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Belbin Teamroles

Belbin Teamroles

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Quick Overview

The Belbin model is based on 3 basic principles. Each team member contributes to realising the team objectives through: (1) His/her professional role: expertise, (2) His/her organisational role: position/tasks/responsibilities, (3) His/her team role: personality/behaviour. 8 roles have been defined.

Related models: Big FiveCore Quadrants van OfmanWhole Brain Model van HerrmannColor Theory of ChangeCultural Dimensions (Hofstede)Leary's RoseSix Thinking Hats (De Bono)Social Styles (Wilson)



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Belbin Team Roles



The Belbin team roles were defined by Meredith Belbin (1926), a British scientist who became known for his research into the effectiveness of management teams.

In the 1960s Belbin conducted a study that presented the basis for his classic book Management Teams (1981). The study lasted several years and after publication it took a long time for it to be recognised. Being interested in both the functioning of the group’s behaviour as well as the individual behaviour, without having a clear-cut theory, Belbin asked three scientists with entirely different backgrounds to join hands with him and together study the effectiveness of management teams:

-      Bill Hartston, mathematician and international chess master

-      Jeanne Fisher, anthropologist who had studied Kenyan tribes

-      Roger Mottram, an organisational psychologist

Together they spent seven years studying the effectiveness of management teams. Belbin’s research team organised three management teams per year, each time inviting eight teams to engage in a role play, based on a certain corporate situation. For each game all participants were asked to fill out a number of psychological tests in advance, including personality questionnaires and intelligence tests. During the game the teams were observed categorising all behaviours (contributions of the individual team members) based on behaviour observing methods. The results of this experiment eventually allowed Belbin to predict which team would win prior to the management game, and whether the team setup would interfere with matters.

Related models: Big FiveCore Quadrants van OfmanWhole Brain Model van HerrmannColor Theory of ChangeCultural Dimensions (Hofstede)Leary's RoseSix Thinking Hats (De Bono)Social Styles (Wilson)


The model

This model describes 8 team roles:

-      Chairman

-      Shaper

-      Plant

-      Warner

-      Company man

-      Resource investigator

-      Group worker

-      Completer/Finisher


A 9th role was added afterwards:

-      Specialist


The Belbin model is based on these basic principles:

Each team member contributes to realising the team objectives through:

-     His/her professional role: expertise

-     His/her organisational role: position/tasks/responsibilities

-     His/her team role: personality/behaviour


A team needs a balanced division of roles:

-     The organisational role must agree with the natural team role

-     Complementary roles lead to more effectiveness compared to competitive roles

-     (Acceptable) weaknesses of one person are counterbalanced by the strengths of the other person


Each individual has two or three team roles which can be perfectly interpreted by nature. People should be aware of their natural roles, developing these roles and acting within these roles to ensure good results.


Below the characteristics of each role are shown per page.



The chairman is the coordinator pur sang. He communicates clearly what must be done, states the rules and frameworks and knows how to make people proceed in the right way and take on responsibility. This is partly because he is perfectly familiar with the other person’s capabilities.


      Guard process, determine priority and divide game

      Clarify matters requiring a decision

      Estimate people’s capacities and possibilities

      Use people’s capacities and space to the fullest to reach target


      'Personality’, 'charisma’, knows how to command respect

      Makes people care about the company

      Sense of timing and balance

      Communicates clearly

Behaviour inside the team 



      Not being very original, creative or intellectual


      Narrow-mindedness, short-sightedness






The shaper wants to see results. He wants to achieve things. Score! His dynamics, passion, animation and fussing will sometimes drive you mad. He aims at the highest and in doing so he wants to take everyone along with him. He also expects everyone to make a contribution.


      Set goals, name priorities

      Always steer team discussions towards the goal

      Integrate ideas, goals and practical considerations

      Pick up executive roles






Behaviour inside the team 


      Resists vague action and words

      Slightly busy and nervous behaviour





      Extreme suspicion, oversensitivity and negative reactions

      Arrogant and irritating behaviour


The 'plant'


The plant is a real out-of-the-box thinker. He has very original ideas and fantasies and the ability to come up with unexpected solutions. The plant is very creative but you should never take things for granted.


      Generate essential new roads and ideas

      Find openings for seemingly stuck processes

      See and hold on to outlines




      Independent, original

      Has imaginative power  


Behaviour inside the team  


      Not always very practical

      A little bit too scientific

      A poor communicator at times





The warner


The warner is the analyst with great file knowledge. He is certainly not keen on fast decisions, wanting to know all there is to know to find the most rational solution. The warner remains critical at all times, even if other people are very euphoric. Precision is key principle. 


      Analyse problems

      Evaluate ideas and suggestions

      Critical defence




      Cool, critical, objective

      Is able to see through complicated situations


Behaviour inside the team 


      Critical, seems less enthusiastic about reaching the goal

      Boring, not very warm-hearted

      Serious, sincere, does not easily get excited


      Cause serious delays taking too much time to consider matters

      Rude, inconsiderate


The company man


The company man has an organised desk. He is a wonderful organiser of his own work. He works hard and works a lot. You can rely on the company man. He will get the job done.


