Belbin’s team roles: know yours and value others

Too much energy for one person

I’m an energetic person with an eye for opportunity and slightly neurotic streak.  It’s is not surprising that my main roles come out at

  • Shaper – is what being done important and is what important being done!
  • Completer/Finisher  – have all the important details been attended to and will we finish on time?
  • Resource/Investigator -who should we and could we know and what can we do that we couldn’t do yesterday?

Exuberant, enthusiast, loyal and kind – that’s how people describe me.

Everything has a flip side

But not necessarily tactful.  Unlike Britons described by BBC yesterday, I can’t lie ‘for toffee’.  I’m also the type that departs the beaten track and climbs over a challenging course just for the hell of it.

When I was younger, I knew that I wasn’t a ‘hale fellow, well met” sort of person.  Everyone who had taken a short cut or conned anyone or been faintly dull felt ‘criticized’ by my preferences.  I knew that I didn’t have a sharp grasp of fashion but I thought I wasn’t a ‘people’ person.

We surround ourselves with opposites to balance our preferences

By the time, I was an active student leader at University, I was wise enough to include a gregarious, easy-going person on every one of my teams.  I would think up the ideas and run them past my ‘people’ person to make sure they would be well received.

The names of roles and their pros and cons are formalized in the ‘Belbin’

It was only much later, as I encountered the Belbin (and taught the Belbin) that I realized my instincts were spot on.  I had brought in ‘team players’ to balance me.

And it was only then that I understood that all team players show characteristic weaknesses.  I had observed that but I didn’t know it was predictable.

Teamplayers don’t get down to work very easily.   They might not even do their share of work. And they are dreadful negotiators. They think they are wonderful but they tend to give everything away.  For the life of them, they cannot hold the line.  To say ‘no’ might make them unpopular and they can’t stand that.

Disadvantages or not – I want opposites on my team

But I still want a team player on my team.  They keep the peace.  They don’t complain.  They are careful with other people’s feelings.

Team players are essential in every office

In one place that I worked, we had a long corridor and my office was about one-third of the way down from reception.  When our receptionist went away, I would hear the noise gradually increase.  Once I even slammed my own filing cabinet drawer shut, thinking as I did just how unpleasantly noisy our office was!  Then I caught myself.  Pleasantness and unpleasantness is contagious.  Without our team player, tempers were rising and little incidents of bad temper were being sparked like bush fires after a long drought.  Amazingly, in a team, who should know better, people were often unkind to our team player and complained she wasted time chatting.  No, she didn’t. She was the lubricant that kept the office turning.

I want a team player and I don’t even mind if they do less work than everyone else.  I can do thinking – I will anyway.  I can double check their work – I will anyway!  I can do the unpleasant chores.  It doesn’t bother me.  I’ll even be firm with them and tell them I will do the negotiating because they are no darn good at it!

But I want them there.  They keep us sane.

Do you know the team roles you prefer playing and will always choose when you can?

The Belbin test can be googled but it is heavily copyrighted.  You aren’t likely to find a full copy on the web.  I think I will put up some old lecture notes on Slideshare for you and I’ll use the occasion to check out Prezi.  So book mark this post and come back in a few days to see if it is done.

I strongly recommend you ‘name’ your preferred roles and explore the upsides and downsides of our own style.  Moreover, check out the roles played by people who annoy you.  You will see why you need them so badly!

What’s your preferred corporate culture?

Cool 2×2 on organizational culture

While tutoring some very smart undergraduates, I bumped into  very nice 2×2 model that I haven’t seen for years.  Deal & Kennedy’s model is used primarily to explain corporate culture.  It also correlates nicely with two factor personality theory – so it’s pretty useful for helping people understand their preferences for various workplaces.  It’s easy to use and remember and what’s more reading political commentary, I had an insight about competency frameworks that is quite useful.

Get drawing!

Grab a pen.  WordPress is not up for 2×2 tables.  Across the page put feedback (slow on the left and fast on the right), and down the page put risk(high at the top and low at the bottom).

Live or die in the next 20 minutes!

Top left is the fast-feedback high risk quadrant.  This is the world of surgeons, American police, City traders.  Everything happens quickly, and losses and gains can be dramatic.  This is the world of extraverted, neurotics – loud, quick, aggressive and dramatic.  Game of choice: squash! A one-one-one tussle with points scored in a fast and furious contest.

Fast but not furious

Bottom left is slow-feedback low risk quadrant.  This is the world of the factory, the retail bank and even the supermarket cashier.  Good or bad, feedback is quick but no one event is of great consequence.  This is still the world of the extravert.  Sociable people are at a premium provided they are amiable and easily content.  Indeed, they wouldn’t know what to do with aggression.  Game of choice: soccer.  Great teamwork that goes on for an hour-and-a-half with only one or two goals.

Leave it with me

Bottom right is slow-feedback low risk quadrant.  This is the world of very low skilled or very high skilled.  The work is deceptively simple.  Take an accountant.   A piece of paper is processed and there is no sense of the world changing.   A better example is a lawyer who writes your will.  You rely entirely on it being correct when it is inspected many, many years later by other lawyers.   The essence of this work is this long delay and ability to do fine work with no feedback.  This is the world of stable, unemotional introverts.  Game of choice : jogging.  One foot after another!

He’s my brother, he ain’t heavy

Top right is slow-feedback high risk quadrant.  This is the world of civil engineers putting up buildings  which will only show that nasty shortcut many years later.  It is also the world of educators – all those hours put in to person who may or may not make good.  This is the world of neurotic introverts.  A mark of people in this quadrant is other people take them to be a fool and abuse their good will.  They are also prone to feeling disappointed with the world.  Game of choice: golf.  You can lose it all on the last hole.

So what is my observation for leadership competencies?

Generally, the most obvious leader is someone who is extraverted and unanxious.  Leaders like quick feedback and are neither too prone to hi risk (likely to be quick tempered) or too prone to lo risk (too amiable and unable to hold the line).

Listening to the commentary on political candidates, I suspect that this rule-of-thumb holds in the lower levels of leadership (Lieutenant to Colonel).  At higher levels, the willingness to reserve judgement and wait to see how events unfold might also be important.

Any thoughts?  What is your preferred culture?

UPDATE:  Anyone from any quadrant can lead and be a good politician. Generally though, we will be happy in our basic trade depending on its match with our personality.    We will also learn to use all quadrants with practice, though under pressure, we are likely to revert to our preferred choice.

Knowing your preferences helps you understand why you dislike some tasks and how you can recraft them to make them more comfortable. It also helps you understand other people’s styles.

Enhanced by Zemanta