Five Questions: Dr Meredith Belbin

Five questions is our new regular feature in which we interview someone who’s been influential in the world of workplace training and development.  And who better to launch our regular news item legendary team and management theorist, Dr Meredith Belbin.  An Honorary Fellow of Henley Management College, Oxford, Meredith is renowned for his groundbreaking work on team roles.  Through a seven-year research project, Meredith and his colleagues observed, categorised and recorded individual behaviours in teams, and their impact – ultimately producing nine ‘team roles’.

Here’ Meredith talks to McCrudden Training about why he thinks team dynamics and playing to people’s strengths in teams is just as important now as it was in the 1980?s when Belbin-mania hit it’s peak.

Meredith, why is ‘team’ so important?

In an increasingly complex world, the judgements of a single person are unlikely to meet the needs of demanding situations.  A team should comprise diverse but compatible individuals and should be small, ideally comprising four or six members.  Beyond that number, “teams” no longer behave as desired and become merely amorphous groups.

If you had to encapsulate the principles of Belbin in 50 words, what would they be?

Belbin Team Roles are used to identify people’s behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. This information can be used to: build productive working relationships; select and develop high-performing teams; raise self-awareness and personal effectiveness; build mutual trust and understanding and aid recruitment processes.

Your team role model has been around for decades – is it still relevant in today’s world, and why has it had such longevity?

The Belbin model is used widely in five continents and very different cultures.  Its strength lies in the discovery that positive contribution patterns seem universal and applicable even in very different environments. Understanding behaviour in the workplace is more important than ever before and Belbin continues to provide a language to enable individuals to communicate their strengths and weaknesses to others, keeping the core Belbin message whilst developing new means to get this message across. To some extent, Belbin’s success and longevity is testament to its applicability and relevance!

 With businesses facing such hard times in the recession, why should they invest money in tools like Belbin?

Belbin is not an “add-on” or one-off exercise, it is a language which must be adopted in order to have an impact. Real integration and understanding of Team Roles can provide a return on investment to organisations at every level: to the individual in question to enable them to make a more of their Team Role contributions; to the manager of a team, to help the team work together more effectively and to the bottom line. Belbin focuses on behaviour, so there is always practical, applicable advice to be followed to help improve the status quo. There are a large number of case studies demonstrating how Belbin has been used to improve performance and profitability.

 And what about individuals – how can they benefit from understanding their profile?  If we can be competent in a number of roles, does it really matter if we know and use our Belbin profiles?

Making an effective Belbin Team Role contribution is about more than being competent in a number of roles. For example, we need to learn about all Team Roles, so we can understand what sort of behaviours make others tick and when we should call on their roles. Sometimes we are required to identify a gap, step outside of our Team Role “comfort zone” and make a Team Role sacrifice. In other words, Team Roles are a language which we can use to make interaction and teamwork easier. The more we understand the model, know our profiles and those of others in our team, the more effectively we can work together.

Thank you Meredith!

If you’d like to know more about Belbin’s Team Roles, contact Nicky McCrudden (our Belbin Accredited Practicitioner).  For information on our team training, click here. If you’re interested in a personal team role evaluation and consultation to improve your own effectiveness in your team, help you with your career planning, or to help you excell in interviews contact Nicky on 0845 257 5871