      Organise the work, put words into action

      Translate plans and strategies into practical work procedures

      Proceed systematically and efficiently



      Focus on everyday reality

      Practical, using common sense

      In control and disciplined

      Usually an expert in the central subject


Behaviour inside the team  


      Not quite flexible

      Suspicious about speculative ideas that have not yet proven their value

      Needs perfectly structured organisation and agreements


      Argue about the own position and always sure about himself

      Dismisses non-tested novelties entirely

      Dismisses matters that do not exist in the original plan


Source investigator


The source investigator is always talking to other people. He communicates easily and is always on the lookout for new ideas, possibilities, solutions or opportunities. The source investigator can make other people very enthusiastic by showing his own passion. One adventurous study more or less does not matter.


      Take ideas, developments and information from outside to inside

      Establish external contacts, network

      Acquire new possibilities based on formal and informal negotiations




      Extravert, dominant personality

      Strongly investigating, exploratory and testing mind

      Ability to find new possibilities in new situations

      Ability to propagate the team’s achievements to the outside world


Behaviour inside the team 


      Restless, slightly dominant behaviour

      Extremely enthusiastic

      Little attention to maintenance and follow-up


      Spending too much time on irrelevant matters

      Freewheel whenever less work seems to exist

      ‘Forget’ about agreements


The group worker


The group worker is the lubricant between the gears. He is focused on creating a perfect working environment. He is perfectly familiar with other people’s behaviour and knows how to connect people. A tactful person at last. And if you are ill, he will certainly send you a postcard.


      Stimulate team members’ strengths – and help them with their weaknesses

      Pay careful attention to proper mutual communication

      Recognise what other people need to perform well

      Coach people, focusing mainly on protecting and intensifying the team spirit

      Manage conflicts



      Ready to help, integrating, a great team worker


      Listens carefully

      Loyal to the team and target


Behaviour inside the team 


      Resists disagreement and team arguing

      Tendency to soften and put differences into perspective


      Indecisive, passive

      Too soft, unable to apply necessary sanctions

      Frustrate progress by spending too much time on having fun


The completer/finisher


The completer is the person who takes on the finishing touch. He finishes things. He proceeds meticulously setting high quality requirements. He is very accurate and is also referred to as the “fusspot”.


      Make sure nothing goes wrong and nothing is forgotten

      Always bear in mind matters requiring more care and attention

      Verify progress, especially if work is perfect and on time

      Boost the team



      Strong character, quiet, introvert, nervous and agitated

      Perfect balance between feelings of anxiety, order and efficiency


Behaviour inside the team 


      Slightly restless

      Resists superficial work views and superficial habits


      Depressing effect on the team by complaining and nagging all the time

      Focusing too much on details thus losing the total picture


The Specialist


Jim Collins studied the similarities between really successful companies describing his conclusions in the book Good to Great. One of the similarities between these ‘great companies’ is the hedgehog concept. The latter originates from an essay written by Isaiah Berlin, in which he divides the world into hedgehogs and foxes: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Similarities exist between the specialist and the hedgehog. The specialist knows everything about one thing.


      Know a lot about one subject matter

      Have great file knowledge

      Do good review work



      Quiet, withdrawn

      Does not (instantly) feel comfortable in a close team

      Dedicated expert


Behaviour inside the team


      Is not keen on stepping outside his field of expertise

      Lives in his own scientific world, which is true


      Hardly interested in other people’s contributions




How to use it


Putting a team together

Belbin is perfectly suitable for initiating a programme or project or for putting your team together. Part of the selection procedure is to complete a questionnaire whereby the outcome will confirm which predominant role a person always plays. Do not think black or white and never pigeon-hole people. Many people are capable of playing different roles in different situations. The outcomes, however, will help you develop an idea that might be the reason for you to keep on asking the person concerned to develop a complete picture. If people are already in your team or department make sure you are familiar with the current division of roles to fill up the white spots.


Team awareness

Even if you are already in the middle of a team building process or if your department has existed for a while, you may use this model to map your team. Sharing the outcomes in a fruitful session will help everyone gain better insight. There is no such thing as the wrong role or the weaker role. In fact, you need each and every role, perhaps more so in some situations. The power of sharing outcomes is not only fun; it will also help you understand your team setup and power of your colleagues. It may help you explain and accept displayed behaviour and search for the person who can help you with a certain situation.


Good luck, play your role and use others’!


Related models: 

-   Big Five

 -   Core Quadrants van Ofman

 -   Whole Brain Model van Herrmann

 -   Color Theory of Change

 -   Cultural Dimensions (Hofstede)

 -   Leary's Rose

 -   Six Thinking Hats (De Bono)

 -   Social Styles (Wilson)


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  • Description, full colour, pdf