• Author:Andreas Mueller
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When teams are more than the sum of their members

Together Everyone Achieves More”

There is so much more energy in a team. It can bring good energy to mingle and be appreciated, it can bring bad energy to run into conflicts and misunderstandings. But how can we qualify the difference between a good team and a mediocre one? Could we even design successful teams upfront or at least know their strengths and weaknesses as a team? As you are not the first to have that question, let us have a look what others found out about it.

Belbin’s Team Roles

Mainly interested in leadership teams, Meredith Belbin started with team exercises at Henley Business School in the late 1960s. It turned out that successful teams possess a range of eight team roles (plus a specialist role), which can be unequally distributed over the individual preferences:

  • Plant: A creative, imaginative, unorthodox team-member who solves difficult problems. Although they sometimes situate themselves far from the other team members, they always come back to present their brilliant idea.
  • Resource Investigator: The resource rnvestigator is the networker for the group. Whatever the team needs, the Resource Investigator is likely to have someone in their address book who can either provide it or know someone else who can provide it. This may be physical, financial or human resources, political support, information or ideas. Being highly driven to make connections with people, the resource investigator may appear to be flighty and inconstant, but their ability to call on their connections is highly useful to the team. Explores opportunities, make contacts, shares external information; negotiates with outsiders; responds well to challenges
  • Chairman (1981) / Co-ordinator (1988): The chairman/co-ordinator ensures that all members of the team are able to contribute to discussions and decisions of the team. Their concern is for fairness and equity among team members. Those who want to make decisions quickly, or unilaterally, may feel frustrated by their insistence on consulting with all members, but this can often improve the quality of decisions made by the team. Clarifies goals; helps allocate roles, responsibilities, and duties; articulates group conclusions
  • Shaper: A dynamic team-member who loves a challenge and thrives on pressure. This member possesses the drive and courage required to overcome obstacles. Seeks patterns in group work; pushes group toward agreement and decisions; challenges others – shaper video
  • Monitor-Evaluator: A sober, strategic and discerning member, who tries to see all options and judge accurately. This member contributes a measured and dispassionate analysis and, through objectivity, stops the team committing itself to a misguided task. Analyzes problems and complex issues; monitors progress and prevents mistakes; assesses the contributions of others; sees all options; judges accurately
  • Team Worker: The team worker is concerned to ensure that interpersonal relationships within the team are maintained. They are sensitive to atmospheres and may be the first to approach another team member who feels slighted, excluded or otherwise attacked but has not expressed their discomfort. The team worker’s concern with people factors can frustrate those who are keen to move quickly, but their skills ensure long-term cohesion within the team. Gives personal support and help to others; socially oriented and sensitive to others; resolves conflicts; calms the waters; serves as an in-group diplomat
  • Company Worker (1981) / Implementer (1988): The implementer is the practical thinker who can create systems and processes that will produce what the team wants. Taking a problem and working out how it can be practically addressed is their strength. Being strongly rooted in the real world, they may frustrate other team members by their perceived lack of enthusiasm for inspiring visions and radical thinking, but their ability to turn those radical ideas into workable solutions is important.
  • Completer Finisher: The completer finisher is the detail person within the team. They have a great eye for spotting flaws and gaps and for knowing exactly where the team is in relation to its schedule. Team members who have less preference for detail work may be frustrated by their analytical and meticulous approach, but the work of the completer finisher ensures the quality and timeliness of the output of the team. Emphasizes the need for meeting schedules, deadlines, and completing tasks; searches out errors.
  • Specialist (1988): The specialist brings a high level of concentration, ability, and skill in the respective discipline to the team. They are passionate about learning in their field. As a result, they are likely to be a fountain of knowledge and will enjoy imparting this knowledge to others.They also strive to improve and build upon their expertise. If there is anything they do not know the answer, they will happily go and find out. Can only contribute on that specialism, tend to be uninterested in anything which lies outside its narrow confines – specialist video

In a major review before commercializing his findings in 1988, Belbin renamed the roles of chairman and company worker, and also added a “specialist” role. This makes the model more applicable also for non-management teams, as you could argue that management teams could temporarily include a delegate for the specific topic needed, and the resource investigator role could bring in the required person. The change from an 8-role to a 9-role model also had an effect on the underlying inventory.

