Executive Search Firm - Diamonds HR

Pulling Together, Belbin Team Types

Article courtesy of The People Bulletin.

Are you a Shaper? How about a Plant? Or a Completer Finisher? Meredith Belbin reviews his analyses from the 1970s and how they apply to modern organisations

What is a manager? In my view a manager is someone who has an overview of the work that needs to be undertaken and can delegate it to others in an appropriate way. Although it can be argued that management can be about looking after process, a true manager has to oversee others, deploy them in the most useful way and encourage personal development.

Behavioural styles

Following a comprehensive study at Henley Management College, in the 1970's, we identified nine separate behavioural styles that could be effective when contributing to team work (see figure 1 for a summary of these). Over the last 30 years, I have been arguing that people should take on a style that suits their particular behaviours. Examining the results of a survey we have just conducted , it is clear to see that there is no single combination of team roles that makes a great manager. In purely numerical terms, the most effective manager had a top role of Co-ordinator, but the overall profile itself showed a wide team role spread. This goes to show that one can be effective in a variety of styles.

The point is to be a good example of what you are. In other words, make the most of your natural talents. When looking at the least effective manager, Shaper and Specialist figured the most strongly, and Teamworker the least strongly. This indicates that people do not appreciate managers who simply direct and bark orders based on their previous knowledge. Nor do they appreciate managers who lack humility and have a narrow outlook. However, it must be highlighted that some work situations demand a more direct approach - appreciated or not. Every situation demands a different combination of Team Roles to come to the fore. Good communication appears in a general way as the principal asset of the most effective managers.

Analysis of the figures shows they are seen as encouraging of others, broad in outlook and caring but also challenging. They also have higher than average scores in being creative, innovative and persuasive. Conversely, the least effective managers appeared as inflexible, not interested in others and manipulative. Interestingly enough, the biggest differentiators between the most effective and least effective managers were the words co-operative, caring, adaptable or realistic. I have always claimed that good managers have a heightened sense of realism - being realistic about goals and their own abilities.







Shaper (SH)

Challenging, dynamic
and thrives on pressure. Has the drive and pressure to overcome obstacles

Prone to frustration
and irritation. Offends people's feelings.

Inability to recover
situation with good
humour or apology

Specialist (SP)

Single-minded, selfstarting

and dedicated. Provides knowledge and skills in rare supply

Acquiring knowledge
for its own sake. Contributes only on a narrow front. Dwells on technicalities

Ignoring factors
outside own area of

Plant (PL)

Creative, imaginative
and unorthodox. Solves difficult problems

Neglect of practical
Matters. Ignores incidentals. Too pre-occupied to communicate effectively

'Ownership' of ideas
when co-operation
would yield better

Resource Investigaor (RI)

Extrovert, enthusiastic
and communicative. Explores opportunities. Develops contacts.

Loss of enthusiasm
once initial excitement
has passed

Letting clients down
by neglecting to
follow up

Co-ordinator (CO)

Clarifies goals,
promotes decision
making and delegates

Inclination to be lazy if
someone else can be
found to do the work. Can be seen as manipulative. Offloads personal work

Taking credit for the
effort of the team

Teamworker (TW)

perceptive and
diplomatic. Listens, builds, averts friction

Indecision on crucial

Avoiding situations
that may entail


Completer Finisher (CF)

Painstaking, conscientious and anxious. Searches out errors and omissions. Polishes and perfects

Perfectionism. Inclined to worry unduly. Perfectionism.


Implementer (IMP)

Disciplined, reliable and
Efficient. Turns ideas into practical actions

Adherence to the
orthodox and proven. Somewhat inflexible. Slow to respond to new possibilities

Obstructing change

Monitor Evaluator (ME)

Sober, strategic and
Discerning. Sees all options. Judges accurately.

Scepticism with logic

Cynicism without logic

Whilst none of a range of listed qualities in isolation can make or break an effective manager, the overall results suggest that a facilitative manager is much preferred to a hard-line, micro-manager. The results suggest that the pursuit of high standards is perfectly possible and indeed desirable, provided these goals are pursued in a way that is acceptable to others.

Tough yet caring wins acceptance

Although it is an advantage to be a natural communicator, communication alone is not enough. Managers may need to make tough and sometimes unwelcome decisions but being caring is a necessary trait for managers to win acceptance. A general who does not care about his troops will not be able to win their support through difficult times. And finally my tips for managers - be self-aware, take an interest in others, adapt to the specific demands of your situation and make the most of the human resources available.

1 Respondents were asked to complete an observer assessment by ticking words that described the behavioural strengths and weaknesses of their Most and Least Effective Managers. Each word on the observer assessment corresponds to a particular Team Role, whether representing a strength or weakness of a particular role. These responses were then analysed by the e-interplace software, which examines the frequency, combination and interrelation of the various characteristics and depicts these in terms of a Team Role profile.

Meredith Belbin

Meredith Belbin graduated in classics and psychology at Clare College, Cambridge and gained his second degree for his doctoral dissertation on older workers in industry. He then became a management consultant, working in a wide range of industries. Later he returned to Cambridge to become chairman of the Industrial Training Research Unit; Director of the Employment Development Unit; the first lay member in Cambridgeshire of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Panel on the Appointment of Magistrates, and Senior Associate of the Institute of Management Studies in Cambridge. He has recently been appointed Visiting Professor and Honorary Fellow of Henley Management College.