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MODULE 0 - BELBIN ON TEAMS



Management & Leadership in Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail By R. Meredith Belbin

 

Understanding the importance of team building is a critical factor in the successful growth and development of businesses. The ideal individual for a given job is impossible to find because no one person can possess all the qualities required to be a perfect manager. These qualities, which include being highly intelligent but not overly clever, sensitive yet dynamic, and patient yet forceful, are often mutually exclusive. A good manager must also be a fluent communicator, a good listener, reflective, and capable of making the right decisions at the right time. No single individual can embody all these qualities, but a team of individuals can.

 

Teams can renew and regenerate themselves through new recruitment as individual team members leave or retire. A team can combine the conflicting characteristics that cannot be united in a single individual. The purpose of forming a team is to share power because concentration of power tends to corrupt.

 

Overview of “Belbin on Teams” and its relevance for managers and leaders in business organizations:

 

  • Belbin’s Team Roles: Dr. Meredith Belbin identified nine team roles that are essential for the success of any team. These roles include the Plant (creative innovator), the Monitor Evaluator (analytical thinker), and the Implementer (practical organizer), among others. Each role has its strengths and allowable weaknesses, and a balanced team with a mix of these roles is more likely to be successful.

  • Application for Leaders: Understanding these roles allows leaders to assemble teams with complementary skills and personalities. Leaders can use Belbin’s model to identify gaps in team capabilities, assign tasks more effectively, and manage team dynamics to enhance performance.

  • Benefits for Managers: Managers can apply Belbin’s insights to improve team selection, development, and leadership. By recognizing individual contributions and fostering a collaborative environment, managers can drive team innovation and productivity.

  • Strategic Use: Belbin’s model is also a strategic tool for organizational development. It aids in aligning team roles with business objectives, facilitating change management, and nurturing leadership potential within the team.

 

Belbin on Teams offers a powerful framework for managers and leaders in business organizations to unlock the true potential of their teams. Moving beyond a simple focus on tasks and roles, Belbin delves into the behavioral tendencies of individuals, categorizing them into nine distinct Team Roles. These roles encompass a spectrum, from the action-oriented Shaper who challenges the status quo and drives innovation, to the meticulous Implementer who translates ideas into practical solutions, and the supportive Team worker who fosters collaboration and ensures everyone feels included. By understanding these inherent behavioral preferences, managers can create a balanced team where each member's strengths complement each other. Imagine a marketing team where a Plant brimming with creative ideas collaborates with a Monitor Evaluator who meticulously analyzes market trends, and a Resource Investigator who actively seeks out new partnerships – the synergy between these diverse styles leads to a more comprehensive and effective marketing campaign.

 

Belbin goes beyond simply identifying roles; it offers insights into how these roles interact. A manager can anticipate potential clashes, for instance, between a dominant Shaper and a more cautious Implementer. This awareness allows for proactive communication and conflict resolution strategies. Ultimately, Belbin empowers managers to build high-performing teams by fostering an environment where everyone feels valued for their unique contribution. When team members understand their own strengths and those of their colleagues, they can leverage their combined expertise to achieve remarkable results, propelling the business organization towards its goals.

 

The Syndicate Approach

 

Henley used a syndicate approach to educate managers. A syndicate comprised ten or eleven members, carefully selected to provide a balance in background and experience. Many people believe that syndicate operation is virtually the only feasible way of creating a suitable learning environment for mature managers. Individually brilliant managers can be disappointing in a team, while ordinary managers can bring out wonders.

 

The Executive Management Exercise (EME)

 

The Executive Management Exercise (EME), developed by Ben Aston at Henley, is a management game designed to create a high-intensity reference experience that integrates many management skills that are otherwise treated on a fragmentary basis. The EME is an interactive game involving six to eight companies, each with six members. Performance depends not only on the decisions made within the company but also on decisions made by other companies regarding both home and export markets. Financial returns, made available through computer simulations, reflect results over twelve quarters, with the aim being to finish with the largest possible share of assets.

 

Over a decade, the EME has undergone continuous development. Despite changes, the results have generally been a fair reflection of team effectiveness.

 

The Apollo Syndrome

 

To discover how the best minds in a team behave, the directing staff at Henley formed management teams for the EME, titled "Apollo." These teams comprised members with high mental ability. The common perception was that the team with the cleverest individuals would win. However, Apollo consistently finished last. The team members spent much of their time in abortive debates, trying to persuade each other to adopt their viewpoints. No single decision was made by the team. The main problem was the over-concentration on coming out on top, which provides unconscious training in anti-team working. This phenomenon, where a group of highly intelligent individuals fails to achieve success due to destructive tendencies, is known as the Apollo Syndrome.

