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Bernard Chanliau

Xenergie Consulting Ltd


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Does Belbin knowledge really make a difference at team level?


During the last two weeks I had the chance to facilitate two team performance sessions with our clients using the Belbin methodology. This article paints the importance and simplicity of using tools such as Belbin Team Roles mixed with action learning within a team coaching engagement and getting results. As a reminder and for the non-practitioner, below is an interview from 2008 with the team and management expert, Dr Meredith Belbin. The interview is taken from the Belbin DVD Fire, Toast and Teamwork.

In this clip, the interviewer (Nigel Belbin, Meredith’s son) asks questions, such as:

  • What do we know about Belbin and how it will help people in the workplace?
  • What’s different about Belbin?
  • What is the ideal size of team?
  • Do we need all 9 Team Roles present in a team at all times?

At Xenergie we apply team role knowledge by dealing with imbalances in team composition from our team coaching engagements. Belbin proved that balanced teams perform better over the long run than imbalanced ones and for our clients this is a great KPI as academics have enthusiastically piled up study after study showing the varied benefits of a balanced team.

Specifically, what is required is that each of the nine roles is represented on a team or using the human body as a metaphor we have a balanced contribution and interaction of ‘thinkers – the head; doers – the hands; and social – the heart‘.

In plain terms this means a team with a ‘thinking’ (SP-ME-PL) connotation might excel at strategic thinking skills, innovating however have an ‘implementation’ blind spot or vice versa a ‘doing team’ (SH-IMP-CF) will not spend enough time reflecting on the process of efficiencies or innovation – doing the same thing over and over….This is based on the premise that selection of objectives of a process are just as important as the quality of that process.

We often implement Belbin in coaching teams because it measures behaviours as oppose to personality, uses 360-Observer Assessments (OA) to form a more rounded view of the individual’s contribution and we can plug this into our evaluation processes.  Whilst it could be argued that only the individual himself knows his own personality, behaviour is observable and can be interpreted and used to predict future reactions and conduct.  This constitutes one aspect of our team coaching evaluation post engagement.

This level of evaluation helps measure whether there was an actual transfer of learning to the actual work setting and will increase the visibility of learning and development efforts, because successful implementation of this evaluation affects learners, managers, project stakeholders, subject matter experts (SMEs), and line supervisors.

At each stage of a working task (i.e What, Why, Who, Where, When, How?) team roles become more valuable as depicted in the diagram below, so we tend to use action learning (a dynamic process that involves a small group of people solving real problems), as a process of transferring skill-sets to increase team productivity hence performance. Learning by doing whilst reflecting on the team outputs can be a powerful transfer of information to tacit knowledge.Belbin Ireland Xenergie

With a medical device firm, coaching a global Senior Management Team (SMT), we experienced in over-reliance on the SH – SP – ME (i.e. raising professional standards/calculating/cross-examining working styles) combination of team roles during experiential learning team exercises leading to an over-discussion on what is the right  strategy and an over-dependence on analysis. As strategic vs. operational time management leading to confusion and disengagement was identified as a learning priority we explicitly focused on experiential learning exercises on problem solving.

After some debrief coaching feedback on the imbalance of this senior management team (i.e. working on failure, role contribution, psycho-dynamic analysis ..etc) the team adopted an alternative leadership model and realised the importance of following through with the role of the coordinator (CO).

Previously, the team’s reputation was only resting on its professional experience and its capacity for analysis and diagnosis. With a renewed focus and attention on its capacity for action the team was well-equipped to achieve the goals it set itself and this was confirmed during the following week with major actionable items announced by the SMT to the whole organisation.

Bernard Chanliau will be facilitating the next Belbin Team Role Certification on the 14th May in Dublin 4 with Barrie Watson, Director of Belbin Associates UK (Xenergie has trained 200+ delegates in Ireland since 2004 with Barrie Watson in Ireland). A Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF), master trainer in the Belbin methodology, Bernard has significant experience in coaching senior management teams and leads the Xenergie faculty with its X-Perience Systemic Team Coaching certificate. He can be contacted on +353 (0)86 104 38 05.  

Systems coaching has become a powerful and effective intervention within corporations and business arenas. Xenergie Consulting Ltd is pleased to offer recordings of our Webinars on Systemic Team Coaching in order to inspire a better understanding of what team coaching is, and is not, and how it can improve the triple bottom line – profit, people and planet. Contact us for more information!!

Xenergie LinKedIn PageSee Belbin Team Role Certification recommendations on our Company Page on LinkedIn

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One Response

  1. Team Development Tools

    Hi Bernard,

    Thanks for the great post and I totally agree with your approach of using Belbin methodology to support teams to look at personal behavioural preferences and team role composition/ balancing.

    Using the tool that enables the team to have the 'conversation they need to have' to move them forward, is key – I've found that having a range of resources to call upon (depending on the teams situation/ context) works well. My preferences are:

    • – For role clarification, personal preferences and team balancing Belbin
    • – Frameworks for supporting people to really get to know each other MBTI, PSA, Insights
    • – Enabling the team to work and function better together Lumus360 Internal Surveys
    • – Gaining direction and purpose – External Surveys

    Very best


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Bernard Chanliau


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