Which role do I play in our group?

Some groups work whilst others don’t – this is simply a fact. And this is not based on luck or friendship or how the stars align. Groups work well when people occupy different positions in a team. In this post, I will go through the different types of roles in a team, their strengths and weaknesses.

Karoline Denning

Dr. Raymond Belbin is the mind behind The Nine Belbin Team Roles. He conducted studies in order to organize which teams seem to have success and which seem to be unsuccessful. At first, Belbin’s hypothesis was that the team with the most intellectual people would have greater results than a group consisting of people who were considered less intellectual. To his surprise, this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the groups who performed the best were groups that were balanced by different types of people. Which then lead him to categorize those people.

Thus, the Team Roles were born in his book: Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail (1981).

What you need to know before we get started: There are three overall categories, thought-oriented, action-oriented and people-oriented. Within those are each three different types of team roles. Most people don’t fit perfectly with just one type of role, you may be a mix of two or three. These team roles are merely to give you an overview of, which contribution you offer to a team and which type of people you should look for in order to create the greatest group.

The Monitor Evaluator (thought-oriented)

If you are a monitor evaluator you are as logical as they come. You’re great at facing problems with analytical tools and the outcome of your thinking will be what is best in order to solve the problem. This means that you are impartial and that you will side with the idea that is most effective. You are a strategic planner and a critical thinker and your team can be assured that all the pros and cons have been evaluated by you before launching the idea. When that is said, you work well on your own and being part of a group doesn’t come naturally to you. However, you can sometimes be too critical which, potentially, can result in you colleagues not being that inspired. Because of your thoroughness you may take a lot of time to reach a decision.

Monitor Evaluators often hold managerial positions.

The Specialist (thought-oriented)

Here’s another role who thrives working alone but still contributes well to a team. The specialist, as the name implies, specializes within a narrow subject. You will be highly dedicated and self-starting. Your specific knowledge will be of great contribution to the team. However, a specialist tends to dwell on technicalities. When that is said, a specialist will be very helpful when the matter is within their field. 

The Specialist was not initially a part of the nine roles since the simulation exercise did not require specialized knowledge.

cbs students collaborating with a company on thesis

The Plant (thought-oriented)

The Plants are highly creative people. You’re great at thinking in new directions because of your extended imagination. This often helps generate new ideas that can help solve new or unconventional tasks. Because of the new ideas for processes and problem-solving you also tend to be one of the drivers for progress and innovation – which everyone loves. However, you tend to be a bit distracted, some will say you have your head in the clouds. And you may also be so caught up in your own ideas that you struggle to acknowledge your fellow teammates’ ideas.

You may wonder why you’re called ‘a plant’. Well, Belbin has an explanation:

“We called these clever people plants, because the chaps at Henley insisted we plant one in each group”

Dr. Raymond Belbin

All of the above are thought-oriented people. The traits that seem to be uniting them is their ability to be critical thinkers whilst being good problem solvers. All three also tend to prefer working on their own and are therefore not that involved socially.

The Coordinator (people-oriented)

The Coordinator is best known for being the mature and confident group member. You have great communication skills and have an eye for talent. Therefore, you are often perceived as the leader who can delegate tasks that apply to your group’s strengths. You have a way of clarifying goals and seeing the bigger picture. However, because of your way of delegating tasks some people may perceive you as manipulative or think that you over delegate leaving no tasks for yourself.

Coordinators are often seen in management positions where they conduct an open communication and a democratic approach.

The Team Worker (people-oriented)

Hello, fellow team workers! (Yes, I am a Team Worker apparently). You tend to be the mom/dad of the group. You’re a good listener, you’re extroverted and tend to be friendly from the get go. This means that you’re good at handling conflicts internally and ensuring that your group’s members are happy and content (which in turn makes them more effective). In other words, you’re the oil that makes the machine run smoothly. However, you happen to be quite sensitive which causes you to not side with unpopular ideas (despite you maybe wanting to). And because you strive to be liked, you aren’t a fan of confrontation or being the decisive factor.

A tip for Team Workers: you won’t be able to make everyone happy all the time.

The Resource Investigator (people-oriented)

The last of the three people-oriented team roles. You are the untitled networking queen/king. You’re an extroverted, optimistic and enthusiastic person of the group contributing to an energy boost. You explore new ideas and always pursue contacts externally who may help your team. Despite you not being the primary creative person, you’re eager to help develop ideas and you are a person who enjoys bouncing ideas back and forth. However, you tend to be overly excited to begin with, that your enthusiasm quickly decreases and you lose interest.

The Resource Investigator is the negotiator of the group.

To round off the people-oriented team roles; all three are extroverted and value communication and relationship-building. They know their way around their teammates and seem to get the best out of people. Nevertheless, they tend to be biased in some situations and aren’t the most creative.

The Shaper (action-oriented)

The Shaper is known for being extremely driven. You’re a dynamic player in your team and thrive under pressure. To some extent, you actually enjoy confrontation and obstacles. This is because you more or less always overcome them as a result of your motivation and perseverance. When this is said, you tend to have a provocative attitude, for greater or for worse and you’re prone to irritability. But perhaps the weakness you should be most conscious about is your impatience, as this can spark an unpleasant atmosphere.

Shapers are born leaders and therefore tend to quickly rise in organizations.

The Implementer (action-oriented)

You’re the one that keeps everything and everyone in line. Whenever someone has an idea, a thought or crisis, you are the one to lay a plan and stick to it. You think practically and your group members can rely on you to plan a strategy. Implementers are very disciplined and are more often than not the backbone of the group. Every group needs someone who can point in the right direction! Buuut, you can be a bit reluctant to change your plan once it has been created. You thrive best in an established environment so therefore, you see changes as an obstruction. Your greatest weakness is your lack of flexibility.

Your group can often look to you when in doubt about the next step in the process.

The Completer/Finisher (action-oriented)

Last, but not least, the Completer/Finisher. You are, as the name implies, a crucial part of the last step before carrying out a plan. You polish and perfect your team members’ work, check for errors and mistakes. Completers have an eye for fine details and only want to deliver the best of the best. You’re a crucial part of the last stretch in order for the product to be as error-free as possible. However, you are an anxious person, especially when it comes to the small stuff and you worry to a high degree. You also tend to reject help from others despite being overworked. 

Tip for Completers/Finishers; don’t be afraid of delegating your work and being the leader for the last stretch of the process.

Team work makes the dream work!

Action-oriented people are the ones who make sure that things are done. Whether they create the plan and stick to it or it being themselves who performs the tasks. According to Belbin, action-oriented people are crucial to make sure the group crosses the finish line.

You may not identify 100% with any of these team roles but they can help you to understand why your group is struggling or why it is succeeding. So, good luck putting together your future dream team!