What if I tell you there is a method to better understand your team and improve its performance? It was developed by Dr Meredith Belbin, who studied team-work for more than 40 years and found out there are 9 types of people’s behavior in a team. Even if you’re not a team leader or manager, this article will help you to understand your role in the team and to learn your weaknesses and strengths.
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.
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.
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.