Thursday, 14 June 2012

My favourite coaching tools: Belbin's Team Roles

Before I get into the details of the Belbin Test: all my favourite coaching tools - free, online, or other - need to be applied with sensible and cautionary advice from statistician George EP Box: "all models are wrong, some are useful". I discuss this principle with individual coachees, teams and team leaders this before giving them homework or some brief presentation on Belbin's Team Role theory.

I also give a talk about the dangers of labels, and how labels applied to people become truthes that get played out. (see Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (UK) (or US) for further information)

There are a number of ways to apply the Belbin Team Roles theory, which give differing degrees of correctness. All provide valuable team member role insights and can be quite usefully combined with team building activities or coachee plan assignments.

The easiest, and only sanctioned way to apply Belbin Team Roles Test, is to go online to and purchase the required number of tests for you and your team. The online reports that are generated and emailed to you are fantastically detailed and provide plenty of material to help a team improve and to give team members insights into themselves as people. I highly recommend this approach for best results!

There is a free alternative Belbin Test that also works - albeit to some lesser scientific and correct level:
Step 1: Read everything you can on Meredith Belbin, the history of the team role theory, the opposition, and the advocates.

Step 2: Especially make sure to read

Step 3: Have your coachee read the above links as well. Or in a team context, I discuss the roles (Plant, Resource Investigator, Monitor Evaluator, Co-ordinator, Shaper, Teamworker, Implementer, Completer Finisher, Specialist) and many of the points from the 3 above links with the team.

Step 4: Now have the coachee or the team members self-select the order of the 9 roles as they see themselves. Not really surprisingly, people know from previous feedback over the years of their lives if they are extroverted or introverted; if they prefer analysing new problems or finishing off final details of things; if they like to delegate or prefer to receive direction; etc, etc)

Step 5 (for teams): Have the team members then rate each of the other members' top 3 roles as they see them. Again, not really surprising, team members also know how their colleagues are.

Each team member can now combine and collate the results for themselves.

Step 6: Evaluate with the coachee/every team member how much resonance they feel with the top 3 labels. Is there a match between self and team member perception? If not, why not? Perhaps more feedback should be collected and then a re-evaluation. Every situation is different and it is helpful to have loads more coaching tools available if and when required!

Step 7 (optional): If at this stage the coachee or team really wants to evaluate still further, a free online Belbin test is at: but it has clearly far fewer and less detailed questions than the actual Belbin test and I can't attest to the correctness of its results at the time of writing this. Jo Keeler, from the Belbin Institute as posted in the comments below, clearly indicates this "free Belbin test" is an unsanctioned test (and therefore probably should be called something else to avoid confusion!).

The Belbin Team Role for me is a very useful and powerful self-perception/awareness tool that is easy to grasp by those with less time or psychology foundation. In some respects it is not important that it is 100% accurate at this stage as it could be a reflection of how/who the person actually wants to be. Other feedback from the workplace, or from experiential team building, or training events will make the picture clearer for each individual and the team as a whole - leading towards a higher performance team.

With more self-awareness of natural team role(s) placement, and the ability to sensibly apply the model to other colleagues, opens up possibilities to understand more about the workplace and what possible steps to take to change it/self as required.

For the coachee, this view can be used as input to their coaching plan, to set some goals to acquire new skills and behaviours (eg a natural Plant who's ambition is to become a Co-ordinator) or wishes to improve their team's effectiveness (eg evaluating for a missing or under-represented role).

For the team or the team leader, balance of roles is key. Too many of 1 role or a total lack of a  role, cause the team to behave in sub-optimal ways. Awareness of the roles and the theory is useful to encourage people to acquire new behaviours if they're interested, to set SMART goals (see my previous free coaching tool post: SMART Goals) to encourage different outcomes, and even to help influence the next recruitment opportunity.


Belbin Associates said...

Hi there. I enjoyed your blog.

Just thought I should mention that the 123test questionnaire is NOT a validated, researched or sanctioned Belbin test. The only sanctioned method to discover your Team role preferences is to visit

Jo Keeler

Rob Brown said...

Thank you Jo, I have updated the 2 places to more clearly reflect the sanctioned as the definitive source that should be used.

Rob Brown said...

I also suggest checking out the Imperative assessment for another view of archetype/persona possibilities that are useful!