Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A personal Belbin

What Belbin means to me

On returning from my first maternity leave all those years ago, I found myself wondering who I was, what I wanted, where I was going  - and all those other confusing feelings experienced by new mothers returning to work! Shortly after this return, the library merged with various departments within the university and a series of training courses was set up, with a view to networking members of the new Division of Learning Development and providing essential staff development sessions, and it was at one of these courses that I first encountered Belbin.

I’ve always been interested in personality type quizzes and was game for having a go at the Belbin quiz. Interested yes, but mostly they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about my personality! Belbin was different though, being less about personality and more about working styles. For years I despaired of myself in working situations – why would I sometimes have loads to say, other times nothing, why was I sometimes positive, other times negative, why did I sometimes take charge, other times hide in the corner? I’ve no idea how other people viewed me, but I certainly saw myself as a moody cow!  Till the day I did the Belbin quiz! It was so enlightening I remember rushing into the office after the course exclaiming that I’d finally found out the meaning of life, the universe and everything! Let me explain!

There are 8 [in 2012 there are now 9] basic Belbin types; if you get a high score for a type this represents your predominant style, while a low score indicates a type that you rarely use. So, like most people I was expecting to get a high score, a low score and lots in the middle, so that I could honestly say that I was one particular type. However, things just didn’t turn out like that! While other people doing the quiz revealed their scores to the group – highs, lows and lots in the middle – and usually found they agreed with the results, I was sitting re-calculating my scores, hoping they’d come out a different way, because I couldn’t quite work out why they’d gone wrong – except they hadn’t! My scores range from a massive 12 to a very low 4! (Just as a comparison, some of my team have done this quiz more recently and one member’s scores range from 0 up to 32!)

My score of 2 x 12s, 2 x 11s, 1 x 8, 2 x 6s and 1 x 4 had me perplexed. What was my dominant style? Interestingly, I don’t seem to have one – I could almost equally be any of the Belbin types (except perhaps for the type that scored 4). Great – so I’m a Jack of All Trades, and master of none! Wow – I’m a wishy-washy, fickle type who flits from one type to another! On the flip side – I’m versatile, I suppose. This explains how I can be so different in various situations – instinctively I will fill in the gap and be the missing type in a meeting, or, I will choose to be a particular type for that situation – not moody at all, just responding to the other types around me.

Of course, the dilemma is how do I improve my score of 4? As I see it the only way to increase that score is at the expense of some of the other scores, which, given that they are all so low, makes it a difficult decision – have I ever had the urge to be more extroverted, enthusiastic, curious or communicative – nah. Probably not worth it then!

As for the three clusters of types, my average scores suggest that I fall into the ACTION-oriented roles firstly (average score 11.5), followed by the CEREBRAL-oriented roles (average score 8.5) and finally the PEOPLE-oriented roles (average score 6). The typical features of my 2 x 11s is quite contradictory – highly strung, dynamic and outgoing, compared to sober, unemotional and prudent – as are some of my other close scores. Goodness me, no wonder I get confused sometimes!! And no wonder, also, that you never know quite what you’re going to get when you enter into a discussion with me!

At our recent team away day, we again looked at Belbin, and initially I was surprised to find that my scores had changed a bit! The range is greater: I now go from a 4 up to a 15. Nevertheless, the scoring is very similar to previously and again, they are all very close (4, 5, 7, 9, 3x10, 15) meaning I am still a jack-of-all-trades! Interestingly, now I think about it I think I can see that my 15 has increased because the person I work most closely with at work scored a 0; our styles are complementary, and as long as we both recognise this then we can work together harmoniously, with only the odd moment of despair!

Again, interestingly, I still fall firstly into the ACTION-oriented roles, although the average score dropped from 11.5 to 10.5. However, PEOPLE-oriented roles has moved from last to second place, its average score going from 6 to 8, and, therefore, CEREBRAL-oriented roles have moved to last place, the average having gone down from 8.5 to 7.5 These are not huge changes, but they are enough to make me reflect that these really are based on working styles and some of these I have adopted because of the way my role at work has developed and changed over the years.

For more info on Belbin team roles you could look at this website, for more on the categorisation of the roles, this summary is good, and for an update, the Belbin website is great, as is their comprehensive review, showing the latest thinking, and the actual questionnaire is also available from them (for a charge).

I'd be very interested to hear from you if you've know your team role preferences - especially if you're a cataloguer!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Reflections on reflection

If you happened upon my previous post about my personal thoughts on levels of competence, as discussed by Sheila Webber in her blog post on cpd23, then you will see where I am coming from with this post!!

Although I realise I lack confidence in my ability to do just about anything, this is really the only self-awareness that I have gained over the years! Rather pathetic really, because, if I was more self-aware then I’d be able to work on those areas where I’m not so good and become a better person.

Over the years, however, there have been illuminating moments where I have realised a bit more about myself. The first of these was when I did the Belbin team-working questionnaire and realised that I really had no preferred role and so was really a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades (I thought I'd blogged about this but can't seem to find it now, so perhaps I didn't!).

More recently, I have done another short questionnaire that has helped me to become a little bit more self-aware. Now, please don’t ask me why, given my lack of confidence, but I decided I’d like to investigate what it meant to be a mentor within the profession, and to that end I enrolled on the CILIP PTEG mentoring course. This was a day-long event that concentrated on the skills needed in order to mentor a CILIP chartership, or ACLIP candidate, and along the way we did a short questionnaire on learning styles.

