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Greater than the sum of their parts – Belbin’s Analysis of Teams

02 October 2013. Published by Christopher Whitehouse, Senior Associate

“Team Roles at Work” by Meredith Belbin is an almost scientific analysis of the different roles individuals can play in a team, how they interact with one another and how highly functional teams can be assembled.

Belbin - Table 

What are Team Roles?

A team role can be defined as:

"A tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way."

Belbin identifies 9 types of role individuals could play within a team, these are as follows:

Action Orientated Roles


Organiser - turns ideas into practical solutions.



Energetic - drives a project forward.



Meticulous - ensures a finished product with no errors.

Thinking Orientated Roles


Creative - generates new ideas.



Analyses - considers the big picture and critiques.



Expert - has a specific area of knowledge for the group to tap into.

People Orientated Roles


Delegates - draws out team members and assigns work according to their strengths.



Carer - smoothes out frictions within the group.


Resource investigator

Explorer - pursues new ideas and often a good networker.

Belbin's objective in this analysis is to assemble a "balanced team". A team will be unbalanced if it consists of members who are largely similar in terms of their preferred roles. In such a situation the team will have heavy competition by its members for tasks suiting this common preferred style and there will be other tasks that no member of the team will want.

One of Belbin’s most radical criticisms of the traditional way organisations assemble teams is their narrow focus on an individual’s technical competence for a job. Although this is, of course, essential, it is also important to think about the impact of an individual on the balance of a given group.

Allowable Weaknesses

What is interesting is that Belbin identifies allowable weaknesses for each role, seeming to accept that there is an almost inevitable flipside to a particular set of strengths and that attempting to banish a role’s weaknesses altogether would actually undermine its strengths.

The Monitor/Evaluator is a good example of this. The methodical nature of their role means that they are reluctant to act until they have had time to consider all the angles of a problem and come to a considered view. If the Monitor/Evaluator tries to be too decisive then the group actually loses the benefits of a slower more considered opinion.

Preferred Role

Allowable Weaknesses


Adherence to the orthodox and the proven.


Prone to frustration and irritation.




Preoccupation with ideas and neglect of practical methods.




Acquiring knowledge for its own sake.


Inclination to be lazy and delegate the work away.


Can be indecisive and try to please everyone.

Resource Investigator

Loss of enthusiasm once the initial excitement has passed.

Belbin suggests the correct approach should be for an individual to manage the intrinsic weaknesses of a role and prevent them getting out of control. For example, Implementers must be careful not to obstruct change, Teamworkers should resist their tendency to avoid pressured situations and Resource Investigators must not neglect follow-up arrangements.

Multiple Roles

Crucially, Belbin’s model doesn’t pigeonhole individuals into being just one of these types; rather an individual can have a number of preferred or least preferred roles. However, Belbin is of the opinion that, to be a truly useful member of a team, an individual should concentrate on cultivating just a few of their most preferred roles rather than trying to master all of them and becoming a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. The particular role an individual plays in a given team will depend on the preferred roles of the others in the team. Being willing and able to adopt a second or even a third choice role in certain situations will help to balance the team and avoid clashes or treading on others' toes.

The leadership position in a team demonstrates how important this flexibility is; teams tend to perform best when there is one clear leader. If a team contains a Shaper and a Coordinator both will generally want to lead so it will be important for one of them to step into another, slightly less preferred, role for the good of the team. Likewise if a team lacks one of these types, ideally somebody with some preference for either of these roles should be appointed as the leader, even if they might prefer another role.

The Value of Belbin

Belbin provides a very specific framework and vocabulary to analyse the composition and working of teams. It can be used from both a top down perspective, so effective teams can be assembled and dysfunctional teams fixed, and also from an individual perspective, so an individual can concentrate their development towards the team roles where they are the most effective. 

Click here to buy “Team Roles at Work” by Meredith Belbin:

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