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Balanced Team Roles

One of the main issues when considering successful teamwork is the balance of membership. If, for instance, essential skills or competences are lacking, tasks will not be successfully accomplished. As a result, the symptom of frustration will appear due to the fact that individuals cannot meet their aspirations and needs. Frequently, team members will not “use mistakes as opportunities for increased learning and improvement, but as excuses for punishing those who made the mistakes” (Woodcock, 1989:9).

On a personal level, I have experienced the described situation, where, in the team were to many creativity and leadership based individuals, who raised a conflict on how these positions should be allocated. Finally, some team members accepted others roles and certain creative and leadership tasks have been distributed between team members. Essential skills necessary to manage finance, logistics, health & safety were lacking and therefore these sections had to be allocated to the last joining member. Competition can represent a great motivation tool when used right, helping members achieve unity and enjoy the deserved success of others.

However, unhealthy competition represents another indicator of poor teamwork and can lead to the dismembering of the team (Woodcock, 1989). Unhealthy competition has been present in the team

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during the early stages, when different ideas and opinions have been raised. Some members have been temperamental and have not given arguments to support their statements. The power of authority has been misused by forcing ideas and concepts that have not been discussed with the team. The unsuccessful management and rejection of team members views and ideas lead to introversion, poor team cooperation and feedback.

Meetings are thought to be “ another key indicator of teamwork”, and are used with the purpose to “utilise the collective skills of a group of people whilst working on common problems and opportunities” (Woodcock,1989:10). Another issue that may arise when the conditions of personal freedom, support and security are not met is the lack or dearth of creativity. If not listened to and offered help, most team members will have a sense of inhibition and will not express their ideas, from an intrinsic fear of rejection (Woodcock, 1989).

A common agreement has been reached in the beginning stating that all team meeting are mandatory and therefore, even if inhibition was present, the team members were attending. However, Woodcock(1989:13) has identified the “raw materials of effective teamwork”. These “building block” represent the foundation of any successful team: Balanced roles, Clear Objectives and agreed goals, Openness and confrontation, Support and trust, Co-operation and Conflict, Sound Procedures, Appropriate leadership, Regular review, Individual development, Sound inter-group relations, Good communications.

Balanced Team Roles Woodcock(1989) believes an effective team is a blend of different talents and abilities which are used to suit differing situations. The mix of team membership, in terms of personalities and approaches, must be balanced for optimal results. When referring to balanced roles, there must be considered the fit between the person and the role. Woodcock(1989) has defined a series of different roles and responsibilities a team should comprise of such as team leader, expert, challenger, ambassador, judge, innovator, diplomat, conformer, output pusher, quality controller, supporter and reviewer.

A leader is indispensable to any team as his main duty is to form the team, determine contributions and identify strengths and weaknesses. It is his responsibility to “get the best out of everyone and to review the needs of the team at different stages and its development” (Woodcock, 1989:77). Different members may assume this role in different situations. Overall, the leader sets the objectives and monitors the performance. The challenger adopts an unconventional approach as he must supervise the project evolution, it’s determining factors and constantly challenge the accepted order.

He/She can be seen as unpopular or worthless, but without it a team risks becoming complacent and lack stimulus to radically review its performance. The expert’s primarily role is “ to provide the team with the expertise required to meet a particular objective” (Woodcock,1989:77). They give their professional viewpoint which is needed by the team in order to evaluate the opportunities and constrains. The main responsibility of the ambassador is to built external relationships which enable the team to successfully complete its task.

The ambassador, which might be referred to as a bridge builder, tests the environment in which his team operates and is considered to be the team’s public relations representative. The judge is concerned with listening, questioning and pondering before making decisions. He is concerned with the correct evaluation of ideas and decision righteousness. This person provides logic and balance, despite the fact that it might be seen as slow or ponderous.

