Belbin's 9 team roles

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These days project-oriented work is commonly used in vast numbers of industries and markets, but that has not come without challenges! Managers are today not only required to be in charge and take responsibilities, but they are also expected to compose and manage teams and project-groups, formed of people, whom they might know very little about. How do managers ensure optimal performance from any given project group? The success of a project-group has continuously proven to be heavily dependent on the interdisciplinary and interpersonal relations between the group members, finding the right people for the right jobs. [1] To help ease this comprehensive task, Dr. Meredith Belbin developed a set of defining eight personality traits, a ninth was added later, that are essential to a high functioning group. These nine roles, dubbed Belbin’s 9 team roles, can be determined by a written test performed by the group members and delivers an opportunity to determine in which degree each role is present in a person, and by using this knowledge, ease the formation of project groups. Reading this article, you will obtain knowledge about the foundation on which Belbin built his theory, what his assumptions were and how the theory has evolved. This article will give an overall view of how these personality traits are defined, which strengths and weaknesses each possess, and how to combine them into a high-functioning team. Building on that, the article will describe, which benefits a project, a manager or the individual itself can benefit from gaining awareness of to what degree the 9 Roles are present in a person. As a concluding chapter, the article will describe some commonly used points of criticism against Belbin’s theory along with its limitations.



In 1969, Dr. Meredith Belbin initiated a study of teams, based on several international management teams. Dr. Belbin was invited to begin his studies at a business simulation game, hosted at Henley Business school. Nine years, and more than 200 highly qualified teams later, the study concluded with two very important learnings.[2] Dr. Belbin and his team’s initial thesis was that intellect would be quintessential in predicting success among the team. Basically, teams with members of higher intelligence would outperform teams with lower intelligence members. What the research team saw though, was several high intelligence teams, failing to fulfill their potential and being outperformed by what Dr. Belbin’s team had presumed inferior teams. These observations laid the foundation for what today is known as Belbin’s 9 Team Roles, as the research team set out to determine, what the source of this unpredicted success was. What was determined through the years, was that the catalyst for success in teams was balance, not intelligence. Teams with a balanced distribution of personalities, with different strengths and weaknesses, had an opportunity to complement and strengthen each other, covering gaps in the knowledge and skill within the group and hence, appear stronger combined. At the same time, groups, comprised of people with similar characteristics often experienced conflicts over influence and share of work. This can all be illustrated by visualizing a soccer team. You want to prevent the opponent from scoring a goal, but if you comprise your team solely of goalkeepers, you will be unlikely to score yourself. A well-balanced team will contain both goalkeeper, defensive, midfield, and offensive players, this way you are able both to defend your goal, pass the ball upfield, AND score in the opponent's goal. It was the same conclusion Dr. Belbin and his team reached, a balanced combination of different personalities with different focus points and perspectives significantly raised the likelihood of a team being successful. By having participants from the business simulation games fulfill written tests and personality assessments, he was able to determine nine clusters of personality traits. This resulted in a personality test, that determines the presence and strength of each trait in a person. This is beneficial in two ways. First, awareness of your personal strengths and weaknesses enables you to work with them. At the same time, it makes it easier for a manager to combine their employees in diverse teams, with complementing personalities.

The 9 Team Roles

Belbin’s 9 Team Roles, covers nine clusters of personal attributes, which each affects and benefits the efforts of a project group. One person will often contain traces of each role, in varying degrees, and usually, two or three different roles will be the strongest and most dominant ones. The roles are derived from the test developed by Belbin and his team. Through questions revolving around how different situations are handled and reacted to, the test determines the presence and magnitude of each role within a person. The roles and their different strengths and weaknesses are as follows.

Team Roles Personal traits[3] Strengths[4] Allowable weaknesses[4]
Resource Investigator (RI)[5]


The Resource Investigator is the extrovert of the group. This person enjoys conversation, investigating, and communicating with most other people. It is not uncommon that his person will volunteer to conduct research outside of the group, such as interviews, observation studies, or surveys.

