Belbin’s Team Roles: Made SIMPLE

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(Last updated on: 02/10/2021)

Belbin’s team roles is a model that is used to identify behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. It is a theory that many students will learn when they are studying work skills or employability skills. If you have come across the phrase ‘Belbin’s team roles’ but you are not quite sure what it means then you are in the right place…. read on!

Belbin's Team Roles For Beginne...
Belbin's Team Roles For Beginners

Who is Belbin?

Raymond Meredith Belbin is an English researcher and management consultant who is best known for his work on teamwork and management. Born in 1926, Belbin is a visiting professor and Honorary Fellow of Henley Management College in Oxfordshire, UK. In 1981 Belbin published his book entitled Management Teams, which demonstrated how members of teams interact. In this book he proposed that an effective team has members that cover eight (later nine) key roles in managing the team and how it carries out its work. This model has since informed managers and employers around the world and continues to be a very popular guide for management teams.

Belbin's Team Roles
Belbin is known for his work on teamwork.

What are Belbin’s team roles?

Belbin’s team roles are 9 different roles that people would fit in within a team. Generally, successful teams will be made up of people who provide different skills and have different mindsets, attitudes and behaviours. Some people may fill two roles, and of course these roles can overlap somewhat.

“The types of behaviour in which people engage are infinite. But the range of useful behaviours, which make an effective contribution to team performance, is finite. These behaviours could be grouped into a set number of related clusters to which the term ‘Team Role’ is applied.” – Meredith Belbin

We don’t always need all of Belbin’s team roles at all times. Look at the task in hand and then work out what the tasks are, and which team role needs to be fulfilled. Belbin’s team roles allow individuals to recognise their strengths and weaknesses, and feel as though they are important within an overall task.

There are nine of Belbin’s team roles, split into three broader categories:

  • The Social Roles: Resource Investigator, Teamworker, Co-ordinator
  • The Thinking Roles: Plant, Monitor Evaluator, Specialist 
  • The Action or Task Roles: Shaper, Implementer, Completer-Finisher
Belbin's Team Roles
Belbin outlined 9 different team roles

Below you can read about each category, and each role within that category! According to Belbin, each role has its strength and what are called ‘allowable weaknesses’. This is because nobody is perfect, but a team still needs to be made up of a variety of people in order to achieve a well-rounded result.

Why is Belbin’s theory useful?

When conducting teamwork it makes sense to put people together who will compliment each other and work well together to achieve the best results. Teamwork can be a challenge at times, especially if the team members do not compliment each other!

Belbin’s theory enables managers as well as individuals to assess their own strengths and weaknesses and to see how this might benefit or impede their ability to conduct effective teamwork. We all have different skills and qualities and if we can play to our strengths then we can achieve better outcomes in our work!

Teamwork is prevalent in many areas of our society and many different jobs. Some jobs require teamwork more than others, for example when working as Cabin Crew, teamwork skills are vital because in the event of an emergency the ‘team’ will be required to safely evacuate an aircraft!

Belbin's Team Roles

Belbin’s team roles: The social roles

The social roles of a team include the resource investigator, the teamworker and the co-ordinator. These are the most people-oriented roles…

The resource investigator

This is somebody who uses their inquisitive nature in order to find ideas to bring back to the whole team to be developed further. Their strengths include being outgoing and confident, as well as being enthusiastic when it comes to getting the work done. They aren’t shy about exploring the available opportunities, and are happy to develop contacts.

However, the resource investigator may be too optimistic about the possibile outcomes of the overall task. They are also likely to lose interest in the task once the initial enthusiasm has passed by. Belbin says not to be surprised if a resource investigator forgets to follow up on a lead…

The teamworker

This is the team member who really wants everybody to work together and get things done. They help the team to connec smoothly, and use their own versatility in order to identify what needs to be done – and, if need be, to complete it on behalf of the team. They are co-operative and work well with others, and are generally good at diverting any arguments or friction between the team. Teamworkers in this sense are good listeners, and tend to be perceptive and fair

Their allowable weaknesses are that they can often be indecisive when it comes to quick and important decisions. They tend to avoid confrontation, and you shouldn’t be surprised if they avoid making a decision that might be unpopular. This is often to avoid ‘upsetting the apple cart’, so to speak.

