Three ways for managers to define team roles

September 17, 2021

Person holding a cup saying Im the boss

A team can be more (or less) than the sum of its skills.

In sports and business, some teams succeed beyond all expectations while others fail to thrive, and there’s a lot of partially achieved potential in between. The team dynamic — the balance of individuals, and the strengths and weaknesses they bring to the team — is what makes the difference.

To understand how individuals in a team work together, it’s useful to think about team roles. Meredith Belbin defines a team role as:

“The tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way.”

Team roles are complex — we bring our own personalities and experiences with us, but the dynamic of the team will also influence the way we behave. An individual probably won’t take on exactly the same role in two different teams.

Profiling your team roles can improve your teamwork.

This is a good way to find out about individual strengths and weaknesses in the team. It can also help you balance out your team dynamics.

If everyone in the team plays similar roles, consciously exploring different perspectives and outcomes (a critical evaluator for example) can help achieve a more innovative approach to a problem or task. While recognising the roles others play can help with conflict resolution and achieving consensus.

Approaches you can take

1.Try a simple ‘good cop/bad cop’ experiment.

In your next meeting, play the good cop: do your best to see the positives, encourage others to speak and consider all viewpoints. Then switch to play the bad cop (or have someone else do this): criticise, highlight the risks and weak points, and generally play devil’s advocate. Does this help the team progress their thinking and decide what to do? If it works, try it as part of your regular team decision making process.

2.Use a team role profiling model to explore the potential of other team roles.

There are three useful models to consider:

  • Belbin’s Team Roles
  • De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats
  • Deloitte Business Chemistry
Belbin’s Team Roles

According to Belbin, there are nine team roles which underlie team success which are categorised within three groups:

How Belbin can help

Look at the balance of roles in your team and identify gaps….If you’re biased toward people and thought oriented roles, you might have have trouble seeing ideas through. However a very action oriented team means you might not be giving enough energy to thought and innovation.

If you can identify the gaps, people in the team can step up to play the role.

Find out more here:

De Bono Six Thinking Hats

‍De Bono’s six thinking hats is an exercise designed to stimulate parallel thinking processes.

In group discussions, participants can wear different ‘hats’:

How the thinking hats can help

‍The Six Hats exercise asks you to actively explore different ways of thinking about a problem. Use it to challenge and improve the way you think together, to reach better decisions and more innovative solutions.

Find out more:

Deloitte Business Chemistry

Deloitte’s business chemistry identifies four primary work styles and related strategies for accomplishing shared goals. Most people will have a little bit of each but feel more closely aligned with one or two.

1. PIONEERS value possibilities. They spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big-picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.

2. GUARDIANS value stability. They bring order and rigor. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.

value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.

value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.

How Deloitte Business Chemistry can help

The four styles can help you develop insight into the way people on the team tend to work with others. All the styles bring useful perspectives and distinctive approaches to generating ideas, making decisions, and solving problems.

Identifying your preferred work styles can help people on the team identify and work to their personal strengths.

Find out more:

Get Your Manager's Guide to Building High-Performing Teams

If you’d like to learn more about team roles or define them for your team. Saberr can help. Request a demo here.

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