Everybody appears to be searching for the perfect leader and manager. They want leaders who have a big picture focus, are able to manage the details, make sure that practical implementation is completed, counsel team members and while they are at it, they also want them to be creative. 

Unfortunately, such leaders do not exist. If they do, they drive people crazy by over-managing or end up so stressed that they leave early.

People often forget that the real measure of successful teams is the ability to get different personalities to work together effectively, and it is the leader’s primary role to make sure this happens.

The Belbin Model

How do you take the guessing out of assessing team styles? There are many good systems for doing this but one that has been around the longest and is globally widespread management theorist Meredith Belbin’s team-roles model.

Dr Belbin was originally asked to do research into why some teams worked well and some didn’t. This research at Henley Management College led to five years of extensive work into team effectiveness.

The outcome was a model that identifies nine types of roles. Although it has been around for 30 years, it is still the gold standard of team styles.

Which style are you?

To be effective in a team, you need to be able to understand your unique style. Most people have two to three dominant styles and are lacking in the other styles.

Here are the nine styles:

* Plant (PL ): Creative and an ideas person.

* Resource Investigator (RI ): Extrovert, good at making outside contacts and developing ideas.

* Monitor Evaluator (ME): Shrewd, prudent and analytical.

* Shaper (SH):  Dynamic and challenging

* Co--ordinator (CO): Big picture mentality and good at ensuring that talents are used effectively.

* Implementer (IMP):  Practical, loyal and task-oriented.

* Completer Finisher (CF):  Meticulous,  pays attention to detail, and full of nervous energy.

* Team Worker (TW): Caring and person-oriented.

* Specialist (SP):  Technically skilled and does things in depth.

The usefulness of the model is that whatever style you are, the team needs you. It is also good to know the styles at which you do not excel.

How many times have leaders given tasks that require attention to detail to those who are essentially big picture-oriented, or jobs which require toughness in individuals who are harmonious in nature? Clearly, it does not work.

Understanding a person’s preferred and least preferred styles in a team can enable managers and leaders to get the team performing to everyone’s strengths. A Belbin team profile has observer as well as self-perception inputs, enabling team members to compare other peoples’ perceptions to their own.

Having worked with teams from across the world, I notice that different cultures have strengths in certain styles. For instance, Singaporeans seem to be the world’s most effective “Implementers” — they have a pragmatic “can do” mindset.

Perfect leaders are few and far between but leaders can build perfect teams by recognising their own style and understanding and deploying their team member’s styles effectively.