Dr. Meredith Belbin developed the team role theory based on common behavioral attributes. The Belbin model divides the roles into action-oriented, thought-oriented, and people-oriented categories to balance teams and increase productivity.
Working in a team takes organization and collaboration. For teams to be most productive, everyone should have a specific role that aligns with their strengths.
Dr. Meredith Belbin developed the team role theory based on behavioral attributes. Belbin’s nine team roles fall into three categories: action-oriented, thought-oriented, and people-oriented.
Action-oriented team members are ready to put things in action and they do well with strict deadlines. Thought-oriented team members are critical thinkers who may bring new ideas to the table. People-oriented team members have strong communication skills, which can help them support the entire team.
In this guide, we’ll discuss Belbin’s nine team roles and explain how balancing your team can drive team productivity.
Shapers are team members who drive the team forward. They are action-oriented, motivating themselves and others despite any issues that arise. Shapers are natural leaders, so they do well in management roles. When a crisis occurs, these individuals are quick to find a solution.
Example of the shaper team role: Using a product marketing team as an example, the shaper would be the head of product, who oversees the team vision and the roadmap to get there.
Implementers are also action-oriented team members, and they maintain order in their environments. They’re practical and thrive at bringing ideas to fruition. Although implementers like to take action, they’re also highly disciplined. These individuals may be the backbone of a team because they can confidently support other team members.Read: Efficiency vs. effectiveness in business: Why your team needs both
The last of the action-oriented team roles are the completer finishers. True to their name, completer finishers are heads-down individuals who notice fine details and strive for perfection. These team members may be more introverted, but they’re valuable in work environments because they push team members to produce high-quality work.
Example of the completer finisher team role: Completer finishers would do well in tech support. They know how to identify and fix problems both quickly and efficiently.
The plant is a thought-oriented team member who’s an innovative and creative thinker. Although plants help balance out the team, they prefer to brainstorm and solidify their own ideas before sharing to the greater team. Plants may prefer to work alone, but they bring valuable input even if they aren’t as outspoken as other team members.
Example of the plant team role: Plants are highly creative, which is why they would make great product designers.
Another thought-oriented team role is the monitor evaluator. This type is a rational thinker and can put their emotions aside for problem solving. Monitor evaluators work best when their projects require advanced knowledge and strategic planning. They assess ideas to determine if they are valuable and viable, then take the steps to push those ideas forward.
Example of the monitor evaluator team role: Monitor evaluators are your hyper-organized project managers, strategically scoping projects and connecting the dots across teams.
The last thought-oriented team role is the specialist. Specialists have in-depth knowledge in their field and they like to contribute to one area of expertise. Specialists follow the pattern of all the thought-oriented team roles in that they work better alone than in a group. Although this individual is more independent, they provide a lot of value to the team with their specific skill set.
Example of the specialist team role: Specialists may be your coders, your SEO analysts, or your technical crew on the team—their job is specialized on a skill the rest of the team may not know much about, and thankfully they have it covered.
Moving on to the people-oriented team roles, the coordinator is a team member with great communication skills. Coordinators are often in leadership positions because they promote collaboration and motivate the team to accomplish their goals. Other team members look up to coordinators and trust them to make a decision.
Example of the coordinator team role: Coordinators enjoy collaborating and motivating others, so they’d thrive as the lead of a team of product developers.Read: 12 tips to effective communication in the workplace
Teamworkers are also people-oriented. Their extroverted personalities help them function well with others and listen to their teammates. These team members can adapt easily to changes in their environment and they know how to create harmony if conflict arises. If one team member has too much on their plate or another has a family emergency, teamworkers are the first to step in and offer support.
Example of the teamworker team role: Because teamworkers are natural collaborators, they’d excel as a product marketer within a larger team.
The last of the nine team roles is the resource investigator. These people-oriented individuals enjoy exploring new opportunities like finding potential marketing opportunities for the company or chatting up stakeholders for a new product launch. Their positive attitude makes them a natural networker or facilitator of new business.
Example of the resource investigator: Because resource investigators like to network with others, they’d thrive in product sales.Read: The secret to great group dynamics
Creating balanced teams at work can be more of a challenge when you have a variety of personalities and strengths at play. It’s unlikely that most teams will have the people to fill all nine team roles, which is why it’s critical to know how to work with the team you have and utilize each team member’s strengths.
Every team role has its strengths and weaknesses. Being aware of these can help you create a more balanced team. For example, a plant may be less comfortable communicating, but they know how to solve complex problems. A completer finisher may not have a lot of experience with teamwork, but they always deliver on time.
When assigning responsibilities to team members, focus on each team member’s strengths. You can do this using practice tasks or employee assessments. When team members can use their strengths at work each day, your team will function at its best.
If you have too many individuals with the same strengths on one team, clashes and gaps can occur. For example, having too many thought-oriented people and not enough action-oriented people can lead to too many ideas with no execution.
You can become aware of gaps on your team with regular assessments. Not only should you assess team member performance, but you should observe the way team members work together. You can shift responsibilities and work duties based on natural behavior and personality types. Team building games are a great way to connect with your team and learn how you work well together.
It’s essential to review team roles and responsibilities regularly so you can build high-performing teams. Using quarterly assessments, you can evaluate team member progress and assess whether individuals have improved their skills with time, would fit better in a different role, or could benefit from additional training.
For example, someone who is generally an introverted, thought-oriented person may gain confidence and develop their communication skills. After further evaluation, you might find that they’re a people-oriented person and would thrive in a leadership role. Without regular review and open communication, team members can grow into new roles.Read: How to effectively manage your team’s workload
Team management tools can provide clarity when assigning tasks and completing projects as a group. After all, collaboration is easier when everyone has visibility into who's doing what and by when. With clarity and insight into each team member's priorities, the entire team can function better together.
An important part of team management is being proactive in managing workloads. Workload management involves visualizing schedules, understanding project life cycles, and using tools to gain insight on both people and projects. This is key to keep projects running smoothly without putting too much pressure on one person.Try workload management with Asana for free
Successfully allocating resources is essential to project and team success. Resource allocation helps you determine the availability of resources, how many resources you need for each project, and what team members are best suited to accomplish each project. Creating a resource management plan is a great way to keep projects on track from start to finish.
A roles and responsibilities matrix, also known as a RACI chart, helps teams clarify project roles and figure out who is responsible for a given task. The acronym stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. To create a RACI chart, outline every task in a project. Then, assign one of these four labels to each member of your team for each task at hand.
Kanban boards are a great way for team members to visualize what stage a project is in so you know what’s left to bring it to completion. Using cards to represent work items, Kanban boards allow team members to visually plot out projects and workflows. This system makes projects easier to visualize by providing a clear view of the stage and priority of each initiative.Read: A beginner's guide to Kanban boards
Team collaboration is much easier when you have the right tools. Who wouldn’t want to eliminate the busywork? You can not only streamline tasks, but team members can align their goals, manage changes, share files, and more.
Having one team collaboration tool can prevent project risks from occurring and improve management of tasks across the board. To help all employees thrive in their roles, making the tool accessible to all will make everyone’s job easier.
Using Belbin’s nine team roles can help create a balanced work environment so your team can be more productive. When you know how to play to your team’s strengths, they’ll be happier in their roles and you’ll be able to collaborate to complete tasks more efficiently.
Once you know what role each member plays on your team, collaboration tools can speed up your workflow. These tools allow your team to share updates, schedule tasks, and communicate more seamlessly.Try collaboration software from Asana