Outward looking: Co-ordinator, Plant, Resource Investigator, Shaper
Inward looking: Implementer, Monitor Evaluator, Team Worker, Com-
pleter, Specialist.
Most people tend to be either outward or inward looking (extrovert or
introvert) by nature. And successful teams tend to include at least one
extrovert and one introvert. Beyond that, you may well find that each
team member can take on two or even three roles each. For example,
some Plants make excellent Co-ordinators, and some Implementers are
excellent Team Workers and good Completers as well. If you are in a
position to choose your team you need to select carefully, but it should
be perfectly possible to build a successful team with fewer than nine
members. In fact, Dr Belbin’s research suggests that nine is, in any case,
a little larger than the ideal team size. He suggests that in an ideal world
you should aim for six people if you want to construct a co-operative
team that works closely together.
The other consideration to bear in mind if you have to work with a small
team is that you may not need certain roles at all. Most teams benefit
from someone who can function as a Team Worker, and the majority
need a Resource Investigator and an Implementer – but not all; it
depends on the team’s responsibilities and the number of members it
has. If you’re down to two people, you can probably manage without a
Co-ordinator, for example. Or if your function is to implement another
department’s initiatives you may not need a Plant. And, as I mentioned
before, many teams don’t use any specialised technical skills or knowl-
edge, and therefore don’t need a Specialist.
Correcting an unbalanced team
This all sounds great, but you’ve inherited a team of three Plants and
four Shapers and you can’t just sack them all. So what can you do? Well,
you have various options. You may find that one will solve your prob-
lem, or you may need to use a combination of two or more approaches:
HOW TO BUILD A GREAT TEAM
20
1. Reshuffle. It sounds dramatic, but it may well be a good idea for two
or more team members to swap jobs, or swap the bulk of their jobs. If
this puts both of them into a role in which they are more likely to excel,
the chances are they will both welcome it.
2. Increase flexibility of functions in the team. Find out which tasks
each team member enjoys and performs well at. Then see if you can’t
divvy up some of them differently. This is different from swapping
entire areas of responsibility. You give this person a bit of that one’s
job, and take away a bit of theirs to give to the other person, who is
passing on one of their tasks to someone else. You need, of course,
to be wary of removing from someone a responsibility that they both
enjoy and are good at, and if they enjoy it but have no particular
talent for it you need to be especially diplomatic – although there’s
a good chance that they will recognise the fact.
You may want to try this approach on a small scale first, just juggling
round a few tasks to begin with, and one of the benefits of this
approach is that it enables you to do this. If you have any team mem-
bers who are very resistant to change this can be a less confronta-
tional way to bring it about since you are only adjusting things a
little at a time.
3. Separate team members who clash. What about those three Plants?
It may be that you can subdivide your team into smaller working
groups each with responsibility for a different project, or a different
stage of the same project. Put one of your Plants into each working
group, so that each of them has a challenge to themselves. If you can’t
separate certain team members who clash, make sure that whenever
they get together in meetings or discussion groups there is someone
conciliatory there as well, such as a Team Worker or a Co-ordinator.
4. Transfer or swap with another team. Maybe your colleague in the
next department has a team whose performance is hampered
because it doesn’t contain a Shaper to galvanise all the Team Work-
ers and Completers into action. If you swapped a suitable Shaper for
TEAM FUNCTIONS
21

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