A rather large network is also, a quite common trait with this person, as they enjoy obtaining new relationships and are not afraid to leverage these relationships in a project context. It is, however, important to monitor the Resource Investigator, as they often tend to be over-optimistic. This can lead to overbooking themselves with interviews or scheduling too much work. In the same way, they also appear very enthusiastic, but this can dwindle as the project moves forward, and especially in the closing stages it is important to motivate this person.

  • Outgoing
  • Enthusiastic
  • Explores opportunities and contacts
  • Can be over-optimistic
  • Might lose interest, once the initial enthusiasm has passed
Teamworker (TW)[5]


Team workers are often considered the essence of the team. They value cohesion and teamwork. This is reflected in their diplomatic, perceptive, and flexible personality.

Team Workers functions as the groups' internal negotiator, whenever two or more group members are in a disagreement, the Team Worker will often be the person to turn to. They are able to evaluate an idea or situation objectively, analytic and fairly. While often being very capable and intelligent people in their own right, they often preferer leveraging the team and enforcing collaboration, rather than going on their own. Because of their diplomatic nature and tendencies to evaluate all aspects thoroughly, the Team Worker can appear to be indecisive and unwilling to take a side in a discussion.

  • Co-operative
  • Perceptive and diplomatic
  • Listens and averts friction
  • Can find it difficult to make hard decisions
  • Tends to avoid confrontations
Co-ordinator (CO)[5]


The Co-Ordinator is the role, closest to what traditionally would be classified as the natural team leader. Clarifying objectives, organizing, structuring work, and delegating to the right person are some of the strengths of this person. They are often good-natured and calm, with a sense of likeability, which in turn convinces people to follow them as leaders.

The Co-Ordinator often possesses a certain talent for observing skills and strengths in others, which allows them to estimate what kind of value the other person is able to bring to the team and how to utilize it to the fullest. This skill can often be linked to most Co-Ordinator’s are excellent listeners. The organizing and delegating of work can to some of the other team members come off as manipulative, as they wonder who put this person in charge and why are they delegating all the work to someone else. The Co-Ordinator needs to be aware of the perception of this and focus on communicating their reasoning being their actions.

  • Mature
  • Confident
  • Identifies talent in others
  • Clarifying goals
  • Might be interpreted as manipulative
  • Can appear lazy, as they offload their own work and suddenly have little to do
Plant (PL)[5]


Plants are the creative engine of the team. They are innovative and creative in approaching a challenge and they will often either produce a novel and exciting solution or propose a new way to approach a given task. Due to this creativity, Plants sometimes tend to ignore given parameters or constraints given for the task. This can lead to impractical solutions.

Working with a Plant, it is important to remember, that this type of group member thrives on praise and finds it difficult to handle criticism, combined with a lack of communication often found in Plants, which means that other group members need to be cautious when giving feedback. Often, Plants tend to be introverted and work on their assigned task, away from the group.

  • Creative
  • Imaginative
  • Free-thinking
  • Generates ideas and solves difficult problems in new and exciting ways
  • Might ignore initial parameters or constraints
  • Might be too engaged in a solution, that they are unable to communicate effectively
Monitor Evaluator (ME)[5]


If a project group is a courtroom and other members are lawyers advocating for their perspective, the Monitor Evaluator is the judge. Members with this role evaluate, analysis and consider all aspects of ideals. They are objective, critical thinking, and as such can appear to be detached or even unemotional.

Monitor Evaluators will consider every pro and con of a case, they will consider the far-sighted strategic implications of every idea, before deciding. Therefore, they can come across as being slow to decide. Even so, Monitor Evaluators are intelligent and experts at staying objective in discussions, this however means that they can appear to be without passion for a project, and often fail at motivating others for their cause, even though it might be objectively right. They will prefer to react towards an event, rather than investigate why the event happened.

