Belbin team roles

March 7, 2012 by
Filed under: Behaviour 

A team is not a random bunch of people with different functions, but a group of people, each with its own role that is clear for the other team members. Team members consciously seek certain roles and they function optimally in the role that fits their naturally best.

If you learn how to ‘read’ the team roles people have, its a lot easier to interpret the nonverbal signals they send.

Team Roles at Work

“Team Roles at Work” lists the following questions:

  • How to develop self-understanding of the team members?
  • How do you ensure good cooperation and interaction between team members?
  • How do you recognize suitable candidates for a team?
  • How do you promote interdependence of team members?
  • How do you ensure that the team well with the organization?

Psychological characteristics of team members

According to Belbin, the success or failure of a team to do with the psychological characteristics of the team members. Based on these characteristics, people develop a preferred team role. If you do take this into account, you can put together a team that is much more effective than when you put people in them because you like you or because their department now must be represented once.

How someone behaves in a team is determined by six factors:

  1. the personality
  2. the mental skills
  3. the values and motivation
  4. influences of the environment
  5. experience
  6. the ability to play other roles

Balanced team composition

Belbin team concludes that the best results are achieved with a balanced composition in teams, where team members with different personality traits complement or correct.

The main factors of teams failing is, according to Belbin, the lack of key team roles (especially the plant), competitive team roles, conflicting team roles or responsibilities within the team, and bad connection to the natural roles of team members. This can occur when the portfolios in the team are divided on the basis of professional experience of team members. For example, a creative mind is appointed to become secretary, and his potential isnt fully utilised.

According to Belbin, the best team workers are distinguished by good timing and dosage of their contribution, the gift to adapt in different situations to take different team roles and willingness to execute unpopular actions.

Recruitment and selection of new team members

When recruiting and selecting new team members or the composition of a new team it would be good to devide of both subject or function-like contribution of team roles. The “key figure” in which the team must be built around doesnt necessarily have to be the team leader, but often a content specialist or a very creative and intelligent person.

R. Meredith Belbin

Although R. Meredith Belbin runs against his eighties, he still travels around the world to give lectures and workshops. He is still at the top of his family business Belbin Associates and publishes books on a regular basis. The creator of a ‘new team roles concept’ studied classical languages and psychology at Clare College, Cambridge. He promoted on the problems of older workers in the industry. After having worked a few years at several universities, he settled as a consultant in Cambridge. There Belbin Associates was born. He allowed all kinds of organizations in Britain to become his clients. But large organizations like the OECD, the U.S. Department of Labor and the European Commission are customer as well. In his spare time, Belbin plays golf with a fixed group of people. Remarkably, the group he joined is based on his team roles model.


In the next articles the different roles are discribed:

  • Plants could be unorthodox or forgetful
  • Resource Investigators might forget to follow up on a lead
  • Monitor Evaluators could be overly critical and slow moving
  • Co-ordinators might over delegate leaving themselves little work to do
  • Implementers might be slow to relinquish their plans in favour of positive changes
  • Completer Finishers could be accused of taking their perfectionism to the extremes
  • Teamworkers might become indecisive when unpopular decisions need to be made
  • Shapers could risk becoming aggressive and bad-humoured in their attempts to get things done
  • Specialist may have a tendency to focus narrowly on their own subject of choice


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