Following years of study at Henley Management College, Dr Meredith Belbin and his associates produced what is seen as the definitive work on management teams. In this, he identified eight (later extended to nine) specific roles that were needed for a team to be fully effective and balanced.
NB. This article may be made even more effective by reading it in conjunction with the articles on Profiles and DISC.
Let’s take a look at the nine roles identified by Belbin.
The driving force of the team, the Shaper relishes a challenge, overcoming obstacles through dynamic effort. Similar to the DISC model’s High D, the Shaper may trample over less forcible team members or viewpoints. They she may intimidate others, becoming dominant and potentially disruptive to team harmony.
The Coordinator (formerly called the ‘Chairman’)
This team member acts as the conductor of the orchestra, ensuring shared understanding, equal contribution, and full team participation. Lacking the passion of the Shaper, the Coordinator tends to be administrative or bureaucratic in their leadership. Though not strongly related to any one DISC characteristic, this team personality type is closer to the S and C traits.
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This team member is the creative generator of ideas and new thinking. Imaginative and potentially innovative, the Plant may also go off at a tangent in pursuit of an idea, possibly ignoring other team members entirely. While not likely to be a D or an S, the Plant may relate to the DISC model’s I or C, depending on the approach and context.
The Teamworker is primarily concerned with people and harmony, possibly at the expense of progress or achievement. This team member is an essential counterpoint to the Shaper, smoothing ruffled feathers and re-establishing team cohesion, but may also delay rapid progress with a focus on engagement and stability. From the DISC perspective, this team personality type is most likely to be an I and/or an S, rather than a D or C.
As the team’s ‘networker’, the Resource-Investigator is able to make connections and gain support from outside the team. They enable the team to solve problems by connecting to sources of resource, capability and knowledge elsewhere. They can, as a result, be hard to pin down, and appear to be flying off in several directions. While this is often true, it is perhaps to the team’s (and team leader’s) advantage.
One of the few roles where a cluster (several of one type) may be beneficial, the Implementer is, as the name suggests, the role that likes to be given tasks, and will carry them out with diligence. Prone to inflexibility and fixed views, they may make poor leaders in times of flux or extreme challenge, but are invaluable in making sure everything is done on time. While correlation with DISC may vary, S is the most likely match.
The scorekeeper of the team, the Monitor-Evaluator is conscious of deadlines, progress and performance. This role tends to remain dispassionate and objective, and to observe and analyse. Unlikely to be a DISC D or I type, this team member may be drawn from the S or C pool.
This team member is the detail-driven dotter of every i and crosser of every t. They are usually the one who knows (and enforces) the rules and boundaries. Focused on meeting the agreed outcomes, their tendency towards perfectionism can be an advantage, but also a potential drain on time and resources, as they double and triple check every aspect of a project. The Completer-Finisher is almost certain to be a DISC high C, and never a high I!
The Specialist is the later addition to the set of team roles, in recognition of the growing band of technical experts (IT, HR etc) that a team might call upon, where their field of expertise has relevance to the team’s purpose. Due to their narrow field, they will tend to have either a huge or a negligible contribution, dependent on the degree to which the needs of the team and their expertise overlaps. As the range of specialisms is large, no linear correlation with DISC can be seen, though C may be the most common, as this type is drawn to specialist and expert roles.
As with DISC, the presence of multiples of a type, or its complete absence, may be significant, and will have significant implications on coherence and performance.
If you would like to find out more about how to fully understand the make-up of your team, consider one of our CMI leadership and management courses.