An organisation is only as successful as its teams. Therefore, building high effective teams should be amongst the key priorities of every business.
A recent survey by EY discovered that almost 9 out of 10 companies “agree that the problems confronting them are now so complex that teams are essential to provide effective solutions”. In addition, “an overwhelming majority of respondents think that their organisation’s ability to develop and manage teams will be essential for their future competitiveness”.
The effectiveness of any management teams will be reflected on its ability to tackle different types of issues that may arise. How well the participants in the management group use each other’s skills, experiences, ways of looking at each other’s strengths and weaknesses and tackling problems will be absolutely decisive for the result.
A key factor is therefore how the individuals in the team relate, collaborate and contribute to each other. Simplified, we can define five steps in the development of an effective management team.
In the reporting stage, the manager takes the necessary measures based on each participant’s report. Cooperation is low and the interaction is based on operational issues where one does not interfere in each other’s work areas. The team lacks a common goal and social cooperation.
A problem that sometimes exists at this level is the reluctance to offer constructive criticism. One of the reasons is that you are afraid to receive this person feedback at a later stage when it is your own turn to report back or make a proposal. Therefore, it is usually the manager who has to decide the issue without having a chance to use the experience and know-how of the others.
In this stage, you are very function-driven and don’t care so much about each other’s areas of responsibility.
2. Ball board
In the next stage of development, you act as a ball-wall for each other’s feedback. The group is more reactive in its approach than actively trying to anticipate them. However, they have started to use each other’s skills to a certain extent.
Here, an increased commitment and a dissatisfaction with the level of development one is at is noticeable. The participants have begun to feel the positive effects of increased interaction and want to develop. You are still function-controlled and busy with your own area of responsibility.
3. Cooperation for the development of the management team
In the third stage, Collaboration, interaction increases significantly. The team, because now we are starting to be able to talk about teams, work more as sparring partners for each other and you have common goals and objectives for the team’s responsibilities and commitments even if there are shortcomings in these. One does not yet have the courage to take personal risks in one’s relationship with others in the group. You are still function-driven but progressive in your approach.
In this step, you start to use each other’s team roles and compensate for the roles that are missing. Here, the composition of the team also becomes important for the participants as it starts to become clear which different contributions you can get or if everyone is the same.
Here, the demands on knowledge and competence in the group also increase. You move across functional boundaries and therefore also need to expand your area of competence to include, to a certain extent, that of your colleagues.
In step four, it becomes important to have a well-balanced team while at the same time having a high procedural level. Here, the entire team attacks common problems and opportunities and uses each other’s skills and behaviors to create an effective team with a strong result. Here, leadership is about leading diversity and change.
Another characteristic is that everyone has great competence in each other’s areas and takes a holistic view of the issues, which makes it difficult to see who the finance manager, marketing manager, sales manager, HR manager is.
Here we have a well-functioning management group that values each other’s differences and the deep relationship that has begun to develop between the participants. You have purpose and goals. There is mutual trust and openness between the participants.
You also take responsibility as an individual and team member for what you see, feel and think. A holistic view begins to characterize the group and it is mainly strategic issues that are handled. This is a mature team that has begun to assume management responsibilities.
5. Strategic management
We could call the fifth step an effective team, high performance or why not strategic management. Everything that is in step four is here, albeit more clearly.
There is also a circulating leadership (the leadership, however, remains) and a shared and mutual commitment to each other as individuals. This means that the team chooses the person they find most suitable and possesses the right qualities for the situation.
The fashion of the individuals is clear and prominent, they pay a lot of attention to each other as opposed to focusing on themselves and their own needs. There are three basic variables to becoming a strategic team. One is the team composition. The second is the process level of the team and the third is leadership.
The procedural importance in the development of management team
The variables for development of the management team are trust and openness. We do not show each other more trust than the openness of the team allows and vice versa.
Research shows that the more trust and openness you have in the group, the more complex decision situations you can handle with quality.
Warning signals – too low a procedural level. How much of each other’s skills and strengths do we use?