The innovator is the team member who uses imagination to its fullest, providing new ideas and ensuring their correct evaluation and development. An innovator deals with complex problems which demand new approaches, building onto the original idea of others by visualising opportunities and transforming them into practical strategies. He/She helps the team understand the new/unconventional and is an inexhaustible source of ingenuity, imagination, vision and logic. The diplomatic solutions are implemented by the diplomat, who is a good negotiator and has high influence within the team.

In challenging times, this is the member that will lead the team through shaking grounds by building alliances inside and outside the team and ensuring general acceptance of the solution. The conformer adopts a co-operative stance and fills the inevitable unperceived gaps. He is often regarded as a “fixer” who observes what is happening, what is needed and works towards the completion of those tasks. The “self-motivated achiever with persistent drive to see tangible results”, who constantly reminds the team about objectives, output requirements and time scales, is defined as the output pusher (Woodcock, 1989:70).

He is a committed, results orientated person, who might often be intolerant to other team members views. Inspiring the team to strive for higher standards, the quality controller, might be often “accused of holding up process and who may often clash with the Output Pusher in the desire to see that quality is maintained” (Woodcock, 1989:70). The supporter is a relationship orientated person who build morale within the team. He ensures the environment is propitious for people to give and do their best.

He develops the contribution of others and can be seen as a considerable source of advice. The reviewer makes objective observation on team operations and performance. He is process orientated and gives feedback to the team, enabling it to improve its future performance based on past experiences. A role might be exclusively embodied by one individual, or one team member can represent a blend of roles. The most comprehensive approach is manifested when team members adopt different roles according to the situation given(Woodcock, 1989).

There have been issued several approaches with regards to team roles, such as models of personality mix for balanced teams with for dimensions: sensing-intuition, extroversion-introversion, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceiving( West, 2005). Barrick et al. ,(1991), offers a more robust model used for personality analysis and mix within a team. According to this model there are five dimensions of personality: openness and experience(actions and ideas), conscientiousness(self-discipline, order, competence), extroversion( gregariousness, positive emotions), agreeableness( trust, straightforwardness) and neuroticism( vulnerability, anxiety).

Barrick et al. (1991) underlines the importance of personality when assigning the task, and believes this connection has a powerful impact on team and individual performance. For example, teams that have a high level of extroversion are better decision makers than planners. Perhaps one of the most popular approaches on roles of team roles is Belbin’s (1993, 2004), which is widely shared and used by authors including West (2004).

Even though several features and details differ between the two books (1993, 2004), mostly within the classification and description of the roles, the overall framework is maintained ( for example in the “Team Roles at Work(1993) the roles of co-ordinator and specialist are presented, while in “Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail” (2004), they are absent and the roles of Chairman and Company Worker are featured). However, an overall analysis of the roles and their specification will be given, as well as an reflective insight into personal experience.

Belbin (1993) suggests there are nine team roles and argues that a balance of all these is required for the effective performance of a team. Individuals may incorporate several roles as primarily or secondary, dominant or subdominant. Even though West (2004:33) believes that “ there is little evidence to support these predictions and instruments developed to measure the team role types … do not appear to have good psychometric properties”, Belbin’s (1993) guild line is successfully used by many managers and consultants due to its practicality.

The co-ordinator(2004)/chairman(1993) is a trusting, dominant and accepting person, committed to achieve team goals and objectives. It is a person-orientated individual, who may not stand out of the team and doesn’t posses a sharp intellectual, but who always has the tolerance to listen to others and the strength to reject their advice. The shaper is highly motivated to achieve optimal performance, nervous, a task-focused leader. In the pursuit of goal achievement he will “shape” others and may argue, challenge, disagree and even display aggression.

The plant is characterised by a high IQ, dominance, originality and introversion. He/She teas radical approaches to the problems encountered and team functioning. However, they tend to disregard practical details, ague and be concerned only with the major issues. The resource investigators are people who develop contacts and explore opportunities. They negotiate effectively, explore resources outside the team, lose interest in an idea prematurely and may not be a source of original ideas. They are enthusiastic, sociable and have great liaison skills.

