Understanding Team Roles to Increase Productivity of Your Team

Why is it that your company has done more than one #teambuilding session, yet your company still seems unable to keep teams working together?

Well, people seem to work fine, days and even weeks after a session, but also quickly revert to their old ways. Dr. Meredith Belbin, a British researcher and management consultant, studied and observed how people behave while working within a team, and from his research, he developed what is now called the “team role theory”. Belbin’s research revealed that a project’s failure or success is not dependent on team members’ intellect but their behaviour.

What is the “team role theory”?

Dr. Meredith Belbin suggests that an individual will increase productivity and perform well within a team when he identifies and understands his role. And by understanding his role, he will be able to contribute effectively by managing his weakness and optimising his strengths. By using Belbin’s Team Role model, a leader will be able to create a balanced team, composed of people performing in mixed roles, which can sustain a high-level performance at all times.

What is the Belbin Team Role model?

Belbin identified nine team roles, categorised in three groups. A Team Role is defined as a “tendency to behave, contribute, interrelate with others in a particular way.” A team does not necessarily have to be composed of nine members to complete the categories because it is possible for individuals to display more than one team role in varying degrees in many situations. If you are serious about building up your team and investing in their careers, you might want to start your investment in a complete Belbin individual report for each of your team members. It will motivate and increase the engagement of your team, knowing you are invested in their growth, and it will provide you with a better understanding of yourself and your team.

The 3 Groups of Team Roles are:

  1. Task role – Action-oriented
  2.  Social role – People-oriented
  3.  Thinking role – Thought-oriented

Under each group are three categories.

To avoid straying from Belbin’s definition and descriptions for each category, we are citing him below:


    provides the necessary drive to ensure that the team keeps moving and does not lose focus or momentum.
    Challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure. Has the drive and courage to overcome obstacles.
    Allowable weaknesses
    Can be prone to provocation, and may sometimes offend people’s feelings
    needed to plan a workable strategy and carry it out as efficiently as possible.
    Strengths: Practical, reliable, efficient. Turns ideas into actions and organises work that needs to be done.
    Allowable weaknesses: Can be a bit inflexible and slow to respond to new possibilities.
    Most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.
    Strengths: Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches for errors. Polishes and perfects.
    Allowable weaknesses: Can be inclined to worry unduly, and reluctant to delegate.


    needed to focus on the team’s objectives, draw out team members, and delegate work appropriately.
    Strengths: Mature, confident, identifies talent. Clarifies goals.
    Allowable weaknesses: Can be seen as manipulative and might offload their own share of the work.
    Helps the team to gel, using their versatility to identify the work required and complete it on behalf of the team.
    Strengths: Co-operative, perceptive, and diplomatic. Listens and averts friction.
    Allowable weaknesses: Can be indecisive in crunch situations and tends to avoid confrontation.
    Uses their inquisitive nature to find ideas to bring back to the team.
    Strengths: Outgoing, enthusiastic. Explores opportunities and develops contacts.
    Allowable weaknesses: Might be over-optimistic, and can lose interest once the initial enthusiasm has passed.


  1. PLANT
    tends to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.
    Strengths: Creative, imaginative, free-thinking, generates ideas, and solves difficult problems.
    Allowable weaknesses: Might ignore incidentals, and may be too preoccupied to communicate effectively.
    Provides a logical eye, making impartial judgements where required, and weighs up the team’s options in a dispassionate way.
    Strengths: Sober, strategic, and discerning. Sees all options and judges accurately.
    Allowable weaknesses: Sometimes lacks the drive and ability to inspire others and can be overly critical.
    Brings in-depth knowledge of a key area to the team.
    Strengths: Single-minded, self-starting and dedicated. They provide specialist knowledge and skills.
    Allowable weaknesses: Tends to contribute on a narrow front and can dwell on the technicalities.


As Dr. Meredith Belbin perfectly puts it, “The benefit of utilising and understanding Team Roles is that not only do we learn more about ourselves, but also a lot about our work colleagues and how to get the best out of them.”
Each team member must understand their role in the team and of other team members, which could potentially reduce disappointments and result in harmonious working relationships.

However, team roles are not set in stone. As a person matures, gains more experience, and evolves, it is possible for him to move up to a higher role than where he started.
An effective leader must know each member of his team and the role each plays within the team. He must know how to direct and conduct their game by harnessing and optimising each member’s strengths and working with them on their weaknesses.