Creating a balanced team

Meredith Belbin, 2016

Meredith Belbin, 2016

by belbin.pl

The key to success is to create a balanced team. The one where weaknesses of one team member are compensated by strengths of others, so team becomes very productive and stable. If several members have the same weakness then the whole team tends to have that weakness, and on the opposite, if several people in the team have the same strength then they may become competitors instead of being cooperators. Team leaders and managers often use the Belbin’s model to create better-balanced teams.

Belbin’s research showed that the most successful teams were made up of a diverse mix of behaviors; they had access to all nine Belbin Team Roles. And it doesn’t mean you need at least nine people to build a team because most people will have two or three roles they are most comfortable with.

But what will happen if you create a team entirely out of the outstanding individuals? I like the example of Apollo team. The Apollo team members had spent most of their time debating and trying to persuade other members that their point of view was the correct one. However, no one was willing to change their point of view and each member loved to find holes in each others’ arguments. The team couldn’t reach a decision together while more pressing jobs were completely neglected.

Understanding team roles

It’s necessary to understand that there are no good or bad team roles. Each team role has its strengths and weaknesses, and each has equal importance. When you understand your role in the particular team you can learn how to better contribute to the team.

Nine Belbin’s team roles are categorized into three groups: Action Oriented, People Oriented, and Thought Oriented.

Completer-Finishers are the people who see that projects are completed thoroughly. They ensure there have been no errors or omissions and they pay attention to the smallest of details. They are very concerned with deadlines and will push the team to make sure the job is completed on time. They are described as perfectionists who are orderly, conscientious and anxious.
However, a Completer-Finisher may worry unnecessarily and may find it hard to delegate.

Completer-Finishers are the people who see that projects are completed thoroughly. They ensure there have been no errors or omissions and they pay attention to the smallest of details. They are very concerned with deadlines and will push the team to make sure the job is completed on time. They are described as perfectionists who are orderly, conscientious and anxious. However, a Completer-Finisher may worry unnecessarily and may find it hard to delegate.

by Dmitry Salnikov

Implementers are the people who get things done. They turn the team's ideas and concepts into practical actions and plans. They are typically conservative, disciplined people who work systematically and efficiently and are very well organized. These are the people who you can count on to get the job done.
On the downside, Implementers may be inflexible and can be somewhat resistant to change.

Implementers are the people who get things done. They turn the team's ideas and concepts into practical actions and plans. They are typically conservative, disciplined people who work systematically and efficiently and are very well organized. These are the people who you can count on to get the job done. On the downside, Implementers may be inflexible and can be somewhat resistant to change.

by Dmitry Salnikov

Shapers are people who challenge the team to improve. They are dynamic and usually extroverted people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches for solving problems. The Shaper is the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that the team does not become complacent.
Shapers often see obstacles as exciting challenges and they tend to have the courage to push on when others feel like quitting.
Their potential weaknesses may be that they're argumentative and that they may offend people's feelings.

Shapers are people who challenge the team to improve. They are dynamic and usually extroverted people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches for solving problems. The Shaper is the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that the team does not become complacent. Shapers often see obstacles as exciting challenges and they tend to have the courage to push on when others feel like quitting. Their potential weaknesses may be that they're argumentative and that they may offend people's feelings.

by Dmitry Salnikov

Coordinators are the ones who take on the traditional team-leader role and have also been referred to as the chairmen. They guide the team to what they perceive are the objectives. They are often excellent listeners and they are naturally able to recognize the value that each team member brings to the table. They are calm and good-natured, and delegate tasks very effectively.
Their potential weaknesses are that they may delegate away too much personal responsibility, and may tend to be manipulative.

Coordinators are the ones who take on the traditional team-leader role and have also been referred to as the chairmen. They guide the team to what they perceive are the objectives. They are often excellent listeners and they are naturally able to recognize the value that each team member brings to the table. They are calm and good-natured, and delegate tasks very effectively. Their potential weaknesses are that they may delegate away too much personal responsibility, and may tend to be manipulative.

by Dmitry Salnikov

Team Workers are the people who provide support and make sure that people within the team are working together effectively. These people fill the role of negotiators within the team and they are flexible, diplomatic and perceptive. These tend to be popular people who are very capable in their own right, but who prioritize team cohesion and helping people get along.
Their weaknesses may be a tendency to be indecisive and to maintain uncommitted positions during discussions and decision-making.

