Teams are made up of individuals with complementary skills, experience and expertise. Given the importance of teams to delivering results, one would expect that when it came to recruiting people for teams, care would be taken to ensure that the balance of teams is right.
In reality what often happens is that people are recruited on to teams because they are like the person who is recruiting to the team. The importance of fit is talked about a lot and perhaps sometimes taken out of context. What does matter in the NHS is that people have a commitment to the core purpose but what they bring to a team might vary.
One of the most commonly cited pieces of research on team roles is the work of Belbin. This identified the following roles that people take on teams.
The co-ordinator is concerned with the contribution of team members in achieving team goals, rather than just pushing his or her own view. The coordinator (or chairperson) is self disciplined and applies this discipline to the team. They are confident and mature, and will summarise the view of the group and will be prepared to take a decision on the basis of this.
The shaper is full of drive to make things happen and get things going. In doing this they are quite happy to push their own views forward, do not mind being challenged and are always ready to challenge others. The shaper looks for the pattern in discussions and tries to pull things together into something feasible, which the team can then get to work on.
This member is the one who is most likely to come out with original ideas and challenge the traditional way of thinking about things. Sometimes they become so imaginative and creative that the team cannot see the relevance of what they are saying. However, without the plant to scatter the seeds of new ideas the team will often find it difficult to make any headway. The plant’s strength is in providing major new insights and ideas for changes in direction and not in contributing to the detail of what needs to be done.
The resource investigator is the group member with the strongest contacts and networks, and is excellent at bringing in information and support from the outside. This member can be very enthusiastic in pursuit of the team’s goals, but cannot always sustain this enthusiasm.
The individual who is a company worker is well organised and effective at turning big ideas into manageable tasks and plans that can be achieved. Such individuals are both logical and disciplined in their approach. They are hardworking and methodical but may have some difficulty in being flexible.
The team worker is the one who is most aware of the others in the team, their needs and their concerns. They are sensitive and supportive of other people’s efforts, and try to promote harmony and reduce conflict. Team workers are particularly important when the team is experiencing a stressful or difficult period.
As the title suggests, the completer is the one who drives the deadlines and makes sure they are achieved. The completer usually communicates a sense of urgency, which galvanises other team members into action. They are conscientious and effective at checking the details, which is a vital contribution, but sometimes get ‘bogged down’ in them.
The monitor evaluator is good at seeing all the options. They have a strategic perspective and can judge situations accurately. The monitor evaluator can be overcritical and is not usually good at inspiring and encouraging others.
This person provides specialist skills and knowledge and has a dedicated and single-minded approach. They can adopt a very narrow perspective and sometimes fail to see the whole picture.
The finisher is a person who sticks to deadline and likes to get on with things. They will probably be irritated by the more relaxed members of the team.
Like all the research and profiling tools the important thing is to use them appropriately rather than as something that puts a label on people. It is not uncommon to find people who, while having a preferred role, are able to move between roles depending on the situation or context.
The goal of leaders and managers should be to ensure that they aim, whenever possible to get the right balance on teams in order to make things happen and make progress.
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