I’ve done learning styles questionnaires before, but those were to do with whether you were an aural or a visual or a kinesthetic learner; the one we did on the mentoring course was along the lines of the Honey and Mumford one. Now, this was illuminating! Although, if I think about it hard enough, it shouldn’t have been illuminating, I should already have known what my preferred style was!

Anyway, in short, it turned out I was 4 parts reflective, 3 parts theorist, and 0 parts activist or pragmatist. I’m sure I’m not breaking any confidences if I say that the room was full of about half and half – that is half reflective/theorists and half activists/pragmatists, with one or two folk having a sole predominant style – and, knowing this, it was interesting to be more aware of how we all interacted.

As I said above, this was one of those light bulb moments for me! It helped to explain how and why I find it difficult to work with people who make snap decisions; I can feel wrong-footed, steam-rollered over, lacking in intelligence and unworthy. However, I now recognise that really I ought to work towards being less reflective/theoretical as sometimes it’s important to make decisions and take action rather more quickly than I do.

That led me onto thinking about change, and my attitude towards it. I’ve always said I don’t much like change, but actually, it’s probably more to do with being given enough time to think about the specific change and the implications/ramifications/consequences/impact the change might have on me, on my work, on my workplace, on my colleagues and on the users! If I feel I haven’t had enough time to reflect on it then I can feel threatened by it and overwhelmed. Trouble is, there isn’t always time to think too long and hard; some changes have to be made quickly, either in response to something or to pre-empt things. 

As with most things, I guess it’s all about balance, self-awareness, and not letting styles get in the way of working, and not letting styles become levels of unconscious competence that drift into levels of unconscious incompetence – meaning yes, it’s good to think and reflect, and yes, I’m quite good at it, but if I think too long I’ll miss the action and miss the chance to get things done!

Of course, I can always find something that vindicates the way I am! Clutterbuck (2004) said:

“people … have less and less time to stop and think deeply … Deep, reflective thinking is as essential to the effectiveness of our conscious brain as REM sleep is to our unconscious. In both cases we become dysfunctional if our minds do not carry out the essential task of analysing, structuring, organising and storing.”

Julian Baggini, in an interview on Radio 4’s Start the Week, is also an advocator of procrastination as a way to achieve things. Contrast this to Malcolm Gladwell and his Blink theories, and maybe somewhere in between is the perfect solution!


Clutterbuck, David. (2004). Everyone needs a mentor: fostering talent in your organisation. 4th ed. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Reflections on competence

Between Thing 9 and 10!

During her between Things post on cpd23, Sheila Webber talked about cpd in your later career, a topic that really grabbed my interest, not least because I’ve been in the profession a long time (31 years, if you must know!), and there have been many life events recently that have caused me not only to reminisce, but also to look forward!

Way back in the ‘70s when I started at university, for many of us this was the first opportunity to experience working with a computer. Actually, as I remember it, we were all terrified in our first couple of weeks when we had to do a test actually using the terminal (remember them? dumb terminals connected to a mainframe!) I’m not sure, but I got the feeling we were going to blow it up if we got the answers wrong!

Anyway, from those early days, the developments in IT have just kept on coming and coming and coming, as  - by a mixture of luck, judgement and training - have our capabilities to use it. However, I have always felt that there was something (well, actually, lots of things) that I didn’t know about but felt I should, but trying to identify what I didn’t know and get the training I needed to get to grips with these things has always been difficult. I’ve blogged in an earlier post about our team new technologies day, which went some way to providing some IT knowledge for team members, and I've blogged about why I took part in the original cdp23 programme, and it’s really for this reason, to keep up with IT developments, that I am keeping an eye on cpd23 2012.

Reading Sheila’s post, I was quite interested in the four levels of competence.

  1. unconscious incompetence - while I was sure I’d passed the first level (no realisation that I was not good at something),
  2. conscious incompetence - I thought I might have passed the second level (realisation that I was not good at something),
  3. conscious competence - and really hoped I’d got to the next level, which was stopping being not good at something if I really put my mind to it!
  4. unconscious competence - I quaked a bit when I read about “unconscious competence”; this suggests that one is brilliant at doing something without realising it, or having to think about it. Given my levels of confidence (i.e. complete lack of self-confidence) I thought it unlikely that I had reached this level of competence, but of course, I couldn’t help contemplating that maybe others thought that with the length of time I’ve been in the profession I really ought to have reached that level and therefore I needed to beware that I wasn’t slipping into competence level 1 in the eyes of others!
Taking Sheila’s advice, I should force myself out of any comfortable habits by self-evaluating, joining a peer-review scheme, or talking with critical friends, as well as setting up mechanisms to keep myself updated.

Sheila also wrote about the work of one of her PhD students, Eva Hornung, on how one’s view of cpd changes over time, and I am quite sure that I am in the stage that views cpd as lifelong learning! As far as I am concerned, life is one long life-long learning event, as my colleagues at mashdmu will confirm! Never a day goes by when I don’t learn something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am constantly reviewing what I’ve learned and putting it into action. If this were the case, I would spend so much time reflecting that actually, I’d never get anything done!!

Hmmm, now that’s made me think ... ! Reflections on reflection ...