Team Workers are the people who provide support and make sure that people within the team are working together effectively. These people fill the role of negotiators within the team and they are flexible, diplomatic and perceptive. These tend to be popular people who are very capable in their own right, but who prioritize team cohesion and helping people get along. Their weaknesses may be a tendency to be indecisive and to maintain uncommitted positions during discussions and decision-making.

by Dmitry Salnikov

Resource Investigators are innovative and curious. They explore available options, develop contacts, and negotiate for resources on behalf of the team. They are enthusiastic team members, who identify and work with external stakeholders to help the team accomplish its objective. They are outgoing and are often extroverted, meaning that others are often receptive to them and their ideas.
On the downside, they may lose enthusiasm quickly and are often overly optimistic.

Resource Investigators are innovative and curious. They explore available options, develop contacts, and negotiate for resources on behalf of the team. They are enthusiastic team members, who identify and work with external stakeholders to help the team accomplish its objective. They are outgoing and are often extroverted, meaning that others are often receptive to them and their ideas. On the downside, they may lose enthusiasm quickly and are often overly optimistic.

by Dmitry Salnikov

The Plant is the creative innovator who comes up with new ideas and approaches. They thrive on praise but criticism is especially hard for them to deal with. Plants are often introverted and prefer to work apart from the team. Because their ideas are so novel, they can be impractical at times. They may also be poor communicators and can tend to ignore given parameters and constraints.

The Plant is the creative innovator who comes up with new ideas and approaches. They thrive on praise but criticism is especially hard for them to deal with. Plants are often introverted and prefer to work apart from the team. Because their ideas are so novel, they can be impractical at times. They may also be poor communicators and can tend to ignore given parameters and constraints.

by Dmitry Salnikov

Monitor-Evaluators are best at analyzing and evaluating ideas that other people (often Plants) come up with. These people are shrewd and objective, and they carefully weigh the pros and cons of all the options before coming to a decision.
Monitor-Evaluators are critical thinkers and very strategic in their approach. They are often perceived as detached or unemotional. Sometimes they are poor motivators who react to events rather than instigating them.

Monitor-Evaluators are best at analyzing and evaluating ideas that other people (often Plants) come up with. These people are shrewd and objective, and they carefully weigh the pros and cons of all the options before coming to a decision. Monitor-Evaluators are critical thinkers and very strategic in their approach. They are often perceived as detached or unemotional. Sometimes they are poor motivators who react to events rather than instigating them.

by Dmitry Salnikov

Specialists are people who have specialized knowledge that is needed to get the job done. They pride themselves on their skills and abilities, and they work to maintain their professional status. Their job within the team is to be an expert in the area, and they commit themselves fully to their field of expertise.
This may limit their contribution, and lead to a preoccupation with technicalities at the expense of the bigger picture.

Specialists are people who have specialized knowledge that is needed to get the job done. They pride themselves on their skills and abilities, and they work to maintain their professional status. Their job within the team is to be an expert in the area, and they commit themselves fully to their field of expertise. This may limit their contribution, and lead to a preoccupation with technicalities at the expense of the bigger picture.

by Dmitry Salnikov

How to use this method

To identify roles in your team observe people’s behavior or ask them to pass special tests developed by Belbin applying on his web page or take this free Belbin test alternative.

To have a well-functioning team, it would be ideal to have a member for each role. However, to make that happen, you would need a team of at least 9 people. Since small businesses often work with smaller teams, it is only fair to ask: how would Belbin construct a successful small team?

Firstly, it would be ideal if the team had 6 members. Belbin’s research has proven that teams with less than 6 members struggle with work and overlapping duties, while teams with more members (7+) tend to get lazy and do the same amount of work as the six-member team.

Secondly, a successful small team should have one Coordinator, one Implementer, and one Plant. Those are a must. Choose other roles as you see fit.

But bear in mind, that your role in the team depends on the situation, environment, interrelationships with others, and the work being done. So when you change the team you can play different roles.