 

Types of Team Personalities

 

The general level of mental ability is not a decisive factor in team success. More important are the different personalities within the group. Here are the basic types of team personalities:

 

1. Stable Extroverts

2. Anxious Extroverts

3. Stable Introverts

4. Anxious Introverts

 

Stable Extroverts

 

Stable extroverts excel in jobs that require liaison work and cooperation. They thrive in group work, adopt versatile approaches, and flourish as sales representatives and personnel managers.

 

Anxious Extroverts

 

Anxious extroverts work well in high-pressure environments. They are dynamic, entrepreneurial, and good at seizing opportunities but can be easily distracted and liable to rush off on tangents. They do well as sales managers, work managers, and editors.

 

Stable Introverts

 

Stable introverts excel in jobs that require maintaining good relationships with a small number of people over a period. They are strong in organization and planning but can be slow-moving and liable to neglect some factors in situations. They flourish as administrators, solicitors, local and central government officials, and corporate planners.

 

Anxious Introverts

 

Anxious introverts distinguish themselves in jobs that call for self-direction and self-sustaining persistence. They are capable of generating good ideas but tend to be preoccupied. They lack cohesion as a team and predominate among research scientists. Some of the most creative people belong to this group.

 

Extroverted teams tend to work better than introverted ones. Each type has its merits and weaknesses, and no team can be considered perfect every time.

 

Creativity in Teams

 

Creative groups need not only generate adequate ideas but also ensure contributions from every member. When everyone in a team tries to be creative, it can be counterproductive. Encouraging one or two good, feasible ideas from members is often more effective. Sometimes, teams are divided into groups for generating and evaluating ideas.

 

Identifying Creative Potential

 

Identifying truly innovative minds within a team can solve half the problem. The main challenge is to see whether the idea is feasible. Tools like Catell's formula for Creative Disposition (CD) can help identify the best creative minds in a team. Using psychometric tests to predict creative abilities, individuals who score highest on Critical Thinking Appraisal (CIA) and Creative Disposition (CD) are identified as superplants, while those who just fall below the cutoff are termed subplants.

 

Types of Innovators

 

Some people explore resources well, known as Resource Investigators (RI), while others, known as Plants (PL), come up with innovative ideas. A good chairman can use both for the company's advantage. Occasionally, the genius of a PL and the resourcefulness of an RI are combined in one individual. An RI is uninhibited about finding what they need by making good use of other people, meeting new people, and seeing around. Thus, the sheer production of ideas is no measure of a team’s creativity. Creativity requires special skills from both plants and resource investigators, and effective leadership is necessary to take advantage of it.

 

Team Leadership

 

The quickest and surest way to change a firm's fortunes is to replace the leader. Leaders can be categorized into two main types: those who are popular and acceptable to the group, and those who help the firm achieve its goals.

 

Types of Teams Leaders

 

Three distinctive types of team leaders emerge from psychometric tests:

 

1. Leaders suited to a balanced team with potential for solving complex problems.

2. Leaders who fit teams facing internal or external obstacles.

3. Leaders good for "think tank" teams.

 

However, some leaders cannot be easily categorized. They may have proven competence as team leaders or committee chairmen but struggle with new challenges. A manager with high intelligence and balanced judgment may be shy and struggle with responsibilities associated with high office. Overloading demands can lead such leaders to seek new jobs.

 

Qualities of a Team Leader

 

A team leader should possess high mental ability, reasoning ability, a great sense of judgment, and a positive creative mind. They should accept people without jealousy or suspicion, be committed to the company's final goal, and possess good communication skills to influence their team. A leader should shape the team to improve performance, creating trust and respect among subordinates.

 

Key Team Roles

 

"Our tendency to behave, contribute, and interrelate with others in a particular way." Eight types of people identified are useful to have in teams:

 

1. Company Worker (CW): Conservative, dutiful, and predictable. Great organizing ability and self-discipline but lack openness to new ideas.

2. Chairman (CH): Calm, self-confident, and controlled. Welcomes all potential contributors without prejudice but is ordinary in intellect or creative ability.

3. Shaper (SH): Strong, outgoing, and dynamic. Ready for challenges but impatient and easily irritated.

4. Plant (PL): Unorthodox and serious-minded. High intellect and imaginative but may disregard practical details.

5. Resource Investigator (RI): Extroverted, enthusiastic, curious, and communicative. Good at responding to challenges but may lose interest once initial fascination passes.

