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Team roles: the key to effective teamwork

Teams change over time, and with them the group dynamics and team roles that each person in the team has. According to Belbin, team roles are used by hundreds of the most successful companies around the world, and rightly so. Working with them, among others, helps prevent burnout and increases the performance of the whole team.
By
Kristýna Šlajsová
| Jun 10, 2021
Each team member has a certain team role. If we understand the distribution of the roles of the people in our team, we can develop better collaboration and functioning group dynamics. It can focus on finding out the team role already for candidates who are interested in becoming full members of the team. Regardless of the fact that if we are to work out team roles and we know that the members who hold the role can tolerate this, they complement a team of personalities for whom it is completely natural to fulfill work tasks according to their nature.

Thus, a win-win occurs both for the team and for the given candidate, when it can be assumed that he/she will enjoy the job, will be engaged, and will fit into the team as an imaginary missing wheel in the machine. It turns out that if the scope of work is interesting, enriching, and natural for a team member, there is up to 3x the lower rate of burnout syndrome for these members.

Meredith Belbin defined a total of 9 roles, which are divided into 3 groups that are oriented to thinking, action, and other people in general. Not all of those roles need to be represented in the team, but if they do, it is a prerequisite that the team will function properly and effectively.

Inspiration

These three groups suggest that we need to have people in the team whose strong point is to invent and bring new ideas and assignments. This creator group includes the roles of plant and resource investigator, whose strengths are bringing a new idea, inspiration on how to do things differently.

Knowledge

In the next group of two team roles, there are leaders, who include the role of coordinator and shaper. These team members do not always have to be the formal leaders of the whole team, but it often happens that the roles of coordinator and shaper are also in the formal management of the company. However, the role of coordinator and shaper is in opposite dimensions of the group, because the coordinator belongs to a group focused on other people, while the shaper is in the action group. While the coordinator has natural respect and is a very strong member of the team, especially in leading the project team, the shaper is the task leader and usually the most effective and competitive member of the entire team.

Deployment

Another group is implementers. This group includes the team role of the company worker and the team player. While the role of the team player is characterized by the fact that they are socially oriented and sensitive personalities, the role of the company worker, on the contrary, conservative, conscientious and predictable. These roles, however, have a common tendency to introduce new stimuli to the team. For a team player, it is more about creating a pleasant and humanly harmonious environment, while the company worker introduces new procedures, methods, and processes in which he is conscientious and very hardworking.

Finalization

The last group is the group of finishers, in which two team roles play a key role. One of them is the role of the complete finisher and the other the role of the monitor evaluator. The evaluator usually assesses, absorbs, and evaluates a large amount of materials. He / She is able to distract the team from imminent danger or inappropriate path because he can soberly evaluate the pros and cons of each problem. The complete finisher can be very helpful in this analysis because he carefully guards possible mistakes and overstepping of other team members. So it leaves nothing to fate alone. Even though his typical perfectionism and the guards he keeps above deadlines may put some members in their "flying path", such team members need to be highly valued.

In general, it is possible to say that some work teams are made from more than just one of each role. That is also the case of PPC Bee. This is not a problem in case that your team is saturated enough with other important team roles. 


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A common criticism of this test is that everyone perceives their team role in their own way and the result of the tested person may differ from the result of observers, who often see the team member in a completely different way.

Double verification

In PPC Bee, we, therefore, chose not only the method of self-perception, i.e. how a team member perceives himself and which team roles turned out to be dominant in the test, but we also added an observer section, where the rest of the team evaluated each individual separately. This resulted in interesting results and it turned out that while some team members are a completely open book for others, others are perceived differently than they perceive themselves. This opens up a lot of space not only for group discussion, in which we openly acknowledged our results of team roles, we also compared them with the results that the rest of the team attributed to us. After analysis and discussion, the team learns to handle team roles to make the most of this potential.

Team roles in PPC Bee


Our current team is composed of 40 % company workers and 20 % shapers. In third place, there is a role of monitor evaluator with 14 %. In the PPC Bee team we also have a role of coordinator, team player, finisher and  plant. Right now we are missing the role of Resouurce Investigator. 

So our representation is almost complete, but what does it actually tell us about the team? The high representation of implementers, formers, and evaluators shows that our team is very well structured, performance-oriented, and does a lot of work. The team is very active, hardworking, and energetic. It is good in structure and order. We should not forget also the importance of interpersonal relationships and build cohesion, which, based on these results, we can target more with other activities and connect team members even more at the interpersonal level.

Dream Team

The feature of the winning team is definitely to cover a wide range of team roles, because only in this way can we draw on a wide range of strengths and put them into powerful and functional ties in the team. The test of team roles is a kind of image of behavior at a certain time and in a given team, so it is appropriate to repeat the test over time and monitor the changes of some roles, for example, if we transfer a member to another team.

Team roles in your team?

If you are interested in how to do it, I recommend looking for the Belbin test of team roles, which is free to download and exists in many variants. You can easily evaluate team roles in a team yourself. You can use the team roles test when you are building a completely new team, but also when you already have existing teams. The team is constantly evolving and forming, and with each new member, team scores change, which you can evaluate on an ongoing basis to see what the prevailing trends in the behavior of the entire team are.

Team scores will also tell you what an Achilles heel is and what needs to be worked on, whether it is finishing tasks, evaluating information, or, for example, strengthening interpersonal relationships. Don't forget to acquaint the team with their results, for example in a team retrospective. You can study in detail Belbin's method in his books Team roles at work (2010) or Beyond the team (2000).


Kristýna Šlajsová
Editor of PPC Bee
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