Build a Better Team Part 2: Belbin's People Oriented and Thought Oriented roles, and the Myers-Briggs Personalities Best Suited to Fill Them
In part one of this series, we analyzed a bit of the history behind how Dr. Meredith Belbin created his team roles, a summary of the three action oriented roles, as well as the Myers-Briggs personality types that complement those roles.
In this article, we will analyze the remaining six roles, as well as personality types that resonate well with them.
People Oriented Roles
As the name indicates, CO’s are great candidates to take on the traditional role of team leaders or chairmen that we’re familiar with. Though Shaper is also a leadership-centered role, the CO’s approach to leadership isn’t nearly as overbearing nor aggressive.
COs generally have an honest desire to see other team members succeed, and are willing to give of themselves to assist the team reach a common goal. Unlike Shapers, COs aren’t prone to emotional outbursts (whether positive or otherwise) and carry themselves in a confident and collected manner. COs are quite adept at identifying the individual talents of their teammates, and are very skilled at delegating the right task to the right person.
COs aren’t always the innovators of the team, nor are they the most senior members of the team. But they don’t need to be. Their greatest contributions is their well rounded set of skills, the ability to see the big picture, and identifying and implementing the potential in other teammates.
On the other hand, a CO’s peerless ability to delegate tasks can easily become a point of weakness. It’s often tempting for a CO to abuse his or her delegation authority in order to advance their own agenda, or avoid unwanted responsibilities. COs are also prone to clashes with Shapers, due to their contrasting management styles.
COs are best utilized when placed in charge of a diverse group of people with varied skill sets and personal characteristics (not groups of people with similar skills, such as a group of programmers). Also, COs to perform better when dealing with co-workers of equal or near-equal rank.
Because ENFJs are typically natural leaders, full of passion and charisma, they make great COs. Their genuine interest in the well being of others make them approachable managers. And their willingness to lead by example make ENFJs inspiring leaders that are easy to trust and imitate.
Though not as sociable as ENFJs, INFJs also make great COs due to their ability to empathize, see the good in others and their ability to inspire people to action. However, because of their tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own, INFJs can easily burn out if deployed as COs.
Team Worker (TW)
Although the role of a TW’s isn’t as glamorous or as coveted as other team roles, TWs are nonetheless an essential part of any team. TWs are to a team what oil is to an engine, you can’t get a team running smoothly without a TW, especially when massive egos are on the team.
TWs are the people that provide the support needed to make sure the entire team is working together as a team unit. Their mild disposition, high social skills and genuine concern for the well being of others make TWs quite popular among their peers. When there are clashes in personality, TWs are usually the ones that help things settle down and go back to normal.
Just like COs, TWs aren’t always the idea people, but their well-rounded skill sets make them very flexible, and are able to adapt to a variety of situations (and people). The value of a TW comes into play when deadlines are approaching, when tensions are high, and people feel unappreciated. Because of their ability to sincerely listen to the views and suggestions of other teammates, they have few enemies and rivals. It’s this likability that allows TWs to rise in the corporate ladder.
On the other hand, due to their aversion of conflict and high need to create harmony among peers, TWs can be indecisive. They are often paralyzed when they are required to rebuke someone, or if they must make a “lesser-evil” decision. That weakness is exacerbated further if they must make those decisions alone.
Because of their warmth, reliability, enthusiasm and altruism, ISFJs make excellent TWs. Though they are technically introverted, ISFJs love people, have great social skills, and are generally well liked among all personality types.
ESFJs also make great TWs due to their gregariousness, charm and desire to be helpful. They are also great at connecting with others, and make great listeners. On the other hand, many ESFJs tend to place excessive importance on their own social standing, and their tactics to improve it could come across as needy at times.
Resource Investigator (RI)
RIs are the scouts that provide the team with a view of the outside world. They are excellent at identifying great ideas, techniques and methods (both from inside and outside of the team) that can benefit the group. RIs are generally relaxed, likable individuals with a strong inquisitive sense and readiness to see what possibilities are available and promoting them in a way everyone can be excited about.
RIs are enthusiastic Extraverts, excelling at establishing interpersonal relationships with people both inside and outside of the team. They usually provide the team with an initial enthusiasm boost at the start of a project by highlighting all the great things the team can accomplish. RIs also prove themselves invaluable due to their skill at pursuing and establishing new contacts.
However, that initial optimism can quickly fade when difficulties arise. RIs typically require constant positive feedback from those around them to stay motivated.
Because of their strong communication skills, their adaptability and spontaneity and well developed observation skills, ENFPs make excellent RIs. ENFPs are excellent at creating new connections and discovering new ideas, as well as sharing their findings to anyone willing to listen. And because of their cooperative and approachable demeanor, they make excellent brand ambassadors and communicators.
Though not as outgoing as ENFPs, INFPs share lots of qualities that are essential to great RIs such as keen observation skills, optimism, creativity and open-mindedness. Therefore, if they can push themselves to open up more, INFPs should consider taking on this role.
