Belbin Team Roles - nobody is perfect but a team can be

Belbin Team Roles - nobody is perfect but a team can be

There are numerous psychometrics and personality profiles available that focus on individual preferences and traits. However, there are not that many that focus on team profiles. This blog article focuses on one of these – the Belbin team roles.


Why is it that some teams work well and others fail? The Belbin team roles offers a solution.

Dr Raymond Meredith Belbin is a respected Cambridge academic who, through research at Cranfield School of Management and Henley Business School, developed his thinking and team role theory which has become a respected business development tool in its own right. This is available via the Belbin® website.

Key themes

Belbin team roles identifies that when people come together, they may display behavioural preferences. These preferences can be grouped into 3 main areas of focus:

  • People that are action oriented.
  • People who are thought oriented.
  • People who are people oriented.

This short video explains further:

Under each of these preferences are 9 team roles. These, in brief, are:

Action oriented:

Shapers. People who display this preference lead groups and lead them from the front. In short, they shape where the team is going. They can have a hurry-up button that can make others uncomfortable.

Implementers. People who display this preference much prefer structure, clear goals and timelines. They get things done. They can become uncomfortable when the goal posts are moved without good reason.

Completer-Finishers. People who display this preference love deadlines and detail. They can be relied upon to achieve – even if at their own cost. They can also become over-focused and detail obsessed, worrying about quality over practicality.

People oriented:

Coordinators. People who display this preference lead groups through relationship building and delegation. Their people focus is strong and any over-concern for people issues can mean that completion of the task may be sacrificed to maintain harmony.

Team workers. People who display this preference bring diplomacy and harmony to the team. Working together is important for them and they may go out of their way to please others. This may cause them to shy away from conflict.

Resource investigators. People who display this preference are naturally curious and want to improve team performance through bringing ideas and resources from outside the group. Enthusiasm can drop if met with resistance.

Thought oriented:

Plants (sometimes referred to as Innovators). People who display this preference constantly come up with ideas and ways of solving problems. They enjoy the challenges offered by overcoming obstacles. As a consequence, they may appear aloof and/or distant from others.

Monitor-Evaluators. People who display this preference relish detail. They spot flaws and errors and enjoy doing so. Like Innovators, they can appear detached at times and their constant flaw spotting can perceive them as being negative.

Specialists. People who display this preference tend to stick to their own task-role. They like to do what they know and enjoy. However, this can mean that others see them as non-team players which can also make them appear distant and this can cause conflict.

Some questions to consider:

Question: Can I use Belbin’s team roles to recruit others into my team?

Answer: The Belbin team roles are not a recruitment tool when used in isolation. They offer no prediction of ability.

Q: Are Belbin’s team roles an absolute truth about people and their ability?

A: No. They are an indicator of behaviour. People can perform out of role, and in small teams this is often the case.

Q: Do I need each role covered in my team?

A: The idea with team roles is that the roles describe people’s preferences when they come together in groups to form teams. In reality, it is unlikely that you will have each preference represented in your team. Therefore, it will be helpful to look across your team and understand what roles people are playing and/or prefer to play. Introducing processes and co-opting others may plug any gaps you identify.

Some interesting observations when comparing Belbin team roles with other profiling tools:

Belbin team roles measures behaviours within a group setting. However, there are distinct correlations with other profiling tools we offer at Beyond Theory. For example:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Extroversion vs Introversion scale. The Thought orientated roles of Innovators, Monitor-Evaluators and Specialists may measure as Introverts with their preference to work alone. Resource Investigators may score higher on Extroversion with their desire to be outward-focused.
Judging vs Perceiving scale. Implementers and Completer-Finishers may well score high on the Judging scale with their need for structure and closure.

SDI 2.0 (formerly Strength Deployment Inventory)

The three groups of action oriented, people oriented and thought oriented match well with the following motivational values on the SDI 2.0:

Red – focus on performance. This correlates with action oriented.
Blue – focus on people. This correlates with people oriented.
Green – focus on process. This correlates with thought oriented.


Belbin team roles are an established way of helping to identify strengths and potential blind spots within a team to improve productivity. Identifying team role preferences can be very helpful when delivered in a workshop setting, either face-to-face or online. However, and as ever, careful consideration needs to be given to avoid pigeon-holing which is why we always recommend that using any psychometric and profiling tool is delivered by qualified professionals.

Paul Beesley
Director and Senior Consultant, Beyond Theory
29 April 2023

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