A closer look at the 9 roles shows the distinctive strengths that individuals display in team situations. This affords a good framework for aligning team roles to individuals with the right strengths. As we all know, the right team mix can go a long way in facilitating high performance in teams. Consider this example:
The VP Marketing in a foods and beverages company constituted a team of senior product management executives. Their task is to create a communications campaign that integrates the entire foods business under a common brand name. The team has to work with external agencies such as PR Firms, Ad Agencies, Event Managers and Direct Marketing Agencies to devise a campaign. While the entire team will be involved in conceptualising and providing the strategic direction for the campaign, the VP Marketing selects one individual from the team who he considers a good ‘thinker’ and this person is assigned to play the role of co-ordinating and managing the external agencies.
As days go by, the VP Marketing realises that the output from the team and the external agencies is not up to scratch, though the initial strategic direction was good. He sensed that the problem was within the team rather than with the outside agencies and decided to administer the Belbin team roles (SPI) to each team member. It threw up some startling revelations. The person that he chose to manage the external agencies was a strong Monitor/Evaluator (good judgement and strategic thinking) but was weak in people oriented roles such as Co-ordinator and Resource Investigator. There was another person on the team who scored high as a Resource Investigator who would have been a more appropriate choice to manage the external agencies on that task.
A frame-work such as the Belbin team roles model makes it possible for organisations to understand the natural behaviour and teamwork inclinations of individuals. Individuals are likely to excel when given a role that exploits their strengths. When an organisation gains insights into the strengths and weaknesses of individuals, it helps them create more balanced teams by assigning roles in a manner that draws out the best performance from the team.