The co-ordinator 

This member of the team is important when it comes to working out what everyone can and needs to do, as well as encouraging team members to connect. They are good at focusing on the team’s overall objective. Co-ordinators are great at delegating. However, this can sometimes be seen as one of their allowable weaknesses: they may offload their own work to others. Over-delegating would leave them with little to do, and for this reason other team members can see co-ordinators as manipulative at times.

But they have a lot of strengths. Co-ordinators are confident and mature, and good at identifying talent within the team. They are also good at clarifying the goals and staying focused on this.

These are all of the social roles when it comes to Belbin’s team roles. Do you identify with any of these roles?

Belbin’s team roles: The thinking roles

The next set of Belbin’s team roles are the thinking roles. They are cerebral, and the roles include the plant, the monitor evaluator and the specialist…

The plant

This is the problem solver – someone who is creative, and thinks outside the box when it comes to fixing mistakes and sorting things out. Often labelled as unconventional, plants are creative and imaginative free-thinkers who are good at (and keen on) generating ideas as well as solving problems that others maybe cannot.

green plant on brown clay pot

However, plants of course have their allowable weaknesses too. They are often thinking at speed in their own head, which hinders their ability to communicate effectively with other members of the team. Plants may ignore ‘incidentals’, and Belbin says we shouldn’t be surprised to find that they can be forgetful or absent-minded.

The monitor evaluator

This is definitely one of the thinking roles within Belbin’s team roles – someone who provides a very logical eye and is able to make impartial judgements when this is called for. They are able to step away from the task and look at things objectively. A monitor evaluator’s strengths include being strategic and discerning as well as unemotional, and being able to make accurate judgements.

However, they can lack drive when it comes to getting things done or inspiring others, and can be seen as overly critical. Monitor evaluators can also be fairly slow when it comes to making decisions. This can obviously hinder a process!

The specialist 

The third and final thinking role is the specialist. They are dedicated to their task because they have in-depth or expert knowledge of a key area. Specialists are able to provide knowledge and skills that other team members don’t have. They are self-starting and also dedicated when it comes to doing what they need to do. 

Specialists are single-minded as in, they focus on one thing. This leads to one of their allowable weaknesses, however: they contribute on a narrow front and might not get involved elsewhere. They are known to dwell on technicalities, too. Belbin says not to be surprised if a specialist overloads you with information, which can be tricky.

These are the three thinking roles within Belbin’s team roles. Do any of these apply to you?

Belbin’s team roles: The action or task roles

This is the last category of Belbin’s team roles. These action-focused roles include the shaper, the implementer, and the completer-finisher…

The shaper

This is someone who really keeps things moving. The shaper provides a necessary drive which means the team doesn’t lose focus – they are happy to challenge and be challenged. Shapers are dynamic and thrive on pressure. They also have the courage needed to overcome obstacles and complete the task at hand.

The shaper isn’t without their allowable weaknesses. They are – or can be – prone to provocation, which can lead to people’s feelings getting hurt. Due to having so much drive themselves, they can become aggressive or bad-humoured just by wanting to get things done.

The implementer

This is someone who plans and puts together a strategy that works and allows things to get done. They are also the one that ensures this plan is carried out. An implementer’s strengths include being efficient and reliable, as well as very practical. They know what to do when it comes to turning ideas into action, and how to organise work that needs to get done.

Their weaknesses included being slow to respond when new possibilities are offered or suggested, meaning they can be rather inflexible. Belbin says we shouldn’t be surprised if they are reluctant to give up their own plans and ideas even in favour of positive alternatives.

The completer-finisher

This is the ninth and last of Belbin’s team roles. The completer-finisher is someone who is often called in towards the end of a task in order to check over what has been achieved so far. They will scrutinise the work, and make sure it meets the highest possible standards.

Completer-finishers are very conscientious – bordering on anxious – when it comes to the work. They are diligent and observant, meaning they pick up errors to be fixed. However, this means they often worry for no reason and can be very relucant to delegate work for fear of it going wrong. Often, complete-finishers are accused of taking their perfectionism to ‘extremes’.

This is the last of the action/task roles. Does this apply to you?

Knowing which of Belbin’s team roles you fit

You can often just work out which role sums you up the best. As mentioned, roles can sometimes overlap. Click here if you want a more in-depth look at Belbin’s team roles and how to work out which one you are!

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