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!


  1. Heather Jardine3 August 2012 at 00:58

    I did Belbin many years ago and yes, was fascinated - but tend to think (being a terrible old cynic, as you all know by now) that it's just like horoscopes, or those "Are you hot or are you not" questionnaires in Cosmo - whatever the outcome, it contains enough general truth for you to be able to convince yourself that yes, it applies to you.
    What struck me about Belbin in the context in which it was presented to me, was that when team-building what you emphatically do NOT want is a team of people who all have the same profile. What you want is a team of people whose profiles complement each other. Just as, every football team needs a good goalkeeper, but no football team is going to function if it consists of ELEVEN goalkeepers. That, I think, is the danger in trying to determine a "cataloguer" profile and then set about building a team only of people who match it. I'm not saying that is what YOU would do, of course, but there is a lot of talk around there being a particular type of person who is good at cataloguing, and how to identify them. Most cataloguers are people too, thank goodness, and it can be other skills than just cataloguing ones which turn out to be the most valuable in a team (certainly the lack of those other skills can be the most costly).

  2. Thanks for your comments, Heather. I wholeheartedly agree with you when you talk about "enough general truth" to think it "applies to you"! One must always take these things with a pinch of salt and I would NEVER appoint anybody to my team based on their preferred working style! Again, I wholeheartedly agree that what we need is a balanced team of people who can work together harmoniously, and I think doing the quiz and sharing our top scores has helped people to understand where colleagues might be "coming from", which will in turn (hopefully) foster tolerance and understanding and help celebrate the diversity of team members, as well as encourage am even greater team spirit.
    As this post was essentially about me, I was interested to see how my working styles might have changed over the years!