seemed harmonious? Everyone agreed with one another? Yep. You most likely noticed that your group also didn’t come up with the most creative ideas. Yep.
Belbin roles are about creating heterogeneous groups where dissenting opinions can occur.
Because development doesn’t happen when everyone thinks everything is going wonderfully.
Belbin tests are intended for recruiting new people to the team.
While Belbin tests can help companies hire new employees for special projects, they are also useful for putting together teams with current employees. This is because each project is unique with its own set of goals (creative, time-sensitive, etc.) and each individual can behave differently in each group or project setting.
For this reason, it’s important to fully understand the potential of each individual in your team. We offer consultancy services for just this reason!
Once a specialist, always a specialist.
Like personality tests and assessments, it is easy to get caught up in “categorizing” people. The point of Belbin team roles tests is to understand your own and your team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
But, as we mentioned earlier, unlike personalities, behaviors are changeable. That means just because your team member took on the role of specialist in the previous project, doesn’t mean that she will take on that role in the next project.
We hope you have a clearer picture of Belbin team roles and the importance of understanding them in the workplace.
Because each team is different and each project is unique, taking the time to fully look at your team’s natural strengths and weaknesses can be the deciding factor between success and failure. For this reason, it’s crucial to constantly analyze and assess a project’s objectives and the kind of team you need to implement it most effectively.