Building a team with the right strengths and weaknesses is vital for success

A lot of research has been conducted into finding the ideal team composition, size and function for a wide variety of settings, from competitive swim teams to executive work teams. This research is carried out in order to find the characteristics or features of a team that will enable maximal efficiency and productivity in the teams’ particular goal.

A popular concept is Belbin’s Team Roles which are used in the identification of peoples “behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace”. In total, there are nine team roles that have been identified; plant, monitor evaluator, co-ordinator, resource investigator, implementer, completer finisher, team worker, shaper, and specialist. Each of the nine roles depicts particular tendencies to “behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way” and so each role plays a different function in the effectiveness of a team, which is summarised below.

Team Role Function
Plant Highly Creative and imaginative. Free thinking enables them to solving problems in unconventional ways
Monitor Evaluator View things logically and strategically, provide impartial judgements and dispassionate evaluation of options
Co-ordinator Mature and confident individual. Clarifies objectives and delegates work appropriately.
Resource Investigator Outgoing and enthusiastic, prevents team from getting despondent. Develops contacts and investigates opportunities
Implementer Very practical and reliable. Plans a workable strategy from ideas and implementing it efficiently
Completer Finisher Very meticulous, polishes and scrutinises result for errors, provides quality control. Conscientious and anxious.
Team Worker Gels the team together, cooperative and diplomatic. Perceptive and versatile, identifies work required and completes it.
Shaper Challenges the team, providing drive and motivation and preventing loss of focus. Thrives on pressure.
Specialist Provides in-depth knowledge of a particular subject that may be rare in supply. Dedicated and self-motivated.
   

While each Team Role has an important function in the composition of the team they do not necessarily constitute individual team members, for example one person could play two or three different Team Roles or one Team Role could be played by two or three different team members. When members Team Roles are identified, these aid the use of strengths of each person to the advantage of the team whilst also providing awareness of weaknesses. As such, members should be chosen such that the correct balance of behaviour and skill is present in the team.

As well as providing strength to the team, each Team Role also has an associated allowable weakness. This negative side to the behavioural characteristics is allowable due to its pairing with the strength the individual brings to the team. The weaknesses (listed below) can be carefully managed with knowledge and awareness of them, preventing any negative effects becoming out of control.

Team Role Weakness
Plant Can be forgetful and become preoccupied, ignoring incidentals. May lack effective communication.
Monitor Evaluator Overly critical and can lack drive or ability to inspire others.
Co-ordinator May over delegate and offload own share of work. Ca be seen as manipulate.
Resource Investigator Can be over optimistic, but lose interest after initial enthusiasm – may forget to follow up on leads.
Implementer Somewhat inflexible and can be slow to relinquish plans or respond to new possibilities.
Completer Finisher Take perfectionism to extremes and inclined to worry unnecessarily. May be reluctant to delegate.
Team Worker Indecisive in the face of unpopular decisions or in critical moments and avoids confrontation
Shaper Aggressive/bad humoured when attempting to get things done and are prone to provocation.
Specialist May become narrow minded and single-focussed, can dwell on technicalities.

Even though some of the Team Role weaknesses may seem to be detrimental, and perhaps even to the extent of outweighing the strengths they bring, Belbin found that actually each of the behaviours was essential for team success. However, the key to success was balance of the behaviours, too much or too little of any one behavioural characteristic and the team was disadvantaged, therefore equalising the number of each Team Role within the group is essential for optimal performance.

Clarity

A successful team includes an element of clarity; clear goals and communication are essential for effective team work. Providing clear goals ensures the entire team understands the purpose of the team and the direction in which the team is headed. This also requires clear communication, keeping the team informed and focused. Communication ensures continuity of understanding and allows for the update of goals and vision. Enhancing the focus of the team may be achieved by encouraging all team members to be involved in the establishment of the common goal as people tend to be more supportive of things that they help to create. The clear goal setting and definite communication relates back to the Team Roles as it allows for precise delegation (by the co-ordinator of the team) of jobs and roles to the team members.

Collaboration

As with the composition of the team, balance is also key in the functioning of the team, with all team members contributing when appropriate and/or necessary as well as their opinions being valued and considered. This also allows for consensual decision making and, when team members are aware of different decision making methods, can enable rapid and effective decision making. Additionally, clear communication allows positive relationships to build up between team members and enables team members to learn how their colleagues work.

Cooperation

As mentioned, it is important for team members to know how their colleagues work, as this allows for efficient negotiation and effective compromise, which are also central to the success of the team.  An understanding of the importance of collaboration aids cooperation by allowing the strengths of each member to be used to the best of their ability. In addition to explicit cooperation between members, it is also essential for conflict to be managed, with any issues being addressed rather than being ignored. By confronting and resolving issues, the team can stay cooperative with one another due to the absence of any build-up of resentment or annoyance.

Confidence

Finally, confidence in the team’s ability can encourage members to be comfortable with taking risks and allow creativity to be expressed. Confidence in the team also cultivates trust between team members enhancing the previously discussed characteristics of a successful team; clarity, communication, collaboration and cooperation.

Essentially a successful team requires “six C’s”, the diversity in composition provided by the 9 different Team Roles, along with clear working environment that cultivates communication, collaboration, cooperation and an overall air of confidence. If these behaviours, features and characteristics are present together the team can be effective and successful in achieving the goals set.

Belbin.com,. ‘BELBIN®: The Home Of Belbin Team Roles’. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

10 Characteristics Of Successful Teams. 1st ed. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

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