What are team roles?

The position, task or role that a team member holds within a team is called a team role.

These team roles are either assigned to individual members, or they crystallize in the course of team dynamics – depending on performance priorities.

The Belbin role model

When assembling a team, strengths and weaknesses, knowledge and experience are taken into account.

While working at Henley Management College in the 1970s, the English scientist Meredith Belbin noticed that certain team roles are taken over and over again. He took this insight as an opportunity to find out which characteristics make up the perfect team. This resulted in three main orientations and nine team roles for him.

The 9 Team Roles by Belbin - Chart showing the nine roles

Action-oriented team roles

  • The implementer

He ensures that ideas and plans are actually implemented within the team. He thus influences decision-making processes. The implementer is considered disciplined and organized. Concepts and structures are very important to him. His weaknesses lie mainly in his impatience towards team members who act more hesitantly and thus prevent progress.

  • The finisher, completer

The perfectionist pays attention to a careful, conscientious way of working within the team. His way of working is structured, organized and always planned through. His weaknesses often lie in “too much” control. He is very reluctant to delegate.

  • The shaper

The doer is solution-oriented. He wants to overcome any obstacles and encourages team members to participate and always improve. The doer is considered impatient, especially when goals are not yet set. This often makes him appear arrogant.

Belbin - Action focused Team Roles - Implementer, Completer, Shaper

People / Communication oriented team roles

  • The co-ordinator

He is the one who decides. He coordinates the team, pays attention to the distribution of roles and likes to delegate tasks that he himself does not want to or cannot do. He is a determined and self-confident personality. However, he is often said to have a manipulative nature. He is not open to discussion and is quite quick to decide on good ideas.

  • The team-worker

The team-worker stands for good cooperation. It is important for him to know the team members and to get along with them. He chooses his words carefully and is always concerned about a good atmosphere within the team. He is a likeable person. The team worker is often considered indecisive and in critical situations he is often overwhelmed.

  • The resource investigator

The trailblazer is a workhorse. He loves to get to know new contacts all the time, which is why he is concerned about networking outside the team as well. Of course, these contacts are chosen so that they could be useful to their own field of activity and thus to the team. However, the trailblazer very quickly loses interest in current projects, because he always has new ideas.

Belbin - People Focused Team roles - Coordinator, Teamworker Resource investigator

Knowledge / Thinking oriented team roles

  • The innovator

The innovator always comes up with new ideas and is thus considered extremely creative and imaginative. Through this gift, however, he often loses touch with reality. He is often unfocused and hardly capable of criticism.

  • The observer

The observer plays a decisive role in decision-making. He is always factual and objective and loves new situations. He has an extremely analytical way of thinking, which is often criticized by the others – they often wish for a more intuitive approach. The Observer is often cynical and skeptical and finds it very difficult to motivate others.

  • The specialist

The specialist is an extremely knowledgeable person. He also provides the team with the necessary expertise. He is very self-confident and enjoys taking on new challenges because of his specialized knowledge. He has a very detailed approach to finding solutions. However, this often leads to him getting lost in technical details, which is why he could lose track of things.

Belbin - Thinking Focused Team roles - Monitor Evaluator - Specialist - Plant

The Belbin model is no guarantee for the perfect team. But it is a possibility, or rather an aid, in staffing a team. It is meant to be an orientation guide. Most roles are often assigned unconsciously. Missing roles can be filled using the model. However, this does not mean that every role has to be filled. Some roles can be filled by a single person.