- Simplified decisions
The group puts the problem down to the level they are at. This means that you do not take all variables into account and even act based on incorrect assumptions in your decisions.
- The same problem again. The problem returns, albeit in a different form.
- Team members don’t follow up decisions taken
Decisions made in the management group are not carried out by the members, even though they themselves were involved in the decisions.
Belbin’s 6 criteria for a winning management team
During Dr. Belbin’s research at The Management College at Henley, a number of different factors were discovered to be particularly important when it comes to constructing winning teams:
It turned out that the personal characteristics of the chairmen of the winning teams corresponded well with the Coordinator Team Role profile.
A person who could use the abilities of others, was not domineering during the work and knew when it was time to tighten the reins when an important decision had to be made or when the meeting had to end.
2. The presence of a gifted plant
Winning groups were also characterized by a typical Plant. In everyday terms, this means that a team needs a highly talented and creative employee. In this regard, creativity was more important than talent to a Plant, but it was an advantage if both were in the same person. A talented Plant is considered credible, but the opposite can easily go wrong as this Plant cannot realize itself in its role.
3. Good spread in mental ability
The best results were achieved by groups with a very talented Plant, another talented member, and a Coordinator with slightly higher than average mental ability. A brilliant and talented Plant is an asset to a team, but only if the responsibility lies with someone else, the Coordinator.
A visionary also needs the stimulation of a mind of the same caliber against which he can sharpen his ideas and thoughts. Every team also needs someone who can find the flaws in original, well thought out but sometimes unsound proposals. This is where the Monitor Evaluator comes in with its dry, impartial and intellectual qualities.
4. Diffusion in personal traits
The fourth factor was a spread in team roles. Having different kinds of members increases the span and also reduces the risk of friction that exists when two or more people compete for the same role. The team also becomes more flexible and can adapt more quickly to changes in the outside world.
5. Good balance between qualities and responsibilities
Retrospective analysis showed that it was vital that members found assignments that matched their personal characteristics and abilities.
In general, there is no rule that people get the job they deserve. It is more common for individuals to take on tasks and jobs that are in line with their experience, regardless of how well they have previously succeeded.
6. Adjustment of imbalance
Weaknesses can be compensated for through self-awareness. It is an accepted maxim for individual behavior that can also develop into groups. In Teamopoly game, run by Dr. Meredith Belbin, this was clear. Members who saw themselves as e.g. Plants played their roles in a damaging and dominant manner. They did not consider at all other roles that they valued lower, but which were at certain stages important to the team’s business.
The value of seeing the important tasks in terms of team roles was clearly illustrated by several groups with unbalanced composition, but with a lot of self-awareness. The pattern was that at their first meeting the team identified their weak areas and then appointed someone to do the job that actually belonged to the missing role.
The effect was that the probable weakness was not exposed as clearly during the exercises and in other groups it led to the search for the closest team role. It often worked quite well and the result was much better than one could guess.
Why management team development with Belbin?
Reasons why you should choose Belbin when developing a management team.
- Proven scientific method that delivers results
Dr. Belbin researched successful management teams and his research findings helped many teams develop in the right direction.
- Provides a common language and focuses on behaviors rather than person.
The team role language allows group members to focus on each other’s behaviors and contributions rather than getting irritated by each other’s differences.
- Value difference
It is not enough to “respect” difference, i.e. “stand over there in the corner and be different, but don’t come here”. In order to
value difference, it is necessary to embrace it and feel it. Not all differences are equally easy to value.
- Provides greater understanding of each other and can use each other’s strengths
Belbin Team Roles provides the opportunity for increased self-awareness, greater understanding of one’s own and others’ contributions, insight into what the group has and needs. Provides understanding of differences and knowledge of how you can actually progress in the group.
- Gives you the chart and knowledge to navigate.
Belbin Team Roles gives you team reports, i.e. the map of how the group looks right now, by learning how to navigate you can succeed better in using each other’s strengths to build the winning team.
Article written by Vladimir Dordevic, Business Developer and Consultant at Belbin Malta and Belbin Sweden AB. He can be contacted at [email protected].