Role play HEAD
5th Aug 2017
3 Min Read

Role play. Harnessing differences for stronger teams

Rachel Thornton
Rachel Thornton
Culture & Change

Working together to deliver projects as a team is as much, if not more, about what type of people we are, than our knowledge or expertise in a particular field.

We’ve had a fantastic year, with big account wins, happy clients, and record growth. But what makes us one of the best consultancies is teamwork. Every hour of the day, every day of the week, we work together to produce work we’re all proud of. That means every one of us offering up our specific skills (writing, designing, project managing…) to complete tasks (articles, pages, schedules) and deliver projects (magazines, campaigns, rebrands…) In essence, we have to make sure our piece of the puzzle fits with someone else’s in a way that plays to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

If you take the lid off most businesses, you’ll see everyone tends to work in teams. But what makes a winning team?

Dr Meredith Belbin tried to answer that question in Management Teams.Despite being published in 1981, it’s pretty timeless in summing up why teams succeed or fail – the bottom line being that a team of specialists will always beat a team of all-rounders. If a team has an abundance of the same skills, chances are that its weaknesses are also multiplied, causing it to crumble.

Belbin proved this by playing games of monopoly with different combinations of colleagues at manager and executive level, and comparing the results. In doing so, he found there are nine team roles, each with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Plants are creative, imaginative and unorthodox.
  • Monitor Evaluators are objective, analytical and discerning.
  • Specialists are strong-minded, self-reliant and dedicated.
  • Co-ordinators are mature, confident and reassuring.
  • Teamworkers are cooperative, perceptive and diplomatic.
  • Resource Investigators are extroverted, enthusiastic and opportunistic.
  • Shapers are challenging, and thrive on pressure.
  • Implementers are disciplined, reliable and efficient.
  • Completer Finishers are accurate, conscientious and perfectionists.

Management Teams isn’t about celebrating our positive characteristics, or justifying the negative ones. In our world, it’s about recognising that working together to deliver projects as a team is as much, if not more, about what type of people we are, than our knowledge or expertise in a particular field.

Many of us will identify with two or three of these team roles – depending on the situation, the other people in the team, and the work being done. And that’s a good thing, because the members of a winning team need to be flexible in adding different skills – to make the best difference we can make.

"In physics every particle or force has a corresponding anti-particle or anti-force and all stable systems in the universe depend on the interconnections of constituent opposites."

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