Martin's Reflections Dec22

It has been a very busy couple of months and I am really looking forward to having some time off at Christmas, which I am sure you will be too.  November started with the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester, and since then I have been working with various clients across the UK and Europe.  

As part of this time, I have been working with tools and assessment I haven’t used in a long time, so that is the subject of this reflection:

A Surprise Re-encounter with Belbin Assessments

Over the past month I have had to use both Myers Briggs and Belbin for workshops with clients. I haven’t used either of the assessment tools for a long time. Bringing the tools back surprised me!  I was surprised because it made me realise we don't always need to introduce new assessments into clients and feel we have to be ‘in-step’ or current with the marketplace.  By revitalising older assessments – which are long established but sometimes forgotten about – they can bring as much impact and benefit when reviewing them with fresh eyes.

For example, Belbin’s assessment for team roles has been around since 1969. The Belbin tool assesses team roles and team behaviours.  The theory is that there are nine roles identified. For an effective team a maximum of four people can embody these nine roles.  Then Belbin clusters the nine roles into groups:

  • Action roles – execution, implementation and getting things done
  • Thinking strategic roles – planning, evaluating etc
  • Social people roles  - coordinating and team building

The roles are

  • Resource Investigator, Teamworker and Co-ordinator (the Social roles)
  • Plant, Monitor Evaluator and Specialist (theThinking roles)
  • Shaper, Implementer and Completer Finisher (the Action or Task roles)

I did my Belbin in the 90s, but to go back to the tool with fresh eyes has been quite an epiphany.  The client insisted on using Belbin. I was quite sceptical at first, because my experience of Belbin from 20 years ago was that the individual just discovered their team role.  The role was assessed individually, not in relation to the team. I didn't see the value Belbin could bring until I realised that it should be carefully considered across the team.

By using the tool again I rediscovered the power of Belbin when you map the whole groups’ role preferences. You see the gaps -  great gaps sometimes.  Why are there so many Plants?  Why are there no Completer Finishers?  Why is the team mirroring the traits of the leader?  You may have a team with no action roles in any of their top three preferences -  in fact the main action roles could be in their bottom preferences. What does that mean about a blind spot for a team of people that need to attend to something that they're not?

Using Belbin isn’t the only way we could have approached it.  We would have found the same outcome by another means, but Belbin is so accessible and easy to use and understand.  There was such interest in the team and individual reports during the workshop.   People could understand their role and then think about how to involve another person with a different role to complement them.  By assessing roles in teams we start to question – “Which roles do I need in my team that I don’t have?”. Through this, we are beginning to create inclusion, better integration, and and a more effective team with greater impact.

So that was my biggest pleasant surprise –  to never underestimate the old stuff you've done. There is still value there!

If you would like to know more about Belbin, click here.  If you would like to know more about how ndc can support you with Top Team Development, please contact Jonathan Lancaster by email here or by phone on +44 (0) 7931 944288

Written by:
Dr Martin Egan

Culture Consultancy, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development

December 13, 2022