Those of you who have been following us for a while have heard us talk about Belbin team roles before. In short, the Belbin model has nine different team roles that are differentiated by people’s tendencies and common traits. The test measures how we perform certain tasks. To know what team roles a person embodies, they must take the test and discover their strengths profile. The results are like a 360 view, taking into consideration your own answers as well as how others see you.
Solariders have used Belbin team roles since our last season. We started by having our team leaders take the test, but now we have extended it to all of our members. Our crew has five Belbin consultants, who all carry the role of building our organizational functioning around our strengths. Our mentor in the Belbin model has been Mats Soomre who is the official Belbin ambassador since 2005.Soomre has shared his Belbin knowledge with us before © Photo: Sigrid Mölder
Belbin’s Findings Were Ahead of His Time
The Belbin method was developed by Dr. Meredith Belbin, who, together with colleagues at Henley College, started researching teams in the 1970s. They were really interested in identifying why some teams are more successful than others. Soomre describes their findings:
“Their findings were well ahead of their time. The thinking and customs of the time dictated that teams should be made up of the smartest and most talented people. After all, on their own, they were spectacular. However, the Belbin team found that putting a bunch of equally talented people together often hindered team performance. This was due to each individual’s potential not being fully utilized and actualised.
Later, this phenomenon got its own name - the Apollo Syndrome. The occurrence explains why a team of spectacular people often tend to produce mediocre or abnormal results despite their potential. There’s simply too much potential in the pool, and many times it is not being nurtured to the max.“
So what’s the solution? Soomre explains that the findings suggested creating a balance in team roles. During research, the team put together thorough personality profiles, but soon found them to be lacking in adequately describing the actual investment of this individual.
Instead, they started mapping out the tendencies of a person. This proved to be more practical. It also seemed to be more accurate in predicting what each person will bring to the team.
“Person’s inner talents and capabilities, along with their personality, certainly impact their behavior, but they certainly aren’t the only things that do that. We must give a little credit to genetics, but the biggest impact will come from the environment we live, study, and work in, and especially the people we interact with. In some ways, we could say a person is a sum of those whom they interact with.”
“We can confidently say, today, that models that measure personalities aren’t necessarily wrong, but we could say they tend to stay on the surface. A classic example of this would be the introvert versus extrovert identification. We could describe someone as one or the other, but in reality it doesn’t tell us too much. Two introverts might function completely differently in the same team, and a typical extrovert might seem like a total introvert in a different situation.”
Why is Belbin Useful for the Individual and for the Company?
To know how a person functions in a team, we must know their inner tendencies. Why is it helpful? From a company’s perspective, knowing their employee’s Belbin roles will help them motivate each worker and connect their strengths with their role, which has proven to be an excellent leadership tool. Soomre puts it this way:
“Workers must be paid fair wages, but is a decent paycheck a great motivator in the long run? We’ve seen that it’s often not enough. Knowing someone’s Belbin role provides great insight about the individual, making their actions predictable as well. This should enable employers to connect their employees to the right kind of work. When the work you’re doing is pleasant and plays into your strengths, you’re likely to be more motivated.”
Successful teams include all nine roles © Photo: Simm Paap
Leading from a place of strengths as well as collaboration based on strengths will benefit companies economically, helping to avoid conflicts as well as solve them, should any arise:
“It is not uncommon for employers to set wrong expectations on their employees. They seem to view all work the same - something that must be completed. Therefore, tasks are handed to those who have room on their plate at the moment. A little time goes by, and they’ll discover that even though they’ve handed the task to an employee from an appropriate department, they might not be the best fit for what the work entails.”
For example, a plant role (a true innovator, creative spirit) will not thrive at traditional bookkeeping nor will an evaluator type (investigative, sober, strategic) enjoy sales calls. Their true potential would not be nurtured in these tasks, neglecting the results and their motivation and job satisfaction. It is important to keep in mind, though, that it doesn’t mean they are in an entirely wrong department. Give the plant a chance to create new exciting processes or an evaluator an opportunity to assess the current state of conversions from sales calls, and they might bloom!
“Choosing your department and your job are very different. To give an example from Solaride, we can think of marketing and engineering. Both require creative and analytical thinking, systematic approaches, quality control, people skills, etc. They might seem similar if we solely list these qualifications. However, your place is probably in the one where the tasks and the actual job bring you joy and growth.”
To find your career and the perfect job, knowing which team roles are most natural to you, will help you discover your strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge can help you unlock the key to less stress, staying motivated, and avoiding burnout.”
“People are more confident when they know their strengths and weaknesses. Finding a great job takes less time and their work brings them more joy because they get to use their strengths more often.”
Choosing your field and your job are two different things - to find the right job, you need to know your strengths. © Photo: Solaride
Strengths Will Likely Play a Bigger Role in Future Hirings
Strengths and weaknesses are a common talking point in job interviews already. However, it is important to note that the Belbin model does not see weaknesses as negatives, but promising characteristics that enable one to have and demonstrate their strengths.
“Again and again you’ll meet people who are determined to develop their weaknesses into strengths. However, if we focus on fixing our weaknesses, we often lose their complementing strengths. As a result, we’ll have a person without any outstanding weaknesses, but also without any outstanding strengths. Instead, people should focus on developing their strengths further to unlock their hidden potential - usually team roles that your personal profile would place fourth, fifth or sixth.”
In the future, Soomre sees strengths playing a much more important role in hiring than they currently do. Employers are realizing that they are simply more useful than industry-specific competencies alone. Soomre gives an example of a client who asked their candidate to complete the Belbin test. The results revealed that even though their skills were adequate, their roles and strengths didn’t match what the employer was looking for at all:
“The interesting thing was that the hiring manager had an instant suspicion, but couldn’t provide any proof. After all, everything seemed great on paper. The Belbin test, however, revealed a bigger picture that the hiring manager could use to confirm their intuition.”
“The trend is definitely leaning towards considering an overall match beyond a mere resume. You want to know whether the person will fit well with your team, the job, and with their supervisor.”
So, if you take anything with you from our story, knowing your strengths and weaknesses might help you pick the right career and to pass that interview. If you’d like to learn more, you can read more from the Belbin website.
Our Belbin consultant and Solaride HR star, Alice Gorobets says:
We are definitely committed to continuing with Belbin on our toolbelt. Our leaders are reading up on additional materials and learning how to raise personal efficiency, how to onboard a new team member, and much more. Our teams also incorporate the outsider test, where colleagues fill out the test about each other. This way, we get a better picture of each other and how to move this car forward.
This story was written by Victoria Maripuu from the marketing department