The company worker(2004)/implementer(1993) is defined as conscientious, declined and aware of external obligations. They are tolerant and trusting, practical, tough-minded, respectful, and realistic. Their perform the tasks others do not want to do and can be seen as conventional, conservative, inflexible and slow. The monitor evaluator is a judicious, intelligent, serious-minded, prudent person which contributes more in crucial decision making due to their ability to accurately evaluate competing proposals.

He/She takes pride in being right and might seem critical and boring. They lack the ability to inspire others. The team worker handles difficult characters within the team and makes interventions to avert potential friction. They enable other members to contribute effectively and keep the team spirit up. Sociable and sensitive, they have great listening skills and are mainly people-orientated. Their sense of humour and diplomacy are mush appreciated, but on the other hand they are reluctant and indecisive in moment of crisis or in hurting others.

The completer-finisher gives attention to the last details and aim to complete projects thoroughly. They are characterised by consistency and are not very fond of success. However, they tend to have difficulties delegating work, letting go and are overanxious. The specialist supplies the team with the knowledge and technical skills needed. They are often introverted and anxious, committed and dedicated. They lack interest in peoples’ subjects and are single-minded. IV. 3. Embodying the Team Roles

Following Belbin’s (2004) description, Habiba embodies the chairman and the company worker, due to the fact that she has a great organising ability, self-discipline, she is hard-working and exerts practical common sense. She has a strong sense of objectives, however she lacks the capacity of welcoming the full potential of contributors and praise them for their merits. She lacks flexibility and is ordinary in terms of creativity. She took the leader role and managed the team in order to achieve its tasks. Apple embodies the plant as she is individualistic, creative and sometimes unorthodox.

She generates great ideas and imagination and always disregards practical details. She was the Creative Directed and therefor took charge of the creative side of the project and the layout of the presentation. Hannah embodies the resource investigator as she is extroverted and enthusiastic with a proven capacity of exploring everything new. She has a great ability to respond positively to challenge and is communicative. However, after initial fascination has passed she will perform her tasks with lack of interest or enthusiasm. She took charge of the overall research and operations necessary for the presentation.

Louis embodies the team worker, being socially oriented, but sensitive. He has an ability to promote team spirit and communicate effectively. Louis was involved in the logistics of the event as well as programme. Katie embodies the monitor-evaluator and the completer-finisher as she had clear judgement and discretion as well as a capacity to follow-through. She is a perfectionist, has the tendency to worry about small things and lack the ability to motivate others. Katie took charge of the concept of the event, the constant monitoring and the final review of the presentation.

On a personal critical analysis, I (Smaranda), correspond to plant and the shaper, since I see myself as individualistic, with a broad imagination and power of creation, but in the same time social and dynamic, with a drive to challenge the inertia and ineffectiveness. However, exposed to irritation and impatience as well as unpractical. I have been assigned the role of Financial, Health, Safety and Risk Director for the overall project and presentation. IV. 4. De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats Concept V. Personal Reflection During the course of this activity I have learned numerous things about working in groups and conflict management.

I have also discovered a few potential strengths and weaknesses of myself. I have realised that in order to carry out an efficient activity/presentation, one must take in account many factors and has to activate within certain limits. At a first glance I thought the task would be easy to achieve successfully, however, it proved to be more complex than I could perceive it. This made me more precautions when anticipating a situation and less like to underestimate it. Working in a group for this presentation has developed my communication and cooperation skills.

I have learned to analyse all options and choose the viable one through brainstorming. I have been exposed to new concepts and ideas as well as forced to support my ideas with strong arguments. I have also learned how conflicts can sabotage the group performance, how they arise and how they should be managed and solved. On a personal level, I gained confidence when speaking in public and I realised I need to improve my non-verbal communication so I can be more effective. However, this project gave me a goo opportunity to realise the difference between working in collaboration or as a sole individual.

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