Welcome to the Belbin FAQ section. We have listed answers to questions our customers often pose, so we hope you find them helpful and informative. Please click on a question below to expand the answer to that question. If your question is not answered here, please contact the Belbin office and we will be happy to help. We will update the page as new topics arise.

Is Belbin a psychometric test?

No, not exactly. Psychometrics is concerned with measuring psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and personality traits.

Belbin is concerned with behaviour: what others in your team see and experience. Whilst this may be influenced by your personality, this is not the only factor.

Moreover, the behaviour assumed may not correspond with what others observe. Whereas many psychometric tests rely on self-reporting, the Belbin assessment uses 360° feedback to give you an accurate idea of how you fit in your team.

(see also: Reliability and Validity)

What can be gained by identifying people's Team Roles?

It is easier to work effectively with people when you are given some expectations of their tendencies and preferences. Self- and Observer Assessments give a greater understanding of how an individual behaves in a group situation.

What are Observer Assessments?

Your Belbin Self-Perception feedback (SPI) gives you an idea of how you see your role within a team. However, the characteristics you identify may not be the behaviour that others would pinpoint or value.

The Belbin Observer Assessment (OA) gives 360-degree feedback on a person’s Team Roles. The OA should be completed by those who work or have worked recently with the person they are asked to assess. For a full report, a minimum of four Observers is required, but six is preferable. Ideally, a set of observers should be chosen from among colleagues, reports and managers who are familiar with the individual’s behaviour and know the individual well in a work environment. When completing profiles, candidates may choose their own observers or the allocation can be made by the facilitator or trainer. The OA is designed to inform and broaden the Self-Perception profile and should take 5-10 minutes to complete.

When completing the OA, observers are free to tick as many items as they think are applicable, up to a set limit. Try to ensure that no more than half of the words are ticked, since a tick indicates that the characteristic in question is more conspicuous in the individual concerned than in the average person. If observers consider the candidate has a particular characteristic in abundance, then the word should receive two ticks. If there is any doubt of the word’s relevance to the individual, it is better not to tick it at all. The checklist of adjectives – 45 positive and 27 negative – is used to provide an independent assessment of Team Role behaviour, with each word relating to a particular role. Each assessment modifies the Team Role status of the observed candidate to produce an overall Team Role profile.

If an Observer Assessment is completed in an indiscriminate manner, or if an observer shows excessive prejudice, either in favour of, or against, the observed, Interplace will not accept the assessment.

Why use Observer Assessments?

Observer Assessments provide independent evidence about an individual’s team roles. A Self-Perception test is reliant on an individual’s sense of personal realism. Some people answer in terms of how they would like to contribute, rather than how they really behave.

Do Team Roles change?

Team Roles develop during the course of a career. Whilst it is unusual for someone’s Team Role profile to reverse completely, it is subject to change. Certain roles could mature as a result of experience and conscious attention, or circumstantially – in response to the demands of a new job or promotion, for example.

Should I let people know my preferred Team Roles?

Sharing your Team Role preferences enhances understanding and gives members of the team reasonable expectations of one other, helping to avoid disappointments and misunderstandings.

What is an 'Allowable Weakness'?

Sometimes the strength of a particular Team Role has to be bought at the cost of a Team Role weakness. For example, a person whose preferred role is Monitor Evaluator is likely to be objective, impartial and good at weighing up all possibilities to make a carefully considered decision. Yet someone with these strengths may well come across as unenthusiastic or even boring. Without Team Role understanding, this failure to inspire the team might be allowed to obscure the individual’s strengths. Team Role weaknesses can be comprehended as the price to be paid for the strength, and as such, they are termed “Allowable”.

What is a 'Team Role sacrifice'?

In some circumstances, an individual will need to forego using the leading or preferred Team Role and adopt another in its place. It may be that there is no good example of a particular role within the team, or perhaps that another person is already contributing on common, preferred ground. Such a shift from preferred behaviour is known as “making a Team Role sacrifice”.

When I know my strongest Team Roles, what shall I do about it?

You should take on and develop these roles as much as possible, because this is where you are likely to make your mark. You should also be aware of your lowest roles and find a strategy to avoid having to play them. Try to work with people with the opposite strengths and weaknesses to your own.

Why 'Plant'?

The term “Plant” originated in the long running experiments with teams at Henley.
Individuals who were recognised for making original, creative contributions were found to have distinctive profiles on psychometric tests. The team tested out their hypotheses by “planting” these designated individuals in teams, so that the frequency of their suggestions could be verified against control subjects. The predictions were upheld, so the term “Plant” was retained. It was also deemed useful for implying the seminal nature of their contributions. Belbin have never used the term “Idea Generator”. Where this has been used, it has been mistakenly confused with Resource Investigator. Both roles can trade in ideas, but each operates differently and exerts its unique effects on relationships within a team.

I thought there were eight Team Roles...?

We are frequently asked why the Specialist role is now taken as a Team Role.

The answer is that the role was discovered only after the Henley experiments had been concluded. Since the business game had been constructed to set all participants on a level playing-field, in terms of knowledge and expertise, Specialist behaviours could not emerge.

Whilst this premise was useful for the purposes of the experiment, it is not representative of real life. All information regarding the contribution and shortcomings of the Specialist has been gleaned from later experiences in the practical application of the theory in industry. We rarely start from scratch and there is no point in reinventing the wheel. It is important to begin with what is already known, and it may take the skills of the Co-ordinator to bring out the specialised knowledge latent within the team.

If you are using a questionnaire without a Specialist role, it is out-of-date and may be an infringement of copyright.

Is there a self-scoring version of the inventory?

There is no sanctioned self-scoring method available for completing the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory (SPI). If you are using a self-scoring version of the questionnaire, it is out-of-date and not normed. It is likely to lack the Specialist role, will not provide feedback and may be an infringement of copyright.

What about the reliability and validity of Interplace?

Reliability and validity are concepts commonly used in evaluating psychometric tests. Reliability is a measure of the internal consistency of a test, whilst validity is concerned with the strength of the conclusions and inferences drawn.

Internal consistency is highest where test items are repeated, but this narrows the focus of the test overall. Rather than repeating questions, or introducing items which are virtually identical, Interplace (the programme which analyses the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory) seeks for clusters of related behaviour. For example, the Shaper cluster refers to an individual who is challenging, competitive, hard driving, tough and outspoken. However, that does not mean to say that everyone who is competitive will necessarily be outspoken.

Most psychometric tests rely on self-reporting. However, the behaviours identified may not correspond with what others observe. The strength of the software, Interpace, rests in its emphasis on construct validity: using multiple sources of evidence to draw a conclusion. The system’s outputs are designed to take account of the degree of consensus on observed behaviour. Disparities between self-analysis and the perceptions of others can provide valuable leads for action. Formal correlations are, however, difficult to calculate, as those providing feedback are not required to make a fixed number of responses. This is because genuine responses are more easily obtained – and more valuable – when forced choices are avoided.

Do I need to be Accredited to use the reports?

In short, no! However, if you are using the reports on a regular basis, or would like to ensure that you are getting the most out of the reports, we would strongly advise attending the Belbin Accreditation course.