Teamwork Makes the Team Work…..or does it?

Another trusty tool that is often used within Business and the world of promoting effective teamwork, is Belbin. As always, these tools and profiling come with a disclaimer, most of them are just guides and they are built on self perception only. They have their purposes, as Bell (2013) states if the mix within a team is not right then “team effectiveness may be less than the sum of its individual parts” (45). Katzenbach (2000) takes this one step further, “The price of taking the team is high, at best members get diverted from their individual goals, costs outweigh benefits, and people resent the imposition on their time and priorities” (112).

Therefore this idea of team work as a beneficial tool to enhance team performance, can now be seen and labelled as highly deterimental to performance if the mix of the team isn’t right. Infact it may be better and more efficient, if there was no team at all. It will come as no surprise then, that currently my team working status isn’t advancing in the best way hoped. Infact, the mix of our team could not be more wrong. We clash, we are unproductive, we struggle, we lack commitment and goals.

This week provided the opportunity to think about constructing our ideal teams and the realisation that our teams are going to be split up. Most of the class was in disbelief and horror, where as I felt like putting my hands up and saying, “thank god!”. I’m now looking at the whole team working within project work in a more positive light, especially as i can see there are group members, I’d like to work with from the other team and I think we’d make a solid, strong team. In terms of my own attributes within the team, I genuinely unsure whether I help or hinder. I think I help in the practical sense of getting things done but not in the sense of developing the team.

The belbin tool, provided the opportunity, to consider my role within a team. Whilst i consider the questions and the style of the questionnaire to be restrictive and questionable, I do belief it has some good qualities although I disagree with the outcome. My results labelled my team working contribution as a very high resource investigator, a very high co-ordinator and high plant and specialist. My least preferred roles were shaper and completer finisher. These results were in direct conflict with my insights profile.

The profile, therefore suggested that I love working with people, getting out and about, hate working alone on tasks and my drive and ambition should be questioned in regards to finishing projects and overcoming problems. People who have worked with me know that my drive and ambition can be intimidating at times and I’m not really the sort of person you’d send to network. Moreover, I’d love to be on my own in a room, with freedom and high pressured tasks. However on reflection, I am aware this is my self perception and I am good with people, consequently this could be where the resource investigator comes from. But I certainly don’t feed off them and need people around me. Sit me alone in a room, with lots of high pressured tasks and I’d happily not speak to anyone. In fact, I find working within team  so overwhelming at times, I need, for my sanity to be silent and alone when I get home.

However, my Belbin profile highlights my ability to communicate effectively as my strong points, this has been an area that has often been pulled up within my academic, work and business spheres before as being a strength of mine. Within a team, I see real value in open and effective communication channels, i don’t believe in hiding information on particular levels and furthermore, knowledge is empowerment!

As a co-ordinator, I would agree this stems from my ability to organise and delegate. Although, this is a skill I have recently developed, I used to be a terrible delegater. I used to be one woman, trying to take on the world. As a manager, I have become rather good as identifying talent and trying to empower members of the team via faciliatated personal development. I love developing potential for the good of the team. However, Belbin says that i will often try and off load my share of the work, this is infact the opposite of the way I naturally am. I’m more likely not to offload anywork and to try and do the entire project on my own. It has taken years to learn how this can impact the team and is actually unproductive. Shamefully, I used to believe that no one could do it better than I could. Such arrogance!

I would consider myself as a specialist and i do have a tendency to be narrow minded. Hence I work well within a team where ideas flow and the ethos enables my creativity. If I am in a situation, where the team does not function and I feel I have no control, I inevitably try to stick to what I know or replicate a previous team, both of which doesn’t work as it is the team that needs to take ownership. Bell (2013) comments on this as an issue within organisations in general, it is the temptation to foster a controllable hierachical structure and reject the progression to a collective working environment. The option often seems like one or the other, as a team we can forgot the transitional period that is needed to get into the collective mindset.

An interesting point I picked out of the Belbin interview, that Bell conducted in 2013, was that the misuse of the H.R department within organisations. I remember when I worked at H&M often feeling rather confused about their role. That managers were expected to manage the people and take hugh team impacting decisions, yet HR with the knowledge and specialisation had very little influence on the team.  Moreover, decisions were taken on the basis of a singular top leader with little input from the rest of the organisation. Hence, there was almost no collaboration and the team was simply a group of individuals, working together as paid employees to meet the goals of a top manager. As a manager myself, I early on realised the value of team meetings and getting my staff members involved in how we were going to make these targets happen, experimenting and opening up communications to explains why decisions had been made and where figures came from. Getting my staff on board as a collective, working together, developing a strategy was the root cause of the teams success.

Moreover, as a floor manager, I had to analyse my team regularily and assess the skill and personality gaps. These teams changed regularily due to the turn over of staff in retail so potentially this is why I don’t feel the same type of allure to my current team. Teams change for the benefit of the team.

In fact i’ve worked for many people who have had the belief that they deal with the business and the people are an aside, with a separate manager to “deal” with them. I’ve learnt early on that the people “are” the business, you can’t simply separate the two.

So whilst I take my Belbin results, with a pinch of salt, I have learnt several things about myself and things to take forward. I think as Hills (2001) has highlighted many times through-out hsi book “Team Based Learning”, self awareness is key. Belbin increases your self awareness and awareness with others. But, I don’t believe that good teams stem from answering a quiz and pulling together a team based on roles. People are more complex than that. Not that I think teams happen by accident, but the most successful ones have come out of a lot of hard work and often had shakey starts. The very best teams I’ve worked in have been adaptable and shape shifting…..performance was key and the team altered to unsure high performance.


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