In 2001, Fisher et al. published some more insight about the team roles and how they are based on 16PF. Yet since 2001, the Belbin team role assessment has changed a lot, the norm base is at about 9500 individuals compared to the early 100 managers of Belbin’s original study.



Team Management System

Independently, Charles Margerison and Dick McCann have established their team management system (TMS) with eight team roles based on an individual’s preferences in four domains: building relationships, using information, making decisions, organizing work and people. Their results come from research done at University of Queensland.

While many roles are similar to Belbin, their model allows to distribute leadership elements among the team members: six people linking skills (communication, active listening, team relationships, problem solving and counseling, participative decision making, interface management), five task linking skills (work allocation, team development, delegation, setting objectives, quality standards) and two leader linking skills (motivation, strategy). These are their eight roles (plus the linking leader) and the corresponding Belbin roles:

  • Reporter/Adviser –  Enjoys giving and gathering information.
  • Creator/Innovator – Plant – Likes to come up with new ideas and different approaches to tasks.
  • Explorer/Promoter – Resource Investigator – Enjoys exploring possibilities and looking for new opportunities.
  • Assessor/Developer – Prefers analyzing new opportunities and making them work in practice.
  • Thruster/Organizer – Shaper – Likes to push forward and get results.
  • Concluder/Producer – Completer Finisher – Prefers to work in a systematic way to produce work outputs.
  • Controller/Inspector – Monitor Evaluator – Enjoys focusing on the detailed and controlling aspects of work.
  • Upholder/Maintainer – Teamworker – Likes to uphold standards and values and maintain team excellence.
  • Leader/ Linker – Co-ordinator – Links People and Tasks, gives orientation and motivation.


Skills of (self-managed) Teams

Which ever model we prefer, looking at the team level brings up skills which are different to the individuals’. In 2002, Patrick Lencioni came up with his observation of five dysfunctions of a team, which form the basis of good teamwork if they do not turn up. Subsequently he worked out a team skills assessment with practical tips to form these very basic preconditions of team building:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

In the same year, Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith proposed ten skills to build innovative self-managed teams. They follow the idea to delegate the leader’s role to the team and to split its tasks among the team members. This paves the way to the end of management and the rise of Organizational Democracy, which has entered the corporate discussion since:

  • Skill of self-management – overcoming obstacles together and in the process building a sense of ownership, responsibility, commitment and efficiency within each team member.
  • Skill of communication – collaboratively developing their skills in becoming better listeners, commiserating with others, reframing communications so they can be heard, and communicating honestly about things that really matter.
  • Skill of leadership – creating opportunities for each member to serve as leader. Employees need to be skilled in linking, organising, co-ordinating, collaborating, planning, facilitating, coaching and mentoring.
  • Skill of responsibility – everyone is personally responsible not only for their own work but for the work of every other member of the team. Team members have to exercise responsibility in order to become self-managing.
  • Skill of supportive diversity – collaborative experiences allow team members to overcome prejudices and biases and not create winners and losers, reject outsiders or mistrust people who are different.
  • Skills of feedback and evaluation – essential to improving learning, team communication and the quality of products, processes and relationships. In a true team environment, self-critical perspectives are expected, welcomed, acknowledged and rewarded.
  • Skill of strategic planning – to identify challenges and opportunities collaboratively and influence the environment in which problems emerge. Strategic planning encourages employees to think long-term, be proactive and preventative and focus on solutions rather than problems.
  • Skill of shaping successful meetings – team meetings can be streamlined and made shorter, more satisfying and more productive, and result in expanded consensus.
  • Skill of resolving conflicts – encouraging team members to improve skills in problem- solving, collaborative negotiation, responding to difficult behaviour and conflict resolution.
  • Skill of enjoyment – most team members enjoy working together to accomplish difficult tasks. Their pleasure derives from meeting high performance challenges and producing results that benefit themselves and their teams, organisations and communities.

If you need support how to increase your team skills, drop us a note.