Thought Oriented Roles
The Plant was the first team role identified by Dr. Belbin. It was given that name because in his initial experiments, this team role was “planted” in each individual team, and the name stuck.
Plants are often portrayed as the stereotypical absent-minded geniuses, in no small part to their main role of acting as the innovators and inventors of the team. Plants have a nearly unlimited ability to generate original ideas to support innovation. As such, it’s common to see Plants as the founders of new start-ups and the developers of new products.
Plants are best implemented at the initial stages of a project, when new ideas or directions are needed, or when a project falls into development hell, and the project has stagnated progress.
As invaluable as their skills may be, Plants aren’t always the best at communicating with others, and they don’t always present their ideas in a practical and relevant framework. Although they excel at generating new ideas, not all of their new ideas are practical, nor do they always fit into the established norms of the company.
Plants also don’t tend to get along with one another. Plants love to showcase their intellect, so if you have too many Plants, they could cause disruption on the team as they try to one-up each other, and prove the superiority of their ideas.
As you may imagine, due to their unquenchable imagination, creativity, independence and disregard for the status quo, INTJs and INTPs make great Plants. It’s up to the manager to decide whether he or she prefers a more structured and opinionated Plant with an INTJ, or a more open-minded and tolerant (albeit shyer) one with an INTP.
Because of their ability to formulate bold new ideas, sharp intuition, and analytical skills, ENTPs have the potential to be great Plants. Their outgoing personality and way with words make ENTP’s great public speakers, capable of presenting their ideas in an entertaining and informative way. However, ENTP’s are infamously argumentative, and have a tendency to brush away ideas (and people) that can’t stand up to their rational standards. This often causes friction among teammates.
Due to their artistic inclinations, curiosity and passion, ISFPs could make the perfect Plant in teams that deal with applied arts such as web design, graphic design, marketing and entertainment.
MEs are prudent, fair, logical individuals with a built-in immunity to irrational exuberance. They like to take their time making decisions and analyze all variables before committing to a final judgment. Because of their high level of critical thinking ability, MEs make shrewd judges that take a broad view of the problem, and often make the right decision. They don’t rely on intuition; they deal with facts and logic rather than emotion.
As you may expect, an ME’s strengths are also their weaknesses. Co-workers see them as unemotional or detached, and at times overly critical (and a bit of a buzzkill). They are not the best at motivating their co-workers nor at inspiring them to getting through difficulties, and their slowness to make a decision can also seriously test the patience of their co-workers.
MEs are best suited to analyzing problems and evaluating ideas and suggestions that require weighing the pros and cons. When put on a management position, MEs consistently make excellent decisions, albeit not as quickly as you may want.
Thanks to their practical approach to problem solving, calm demeanor and ability to create structure and order, ISTJs make some of the best MEs out there. ESTJs could also make good MEs, due to their uncanny ability to organize matters, their direct and straightforward communication style and their reliability. However, those virtues can often cross the threshold into rigidity, and unwilling to compromise that may hinder the morale of the team.
Specialists are exactly what it says on the tin; people that have specialized technical knowledge needed to finish a project that no other team mate has. The nature of that technical knowledge varies from team to team, but one thing remains constant: without the Specialist, the project would come to a full stop.
One of the main distinguishing features of an SP is their love of learning. Though they take to heart the expression “knowledge is power”, they also love learning for its own sake. SPs are also a great source of technical knowledge for their coworkers when they need help or guidance, and are quite happy to share their expertise if someone asks.
SPs are constantly trying to improve and build on their expertise. And if they are stumped by a question they don’t have an answer to, they would gladly do the research needed to find it.
SPs often try to avoid getting involved in meetings and social discussions that have nothing to do with their specialty. And while they are not usually regarded as the best of team players, their encyclopedic knowledge makes them extremely valuable. If deployed in a management position, SPs can be instrumental in raising the technical expertise of other team members.
On the other hand, an SP’s contributions are usually limited to their field of expertise. And if other team members challenge an SP’s knowledge, validity of their claims or way of doing things, they tend to be quite defensive and unwilling to make adjustments.
Although INTPs fit the mold of the prototypical SP due to their love of learning and intellectual prowess, the position of an SP depends more on the nature of the project and the industry the teams deals with. As such, any personality type can be an SP, as long as they have the technical knowledge needed for the task.
For example, because of their fun and outgoing personality, charming demeanor, and peerless skills in stepping out of the comfort zone, we see countless ESFP’s in the roles of SP in the entertainment industry. Their unique ability to command attention, entertain others and look good while doing so makes them a staple of traditional as well as new media.
Regardless of the nature of your industry, building the right team is always a challenge. Even if you have nothing but talented, highly motivated and educated people, it’s essential for the success of the project that you have the right people handling the right roles.
By utilizing Belbin’s team roles, and being aware of the personality types of each team member, the greater the chance that you’ll create a balanced and optimally performing team. That’s because you’ll be able to make informed, data driven decisions, rather than simply relying on your “gut feeling.”