When and how to use Belbin Team Roles

Belbin Team Roles are used to identify peoples behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. This means that wherever people are involved within an organisation, Belbin can provide the language to ensure that individuals and teams communicate and work together with greater understanding.

Belbin Team Roles can be used in (by no means an exhaustive list):

Conflict management

Conflict usually arises from misunderstanding or lack of communication.

Conflict can manifest itself in many ways. Lowered morale, reduced productivity and increases in absenteeism can all be strong indicators that something needs to be addressed.

Interpersonal conflict

Belbin Team Roles can provide the language to aid discussion, and to ensure that comments are made on how the individual(s) behave(s) in the workplace, and the effects this has on others. Too often discussions include personal attacks which make the conflict more acute – the language of Team Roles helps to minimise this.

By comparing individuals Belbin Reports (with Observer Assessments) areas of potential conflict and misunderstanding can be highlighted, and by using the language of Belbin Team Roles, common ground can be established and a successful working relationship identified.

Cross-team conflict

Sometimes teams become too inward focussed and forget their role within the larger picture. Teams can start to compete with other teams, or start dismissing other teams suggestions and outputs. This can lead not only to cross-team conflict, but to reduced productivity within organisations.

Case Study:

“One key insight was that both teams were imbalanced in their Team Roles, both having an overabundance of some roles and gaps in other roles (they were imbalanced in different ways). Because of these imbalances, neither team could be very productive on its own, and the differences in working styles practically guaranteed conflict between the groups.

Yet the two groups realised that if they combined their strengths, together they could create a well-balanced team. The groups worked through their differences, developed a better understanding of the each other’s dynamics, and develop ground rules that would help them communicate in ways that would avoid future problems.”

Taken from: http://www.improvingteams.com/case-studies/

Change management

Rarely can change management programmes commence by wiping the slate clean. Belbin Team Roles helps teams to adapt to changing goals by highlighting collective strengths and minimising weaknesses. This enables the team to be more cohesive yet adaptable in a changing environment. The Team Reports, which are a compilation of each team-member’s behavioural preferences, are an excellent starting-point for this.


Belbin reports, team games and exercises are frequently used for recruitment purposes, whether to assess candidates from outside the organisation, compare candidates for promotion or to scrutinise a shortlist for a graduate scheme. If you are looking to use Belbin in recruitment, there are many options available to you.

Find out about the candidate

The Belbin Self-Perception Inventory (SPI) establishes the behavioural preferences of an individual. (It should, of course, be further validated by the addition of observer input.)

The Feedback and Development Suggestions page of the Belbin report contains information for a recruitment specialist who wants to find out more about the individual in terms of their preferred working style and environment.

How does the candidate fit with the team?

Someone may have the Team Role attributes you are looking for, but how will he or she fit in with the existing team? Whilst you can’t account for personal differences or “personality clashes”, you can use a Belbin Team/Group Report to help assess whether an individual will be providing a much-needed contribution or whether their Team Role preferences could cause conflict with other team members.

For example, if you have a predominance of Completer Finishers in your team, adding another one might cause conflict over work “territory”. On the other hand, adding a Co-ordinator to the team might ensure that delegation was managed appropriately.

How does the candidate fit with the job?

Even if the candidate fits well in the team, staff turnover can only be reduced by matching people to jobs. The Belbin Job Report allows you to specify the attributes you require in a particular job. This can be used within HR for recruitment and discussion or presented to the candidate at interview.

If the candidate has completed a Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, this can be matched with the job report to determine suitability/compatibility for a job.

Please note: Team Roles provide an insight into working and team relationships, but the profiles should not be used as the sole basis for making recruitment decisions.


Belbin isn’t just for teams. It can also help individuals on their professional career path.


By using the Job Requirements Questionnaire, jobs can be defined by the Belbin Team Role behaviours that are required.

Using the Job report along side an individuals Belbin report – preferably with observers – advice can be given and discussions started about whether the desired career path is both wise and ‘doable’. Alternatives can be discussed, and training gap analysis taken.

Why is this useful?

Time and time again we hear of professionals reaching their ‘desired role’ only to find them suffering from stress shortly after. The Job role they have been striving and working towards had a title and level of responsibility that the individual wanted, but the actual role itself required particular behaviour that didn’t fit with the individuals preferred Belbin Team Roles.

Leadership development

Rob Goffee, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, sums it up so succinctly:

“Leaders who can be trusted are self-aware and know what differentiates them from their colleagues. They are not afraid to reveal their weaknesses and know how to adapt their style to different situations”

Belbin Team Roles help to identify strengths and weaknesses, thus helping individuals make the most positive impact by adapting to the current working environment/working relationship.

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