In this episode of The Public Speaker: Have you ever been lucky to be on a team that works together like a well-oiled machine? Or unfortunate to work on a team that just couldn’t seem to gel no matter what? Teamwork can be frustrating. Some team members just don’t meet expectations, even after a careful discussion of who is supposed to do what. Today, we’ll build on Part 1 of this series on understanding team roles.
In Part 1 of this series, Last week I told you about the work of Dr. Belbin. He studied teams for many years and found that when team members understand the strengths and weaknesses of the roles they play, the team is able to achieve more.
Belbin’s Team Roles
Last week we covered:
The Plant – the creative problem solver
The Monitor Evaluator – the analytical thinker
The Coordinator – the one who gets everyone working together to achieve goals
The Resource Investigator – the one who looks outside the team for opportunities
Today, we’ll continue with the remaining 5 roles Dr. Belbin identified.
As you read through each of the roles, I’d like for you to think about a team you’re on now. See if you can identify which behaviors you prefer and which you tend to dislike. Think about who is playing each role on your own team.
Here are the final 5 roles:
Role #5: The Implementer. Implementers are efficient, self-disciplined, and are often described as loyal and conservative. They break theoretical concepts into manageable practical tasks and then systematically complete them. They may have trouble shifting gears when plans change. If you are an Implementer, you need to strike a balance between perseverance and adaptability.
Role #6: The Completer Finisher. Occupants of this role make sure the completed work is of the highest quality. They are often described as orderly and detail-oriented and sometimes have trouble accepting others’ work. If you are a Completer Finisher, it is important for you to strike a balance between perfection and completion.
Role #7: The Team Worker. These are often talented diplomats, good at smoothing conflicts. They are often described as sociable and sensitive, but often they are not good decision-makers. You might hear a Team Worker say, “If it’s OK with you, it’s OK with me.” If you are a Team Worker, be careful not to avoid making difficult decisions.
Role #8: The Shaper. Shapers are focused leaders with a high motivation to achieve and are often described as assertive, or outgoing. At times, they may aggressively challenge or disagree in an effort to achieve goals. If you are a Shaper, you need to be sure not to steamroll over other members of the team or take on more authority than is warranted.
Role #9: The Specialist. The Specialist was a later addition to Belbin’s list of roles. Specialists are experts that may provide specific technical support to the team, such as an IT person. But generally, The Specialist does not make a big impact on team dynamics.
Which is Your Primary Role?
So that’s it. Did you recognize yourself? Did you recognize any of your teammates? If you thought some people played more than one role, you’re probably right. Belbin said we generally have a primary role and a back-up that we prefer, but we can exhibit behaviors from multiple roles at different times in different contexts.
So now that you understand the main roles of a team, how can you use this information to your advantage?
An Ideal Team?
In general, Belbin suggested that a team containing a balance of roles will function properly.
However, according to Belbin, there is no such thing as an “ideal” team. The idea is to match the task to the team members. For example, if the goal of the team is to come up innovative ideas and timelines are flexible, then you should select people better suited for that, such as Plants and Resource Investigators. Belbin also suggests that it is important to have functional roles consistent with team roles. For example, team leaders should be Shapers or Coordinators, but he cautions that too many Shapers on a team can cause conflict.
Finally, keep in mind, this is just one conceptual model for thinking about teams; there are many others. Use this information to create an awareness of the roles in your team and how individual strengths and weaknesses impact the overall performance.
So now that you understand this model, think about it, how strong is your team?
What is your preferred role and what will you be doing differently with your teams? Let me know in comments. This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication; you success is my business. The more you learn, the more you earn.
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