A personality test, aka Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, or Belbin Team Role Inventory, is a method of testing individuals to ascertain which of 9 ‘team roles’ a person’s personality has tendencies to and preference for. Using feedback from observers, and the individual’s own interpretation of their behaviour during the assessment, the process assesses how an individual behaves, with particular emphasis on team dynamics.
Many people will have heard of Myers-Briggs personality indicator assessments, and it’s worth noting that the Belbin assessment is not a replacement or alternative to a personality assessment – they can both be useful – but the Belbin assessment is focused on team identity, and it’s possible to have features of a number of the roles.
The model was created over 10 years, from studying which factors affected success or failure of a team, at a Management College in the 70’s. A game was designed to imitate real working life, focusing on decision making, and introducing common variables which would affect the decision making process. At the beginning of the scheme, people were grouped in to teams based on intelligence, with the assumption that teams of higher overall intelligence would be most successful.
This was not the case at all, and actually after numerous run-throughs of the game-test over time, it was shown that a group with a mixture of intellect levels was much more successful than a group of one level of intellect. What’s more, those teams with varying behavioural traits by far did best. These traits were grouped in to 9 distinctive different ‘team roles’, which now constitute the Belbin assessment possible results.
The 9 team member styles which were identified from the initial research and subsequent honing are: Co-ordinator (previously called chairman), Shaper, Plant, Monitor-Evaluator, Implementer (previously called Company Worker), Resource Investigator, Specialist, Team Worker, and Completer-Finisher.
For the purposes of the assessment, Belbin states that the optimum size for a team is 4 people; any more and people don’t work closely enough together for the variables to be understood.
What can Belbin do for you?
Have you ever noticed that you’ve got a group of great individuals, but for some reason the project never gets finished? Or that the team always has great ideas, but most of them never even get off the ground? Or perhaps your entire team is great at carrying on bearing the weight of the work, but no one ever pipes up with ideas for improvement? The truth is that you need a mixture of types of team-member, and it’s possible that just from hiring the ‘best candidate’ on paper, you may be hiring the worst candidate for YOUR team.
If you are in the process of hiring, for ultimate success for your team or business, you should start off looking at your existing team dynamics. Assess the effectiveness of your team, and which type of Belbin style each of your existing team members have tendencies for. As well as searching for a new employee who has the required skill-set, experience, and attitude, it’s worth working out which Belbin-type is missing from your group.
The Belbin Team Role Inventory has also created an assessment, ‘Belbin Job Requirements Inventory’ which can assess a candidate’s behaviour for suitability to a specific job role.
Overview of the 9 Categories
Plant – the ideas men and women! Unorthodox, and creative, they don’t care too much for detail, and don’t communicate too well! Too many plants in a team can lead to misunderstandings, and they also won’t be able to drop an idea once it’s been implemented, coming up with revisions and new solutions after you’ve set the plan in motion even.
Resource Investigator – with their finger on the pulse of what’s happening outside the team, they are able to get excited and plan who and what the team will be able to draw on for resources, with excellent networking skills and ideas on how to gather ideas, information, contacts, or other supporting factors. Excitable at the offset, and less so towards the details or the end of the project.
Co-ordinator – the most suitable candidate for leading the team. With a ‘big picture’ vision, they are confident, mature, not swayed by emotions or pressure. Their ability to stand back gives them the capability to see others’ abilities objectively, to efficiently delegate different tasks. If they’re not careful, they look to have delegated everything, and come across themselves as not doing any work!
Shaper – these people like to achieve, succeed, or win! They’re essential in rallying troops and keeping the pace up to achieve your target, to excellent standards and in good time. Normally extroverts, who like to question what other people would term ‘it’s just the way we’ve always done it’. They’ll make sure the most efficient methods are being utilised and that the team doesn’t become complacent – sometimes annoying fellow workers by appearing over aggressive!
Monitor-Evaluator – not very likely to be passionate about their work, they are however impartial observers who will gradually come to conclusions about whether the work that’s being done. They’re good at problem solving and making good decisions – but can be a bit lacklustre and negative.
Team Worker – to many, the assumption would be this role is the ‘work horse’. Whilst this is true, that these team members will be involved in ensuring the nitty gritty chores actually take place, which other members would see as inconsequential or beneath themselves, a team worker has a lot of benefits in the team dynamic. Good listeners, diplomats, they are often able to smooth relationships between other team members. The absence of a team worker will lead to arguments and neglect of ‘nitty gritty’ essential chores being completed.
Implementer – efficient, self-motivated, disciplined, and reliable, these team members are motivated by loyalty to their fellow team members, or the company. Often stick to their own well thought out plans, coming across as ‘boring’, but also happy to do jobs others avoid which is essential in a team setting.
Completer-Finisher – perfectionists who can be relied on to deliver double or triple-checked work, as they require accuracy and their own high standards to be met. Not always good at sharing tasks (as they’d rather trust themselves to complete it within their high standards), and sometimes overly worry about small details, frustrating other team members.
Specialist – love learning about their field, and happy to share what they’ve learned with others. If they don’t know something, they’ll endeavour to find out. Bring great levels of skill and ability to the table, but lack in contributions when discussion veers away from their chosen speciality.
There are differing views on the effectiveness of the Belbin model for the recruitment process, or in fact for those wanting to improve efficiency of their existing team, or implementing a cross-company restructuring. However, much of the negative feedback has been based on the original Belbin Team Inventory model, which is now over 40 years old, and there seems to be much more reliable conclusions drawn from more recent revisions of the model (represented in the list above), and especially in the current usability of the online assessments. The new technology enables other participants to reflect on, and contribute to, a colleague’s personal assessment on their place in the team, known as 360 degree feedback, using software which is built especially for this type of testing. It can be anonymous or not, as the client prefers, but gives such valid insights in to the team dynamic it really is worth either loosely the different functions of the team members you’re your team, to highlight everyone’s benefits and areas to work on, or even employing a recruitment to recruitment agency to guide the process.