How to create a balanced team
Successful football squads aren’t packed full of flair players, orchestras won’t work without a brass section, a bee colony only needs one queen – for a team to work, you need the right balance.
In well-performing teams, you'll usually find that each member has clear strengths and clear responsibilities that complement others. So when you’re building a business it’s important to consider not just individual talent but the balance of your whole team.
Team role theory
Let's start with some theory. You might have heard of Dr Meredith Belbin, who after many years of study, observed that people in teams take on different roles.
His 'team roles' were defined as a 'tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way' and he outlined nine different roles that sit in three categories: action-oriented, thought-oriented, and people-oriented.
The Shaper has the drive to keep the team moving. Their strengths are their dynamism, ability to challenge and thrive under pressure. They love to lead and are quick to find solutions.
Implementers are practical and maintain order. They are disciplined and focused – often the foundation of a team and they thrive finding better ways of working and bringing ideas to fruition.
As you'd expect, a Completer Finisher is focused on getting the task in hand done. Often looking for perfection they can raise quality across the team.
This type provides a logical perspective and impartial judgements - always weighing up the options without emotional attachment. Great at strategic planning and critical analysis.
The plant is a creative and loves to solve problems in original ways. They thrive when given time to innovate and develop ideas alone before sharing with others.
The holder of in-depth knowledge and usually a specialist in a particular area of the business. Usually happier working in their area their skills provide real value to the team.
Outgoing and inquisitive, this type like to find new ideas and opportunities to share with the team. Great at developing contacts and finding new business.
As the name suggests these people gel teams together, they listen, adapt easily to change and create harmony. Perceptive and great collaborators.
Confident and with strong communication skills, coordinators are often in leadership roles. Good at setting goals and motivating teams to accomplish them.
Getting the right balance
It’s unlikely you’ll have a perfect team of nine that all fit neatly into one of Belbin’s nine roles. But taking some time to understand how the members of your team will help them work better individually and collectively.
How to get started:
- If you want to use Belbin as a model for assessing your team you can use tools at Belbin.com.
- Take some time to observe each team member in different situations and talk to them about their strengths and weaknesses
- Consider a 360 review where everyone in the team can share perspectives on each other strengths and challenges.
- Where there are strengths, build on them - if someone is excelling in part of their role, can you give them more responsibility in this area? If a Plant and a Shaper work really well together can that be made a more recognised partnership?
Map out your team
Within a real-life workplace setting, people will generally play primary and secondary roles. Map these out and pinpoint any gaps in your team or similarly any strengths you have in abundance. When you understand where the gaps are you can start to address them - that might be recruitment, a shift in focus for some team members, or training to build strengths in some areas.
A well-performing team is about more than skills and experience. It's about getting the right mix of strengths and personalities. Every business has unique challenges, a unique culture and operational environment. But by taking time to understand the individuals in your business you'll gain key insights into how they can collaborate better and become a more balanced team.