  • Sober
  • Intelligent
  • Strategic
  • Sees and judges all options even and accurately
  • Can come across as overly critical, this is especially true when working with Plants
  • Lack passion and drive to inspire and motivate others
Specialist (SP)[5]


The Specialist is the most recent addition in the 9 Roles. The Specialist is other highly skilled in the area a project group is working. They deliver specific knowledge, technical details, and limitations for the project. Specialists are often the center of knowledge for a specific part of the project. They take pride in their skills and are often passionate about their field of expertise.

Because they often joined the group to supply knowledge regarding a certain aspect of the project, their contribution might be limited to that field. They will often be preoccupied with technical details, within their field, refusing to move away from this, as they do not consider it their field of work. This means that the Specialist often is unaware or uninterested in the big picture of the project.

  • Expertise in a certain field
  • Single-minded
  • Self-starting and -sustaining
  • Contribution tends to be limited to the Specialists field of expertise
  • Gets lost in technicalities
Shaper (SH)[5]


Shapers are driven, people. If you challenge a Shaper, they will approach it as an exciting challenge. They are usually extrovert and dynamic people, who will motivate the rest of the team to overcome challenges and improve on themself. If the team falls into a groove or becomes complacent, it is the Shaper who will provide the disruption to shake things up and initiate the discovery of new ways of problem-solving.

This drive can, however, provide challenges within the team. The Shaper is excellent at pushing team members to improve, but in this process, they risk pushing others too hard or offend other team members' feelings. The Shaper will often appear as a brass personality with a direct and often provocative speech. Team members with this personality are great motivators and enjoy stimulating others to improve, just as they enjoy questioning the norms of the team.

  • Thrives on pressure
  • Stimulates and challenges other
  • Drives and inspires the team to overcome obstacles
  • Can be provocative for others
  • Can risk becoming aggressive and bad humored in an attempt to get things done
Implementor (IMP)[5]


Implementers are the engine of the project group. These people turn the group's creative ideas and suggestions, into concrete actions and plans. They form a comprehensive strategy and plan for the work to be performed and expect you to perform according to it.

They are hardworking disciplined people but will often come across as conservative. Implementers do not always respond well to change. They expect their plan to be followed, and it will take quite an amount of convincing for them to abandon a set plan. Often Implementers will actively resist changes, even if it might be for the better. They value structure and their work methodic is systematic, organized, and efficient.

  • Practical
  • Reliable
  • Efficient
  • Does not care about creative details, but will plan and execute the work that needs to be done
  • Inflexible towards changes
  • Slow responds to new opportunities
Completer Finisher (CF)[5]


The perfectionist of the group, the Completer Finisher will insist on doing the final proofreading one more time. They are detail orientated and observant, holding their work to the highest standard. Often, the Completer Finisher will be the person to drive the project over the finishing line.

This attention to detail, will often what other team members lack and what elevates a project to the next level. Their concerns with regards to deadlines and detail can often come across as tiresome, especially for the faster-moving team members. The perfectionistic mindset of the Complete Finisher can also prove a challenge regarding delegating assignments to others, as they are more confident in their own skills and tends to be anxious when not being hands-on. The Completer Finisher is an invaluable asset to the team in the finishing stages of a project, as they are key to maintain focus on the objective.

  • Detail orientated
  • Painstaking
  • Holds any task to high standards and makes sure everything is polished and perfected
  • Worries untimely
  • Reluctant to delegate tasks


Constructing a team is a process that requires quite a lot of thought. It can in many ways be compared to the process of building a car. You want the car to go fast, which means it needs power and therefore an engine! But you cannot build a car solely from engines, you also need wheels to transfer the power to the road and a steering wheel to determine direction. In this way, Belbin’s 9 Roles determines, who is the engine of the team, who is the wheels, and who is direction determining steering wheel. As mentioned most people contain attributes from all roles in varying degrees and as such can cover more than one role within the team. Belbin’s 9 Roles can effectively be applied in two different ways, the first being the aforementioned team composition, but it also has a personal benefit. But before applying the benefits, we need to know the origin, and therefore about the test.

