Which role do I play in our group? Vol. 1

Some groups work whilst others don’t – this is simply a fact. And this is not based on luck or friendship or how the stars align. Groups work well when people occupy different positions in a team. In this post, I will go through the different types of roles in a team, their strengths and weaknesses.


Dr. Raymond Belbin is the mind behind The Nine Belbin Team Roles. He conducted studies in order to organize which teams seem to have success and which seem to be unsuccessful. At first, Belbin’s hypothesis was that the team with the most intellectual people would have greater results than a group consisting of people who were considered less intellectual. To his surprise, this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the groups who performed the best were groups that were balanced by different types of people. Which then let him to categorize those people.

Thus, the Team Roles were born in his book Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail (1981).

What you need to know before we get started: There are three overall categories, thought-oriented, action-oriented and people-oriented. Within those are each three different types of team roles. Most people don’t fit perfectly with just one type of role, you may be a mix of two or three. These team roles are merely to give you an overview of, which contribution you offer to a team and which type of people you should look for in order to create the greatest group.

The Monitor Evaluator (thought-oriented)

If you are a monitor evaluator you are as logical as they come. You’re great at facing problems with analytical tools and the outcome of your thinking will be what is best in order to solve the problem. This means that you are impartial and that you will side with the idea that is most effective. You are a strategic planner and a critical thinker and your team can be assured that all the pros and cons have been evaluated by you before launching the idea. When that is said, you work well on your own and being part of a group doesn’t come naturally to you. However, you can sometimes be too critical which, potentially, can result in you colleagues not being that inspired. Because of your thoroughness you may take a lot of time to reach a decision.

Monitor Evaluators often hold managerial positions.

The Specialist (thought-oriented)

Here’s another role who thrives working alone but still contributes well to a team. The specialist, as the name implies, specializes within a narrow subject. You will be highly dedicated and self-starting. Your specific knowledge will be of great contribution to the team. However, a specialist tends to dwell on technicalities. When that is said, a specialist will be very helpful when the matter is within their field. 

The Specialist was not initially a part of the nine roles since the simulation exercise did not require specialized knowledge.

cbs students collaborating with a company on thesis

The Plant (thought-oriented)

The Plants are highly creative people. You’re great at thinking in new directions because of your extended imagination. This often helps generate new ideas that can help solve new or unconventional tasks. Because of the new ideas for processes and problem-solving you also tend to be one of the drivers for progress and innovation – which everyone loves. However, you tend to be a bit distracted, some will say you have your head in the clouds. And you may also be so caught up in your own ideas that you struggle to acknowledge your fellow teammates’ ideas.

You may wonder why you’re called ‘a plant’. Well, Belbin has an explanation:

“We called these clever people plants, because the chaps at Henley insisted we plant one in each group”

Dr. Raymond Belbin

All of the above are thought-oriented people. The traits that seem to be uniting them is their ability to be critical thinkers whilst being good problem solvers. All three also tend to prefer working on their own and are therefore not that involved socially.

The Coordinator (people-oriented)

The Coordinator is best known for being the mature and confident group member. You have great communication skills and have an eye for talent. Therefore, you are often perceived as the leader who can delegate tasks that apply to your group’s strengths. You have a way of clarifying goals and seeing the bigger picture. However, because of your way of delegating tasks some people may perceive you as manipulative or think that you over delegate leaving no tasks for yourself.

Coordinators are often seen in management positions where they conduct an open communication and a democratic approach.

We will follow up on the remaining five team roles in vol. 2. So, stay tuned!