High Performing Teams

It is rare that we are ever working completely alone, especially in business. Teams and the way a team functions is as integral to the success of a company as the product or services you delight your customers with.

One of the keys to a team’s overall effectiveness depends on the knowledge team members have of each other and themselves and how they use it. Successful organisations take the time to ensure team members are aware of their strengths and weaknesses when they are operating in a team situation.

Unlike psychometric testing which measures skills such as verbal or numeric reasoning, Belbin’s behavioural test reveals a person’s behaviour in a team environment that helps you to see which team roles people are better suited to.

If you’ve worked with someone for many years and you know they have good attention to detail, you would naturally ask them to check over a customer support document before it’s signed off. Imagine if you and everyone in your team knew each of your key strengths and had roles allocated accordingly, even down to the peacemaker who could be called upon in the event of a conflict that needed resolution? Powerful stuff.

Belbin discovered that teams that were made up of a balanced mix of roles outperformed unbalanced teams. As individuals develop so will their capacity to take on additional roles making the team even stronger over time.

Belbin identified eight clusters of behaviour that individuals adopt when participating in a team:

Plant: New thinking. Creative, imaginative, free-thinking. Generates ideas and solves difficult problems.

Resource Investigator: Explores new opportunities and develops contacts.

Coordinator*: Manages team effort. Identifies talent, clarifies goals, delegates effectively.

Shaper*: Increases pace to arrive at a decision. Dynamic, thrives on pressure, has drive and energy to overcome obstacles.

Monitor Evaluator: Someone to choose between competing options. Strategic and discerning, sees all options and judges accurately. Very rarely wrong.

Teamworker: When conflict arises and the atmosphere needs to be improved. Co-operative, perceptive and diplomatic. Listens, builds moral and averts friction.

Implementer: Turning decisions into workable procedures and projects. Disciplined, reliable, has capacity for taking practical steps and actions.

Complete Finisher: When plans, documents need to be completed to the highest standards. Conscientious and accurate. Searches out errors, polishes and perfects.

Mapping your team’s behaviours lets you see where you have overlaps and gaps. Where there are gaps it’s useful for the whole team to take responsibility for filling the space, so that the burden of doing something that doesn’t come naturally does not fall to one person. It’s also a great help when recruiting.

Some people can perform more than one role, if that is where their strengths lie – however, * Belbin warns that more than one coordinator is highly undesirable as it will interfere with the team operation.  Also, an effective team typically has either one coordinator or one shaper, not both.

Finally, Belbin describes an additional role, the specialist. There are very few people who have the single-mindedness to become a specialist.

Specialist: Specialist. Single-minded, self-starting, dedicated. Provides in-depth knowledge and skills in short supply, usually technical/engineering.

Who’s in your team?