Belbin team roles

I love to coach teams. One of my favorite tools are the belbin team roles. Just a heads up I am not a certified belbin trainer. If I feel it is necessary I redirect people to certified trainers of belbin. This blog is part of a long read on the belbin team roles on the member area. We will cover how to prepare, facilitate and follow up on a belbin team role workshop. If you want to know more about the team roles themselves you can watch the video below and you can check out the the long read.

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“What is needed is not well balanced individuals, but individuals who balance well with each other.”- Meredith Belbin

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Preparing the workshop

Clear purpose

Make sure you and the team are clear about what is to be achieved by organizing a workshop. It may be that there is a problem in working together, but it can also be that there is no problem and the team just wants to grow. I often try to use an A3 during intake, because I like the structure it gives me. It also helps me to ask better questions. When people say they want to work together more effectively this makes sense on the surface.

  • But why do they want to do so now?
  • What were to happen if we do not have this workshop?
  • Do they want to or need to have this workshop?
  • How united is the team on the idea of spending time on this workshop?
  • When is working together going very well?
  • When does the team collaboration break down?(if ever)

Try to use the 5 times why when necessary. Make sure you talk to multiple people of different subgroups in the team to get a complete view of the team dynamics.

Communication

When the workshop is planned and people are invited. Be sure to include an agenda and goal. Also try to give people some information about about belbin team roles. Place emphasis on the fact that there are no bad or unwanted team roles. Each team roles has worth and is needed. Also be sure to distinguish between this test on team roles and a personality test.

Getting the team profile in advance

Get people to fill out a questionnaire in advance. When you receive their results be sure to send them back a short profile of the role(s) they are most comfortable in.

There are some free questionnaires online. But you can also pay for one. The advantage of the paid questionnaires is that you will also receive advice about how to move forward.

You can also look at:

When you search online you will find more of these tests. Try them out and choose the one which best suits the needs of the team you are coaching.

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“The benefit of utilising and understanding Team Roles is that not only do we learn more about ourselves, but also a lot about our work colleagues and how to get the best out of them.”- Meredith Belbin

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Facilitating the workshop

First things first: people are in the workshop because they want to learn or need help. Adjust your program accordingly and be flexible. Have a plan A and plan B. Belbin team roles theory is a tool not a goal in and of itself.

I personally try to keep the theory in the workshop short by:

  • Introducing people to some of the theory in advance
  • Touching each profiles main points
  • Staying away from the underlying psychological theories

I try to make a connection to the day to day business of the team immediately and also try to connect to great sports team for example. I usually start with the distribution of the roles in the team. Which roles do we have a lot of? Which roles do we not have? What does this mean? Do you recognize this in your team's way of working? How?

During the workshop I ask people wether the recognize themselves in the profile. What usually happens is when somebody does not recognizes themselves their teammates will point out where their strong points do match. When they do not do this, you can ask teammates to do so. This helps in creating a safe environment.

Sometimes the profile just does not match the person. This is ok, profiles change over time. You can ask people if it did match somewhere in the past (it usually has). You can also ask this person in which profile he or she does recognize themselves and ask for positive feedback from the team.

In preparation you will have heard examples of opposite roles being annoyed with each other. You can use this example and ask them how they would handle working together knowing each other roles.

At the end try to summarize the things we have talked about and get the team to commit to changes. Of course you will have prepared the team that this is going to be asked if them, because you alone cannot be responsible for their change. If a team does not feel like following up on the workshop, please challenge them on it. Both you and the team can learn from why they do not want to follow up on the workshop.

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Following up on the workshop

Sometimes having the workshop is enough. But usually it is necessary to follow up on the workshop. There are several options for this. These are the ones I have used most often when following up on the workshop:

  • Coaching during daily stand ups
  • Implementing (visual)  standards as a result of the workshop
  • A follow up workshop on feedback or another topic
  • A recurring segment on their team meeting about the team roles
  • A recurring gamification quiz or game about the team roles and standards

The options I used are varied and depended on the team. Following up is the hard part. During the workshop focus and energy are high, afterwards less so. Which is why it is important to be clear about the expected follow up to yourself and the team. Make sure enough time is available to do it well. Otherwise you will have had a nice workshop without much change.

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