Belbin’s Test

By completing the test and obtain knowledge of your own inner workings, it is possible to create awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, you can improve on your own contribution to teamwork. If you are aware of weaknesses, you can work to negate them, while enforcing your strengths. Using Belbin’s 9 Team Roles first requires the completion of Belbin’s Self-Perception Inventory. This is the written test that Belbin developed. This test is comprised of several specific situations that can occur while doing a project or in other ways be engage in a team. Every situation has several possible actions, and your choice for your reaction to the situation determines how dominating certain roles are within you. There exist several approximated tests, but in order to obtain a certified result, it is required to by a test, through the official Belbin website.[2] This role composition can then be considered when combining employees in teams or groups for a project. It is not necessary to appoint a person for each role, as mentioned before, a person is able to cover multiple roles.

Why should we use Belbin’s Roles?

In doing project-orientated work, uncertainty usually will be among the most impactful concerns. [1] By using Belbin's Roles it is possible to negate a sizeable amount of uncertainty regarding the team. Obtaining knowledge about personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses within the team, it is possible to enforce and compensate in both aspects. For the manager, the benefits of this knowledge will be: [6]

  • Knowing who to assign which tasks
  • How to utilize every team member
  • How to handle and communicate efficiently with each member

The individual also gains several benefits from the insight:[6]

  • Awareness of ones own strengths and weaknesses
  • Knowledge facilitates the possibility for improvement
  • Knowing how others perceive oneself as an individual.

Limitations of the Belbin's 9 Roles


While Belbin and his team, to a certain degree, proved that there was a correlation between balancing team compositions to include all nine roles and the likelihood of success in the project, there is still to be drawn conclusive evidence that the roles are the determining factor. Doing project work is complex and just like intelligence, team composition has not yet been proven as a guaranty for success. There are many other determining factors like interpersonal relations, external factors to the project, or unforeseen circumstances and events, that can affect the project in ways, team composition cannot predict. Therefore it is not possible to determine that diversity in any sense, including Belbin's 9 Roles, is a deciding factor.[7]

Diversity vs. likeness

Diversity is often proclaimed as being essential for a functioning project-group. However, it is also a common psychological fact, that humans tend to prefer and like people, who resemble themselves, to a higher degree. This is visible both in everyday life and in a professional setting as well.[8] Therefore, a team consisting of widely different people can, A, prove difficult to manage, and B, cause tension between group members to arise and evolve due to personal differences.

Staying in your comfort zone

Having confirmed which strengths a person possesses, can hamper their development. Some people will tend to develop a resistance towards undertaking tasks that fall outside of their assigned role. By confining themselves to a familiar and confirmed role, they obtain comfort and security. [9] Depending on the situation, it can fall upon the manager to force them out of their comfort zone to encourage personal growth.

Annotated Bibliography

Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017 Edition This book provides knowledge on best practices for project management, according to PRINCE2. This book delivers insight into the importance of the selection of the correct people for a certain project. The book determines that, under the direst circumstances, a project is destined to fail, if the responsible manager fails the selection task.

2021 BELBIN Associates The official website of Dr. Meredith Belbin's team. This website offers insight in the nature of all 9 Team Roles, while providing information and background for the nature of Belbin's theory.

2010 R. Meredith Belbin., Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail - Third Edition, Taylor & Francis Ltd This book, written by Dr. Belbin himself, offers a comprehensive description of the Team Roles, their origin and background. It further describes the consideration a manager should do before constructing a team and which benefits could be obtained by utilizing the different roles.


  1. 1.0 1.1 2017 Project Management Institute, Inc. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2018 Belbin's History.
  3. 2016 Belbin's team roles by Mind tools content team.
  4. 4.0 4.1 2021 Belbin Associates.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 2015 Belbin for Students.
  6. 6.0 6.1 2010 R. Meredith Belbin., Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail - Third Edition, Taylor & Francis Ltd
  7. 2009 Stahl, Günter & Maznevski, Martha & Voigt, Andreas & Jonsen, Karsten. Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: A meta-analysis of research on multicultural work groups.
  8. 1969 Berscheid, E. Interpersonal Attraction.
  9. 2021, Walden University. The Pros and cons of comfort zones.
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