6. Monitor Evaluator (ME): Sober, prudent, and unemotional. Good judgment and hard-headed but lack inspiration to motivate others.

7. Team Worker (TW): Socially oriented, mild, and sensitive. Promotes team spirit but may be indecisive during crises.

8. Complete Finisher (CF): Painstaking, anxious, and conscientious. Follows through but worries about small things and is reluctant to delegate.

 

Teams need a balance of these roles to succeed. The value of particular team roles can be demonstrated by constructing teams deficient in certain roles. A well-balanced team comprises individuals who can balance well with one another.

 

Unsuccessful Teams

 

In any competition, there are winners and losers. Some teams fail due to various reasons, such as poor morale, lack of mental ability, or personality clashes. Teams differ in their cultural milieu, which creates different collective personalities. Unsuccessful teams may suffer from poor design, role clashes, overlaps, or voids. Some members may be more of a liability than an asset.

 

Composition of Unsuccessful Teams

 

There are two types of unsuccessful teams: those with deeply rooted cultural faults and those with an unfortunate combination of characters. Badly composed teams usually feature team role clashes, overlaps, or voids. The design of the team is poor, and members do not fit well together.

 

Teams can use their internal resources effectively or poorly. Conscious awareness of strengths and weaknesses helps teams adjust and avoid strategic mistakes stemming from self-delusion. Winning teams approach challenges differently from losing teams.

 

 Winning Teams

 

Various factors contribute to the success of winning teams:

 

1. The Person in the Chair: Effective leadership is crucial.

2. A Strong Plant in the Group: Creative ideas are essential.

3. A Fair Spread in Mental Abilities: Diverse skills and intelligence levels help solve complex problems.

4. A Spread in Personal Attributes: Wide team role coverage ensures balanced contributions.

5. Good Match Between Attributes and Responsibilities: Members' roles should align with their strengths.

6. Adjustment to Imbalance Realization: Recognizing and addressing imbalances improves team performance.

 

Classic mixed teams, comprising people from different cultures and backgrounds, consistently produce good results. However, putting together such a team requires skill and careful selection. Disturbances in the team can easily upset the balance.

 

Features of Teamsmanship

 

Teamsmanship transcends fitness for any particular team role. Natural team players are likely to be enrolled into a team because they contribute effectively without detracting from others. Important features of teamsmanship include:

 

1. Contribution and Team Role: Each member's contribution is vital. Individual skills are essential, and roles should be defined clearly.

2. Timing: Outstanding team players know when to intervene and contribute effectively.

3. Flexibility: Effective team players can switch between different roles as needed.

4. Self-restraint: Limiting their own roles allows others to develop their capabilities, strengthening the team.

5. Maintaining Team Goals: Good team players set and follow goals honestly, motivating others to contribute effectively.

 

Ideal Team Size

 

The ideal team size depends on the amount of work to be performed. Teams can be of different sizes:

 

1. Large Teams: Larger groups face greater pressures, which can create an illusion of unanimity.

2. Medium-Sized Teams: Teams of ten to eleven members provide adequate variety and social permutations.

3. Small Teams: Smaller teams are suitable for periodic recreations and personal bonding.

 

A team of eight can reach its potential if it is highly structured with a suitable chairman and appropriately selected members. However, if a team is too small, it may struggle to perform well due to a lack of diversity in skills and perspectives.

 

Designing a Team

 

Several factors need to be considered when designing a team:

 

1. Recruitment: Selecting the right members with the necessary skills and attributes.

2. Internal Reshuffling: Adjusting team composition as needed to improve performance.

3. Avoiding Destruction of Partnerships: Maintaining existing partnerships while forming new ones.

4. Sequence of Selection: Choosing members in a sequence that ensures balance and compatibility.

5. Design: Creating a team structure that supports the desired outcomes.

6. Purpose: Clearly defining the team's purpose and goals.

7. Individual Roles: Assigning specific roles to each member based on their strengths.

8. Team Roles: Ensuring all necessary team roles are covered.

 

Establishing a right climate for teams to form and flourish is essential for effective teamwork. Designing a team requires careful consideration of principles, methods, and techniques.

 

Conclusion

 

Team management is a complex and challenging task. Successful teams combine diverse skills, personalities, and roles to achieve their goals. Effective leadership, balanced team roles, and clear communication are essential for team success. Understanding the factors that contribute to both successful and unsuccessful teams can help managers build and lead teams that consistently perform well. By focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members and fostering a collaborative environment, organizations can harness the full potential of their teams and achieve their objectives.

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