10 ways to make the learning stick: Growing Belbin in your teams.



One hour.


That’s how long it takes to forget half of what you’ve learned on a course. After a day, 70% of the learning has vanished. After a week, 75%.


For companies who invest money in teambuilding events, that’s a serious lack of ROI.

And success depends on retaining and applying that learning. Given the complexity of the problems facing organisations today, effective teams are essential to growth and competitive advantage. They’re the powerhouses of organisations – the most powerful weapon in a company’s arsenal.


Teams aren’t just built, they need to be analysed, fine-tuned, bolstered, re-energised, deconstructed and reconstructed. And if we don’t accept this curation as crucial to the health of teams, the cracks will begin to show.


The problem with some tools that give us insights into our personalities or sort us into ‘types’ is that they don’t begin to tackle this important work, because they have little or no bearing on what we do, day to day.


They’re often well-presented – we can label ourselves with colours or symbols – but how do we carry that information forward? How do we apply it to boost performance and revenue when we get back to work?


Belbin is different.


We measure what people do – not who they say they are – so we’re beginning with what really happens on the ground, not what’s going on in one person’s head, which may or may not reflect everyone else’s reality.

So, what can you do to lock in ROI and ensure that your team’s Belbin learning takes root back in your workplace?


Revisit the Belbin Individual Reports


The Belbin Individual Reports are a great starting-point for those new to Belbin. They contain the advice and guidance to help people articulate and hone their strengths, and to see where they fit within the team.


When Belbin Team Roles are introduced at a teambuilding event (especially if the learning only forms part of the day), there’s barely time to scratch the surface of the report, so it’s important that team members take time to digest the content after the fact, and are given the space to reflect and ask questions arising.


Take it to the team


Once you know your individual players, it’s time to ‘think teams’. Belbin theory is all about understanding each member’s unique contribution to a team, and the Belbin Team Report is a great next step for teams wishing to build on their learning.


The Team Reports collate individual data to get people thinking about who does what and why, and how the team culture might look. Rather than being prescriptive, the reports provoke questions, and instigate discussion and reflection.


Does someone take on a certain kind of work for historical reasons? Is there tension between someone’s Team Roles and their functional role? If so, is anyone else more suited to the task or willing to grow into it?


The discussion arising is a great opportunity to consolidate the team’s understanding of Team Roles and to apply that learning in a way that directly benefits the team’s function.


Make meetings count


Meetings are a prime place to use the language of Belbin, for two reasons.


Firstly, lots of different kinds of work are likely to be under discussion, so there’s room to talk about what each piece needs and who might be best suited to that stage.


For example, a project at its inception might need Plant and Resource Investigator input to generate ideas. The planning stage is likely to require Monitor Evaluator and Implementer strengths.


Secondly, meetings can offer a microcosm of Team Role behaviours in action. Is the chair playing a Co-ordinator role by seeking consensus and airing different views, or playing the Shaper by pointing out the deadline and demanding concrete actions with accompanying dates?


Once the team can identify contributions successfully, can they begin to use the Team Role language to articulate what they need? For example: “I think we need to ME (Monitor Evaluator) this at a later date”. Having a ready shorthand (so long as the understanding is there too) can defuse tension, save valuable time and decrease frustration.


Once the team sees the value in using this language, it gains purpose so is prioritised in memory.


The team that plays together stays together


A key finding from our most recent survey was that customers who purchased our team building games alongside the reports were more easily able to keep Belbin current and continued deriving benefits from Team Roles for longer after the initial event or exercise.

Experiential learning consolidates theoretical understanding and offers a practical illustration of Team Roles in action.


You can find out more about our games and exercises on the site or call or email us.


Become a Belbin champion


Belbin doesn’t need a gatekeeper – in fact, it works best when used on the ground with teams that can put the practical advice into practice straightaway.


So, be the change you want to see in your team or organisation. Deploy the language of Belbin day-to-day to familiarise others with the various roles.


Speak to other teams about your experiences of the benefits and make Belbin a cultural movement in your organisation, rather than your team’s secret weapon.


Keep your knowledge current


To beat the forgetting curve, you need to refresh your knowledge regularly.

We have a wealth of information and resources on our website, including articles and team session ideas.


We also have a number of courses and events designed to help you make the most of the Reports and exercises.


And we’re only ever a phone call away (1300 731 381).


Keep Belbin in your eyeline


Visual prompts can be really effective in embedding learning.


Why not draw up a Team Role Circle at your team’s daily or weekly meeting, or for different projects? This can give you an at-a-glance view of the strengths available to the team and keep people focused on their contributions.


You can use sticky notes to move people between segments, making the point that our contributions aren’t static. If someone is playing out of role, acknowledge this effort and stress that the change won’t be permanent.


Delegate more effectively


If you’re managing a team, Belbin can help you delegate more effectively.

Team Role language is a succinct way to clarify the kind of contribution you need, and excluding behaviours which could be counterproductive.


If you ask someone to “CF” a document, you’re asking them to play a Completer Finisher role, checking the details and identifying any errors or problems. You’re not asking them to rewrite the proposal with a new idea (Plant) or even to analyse potential problems at a broader strategic level (Monitor Evaluator).


Using the language of Team Roles can help depersonalise the issue: it’s not that those other contributions aren’t valid, it’s just that they’re not what’s needed right now.


Break new ground


Many teams use Belbin once they’re already in situ, but if you have the luxury of building a new team (perhaps a sub-team or pairing for a particular project), ensure you take Team Role behaviours into account.


This is a topic all of its own, but suffice it to say that you should keep the team small, consider the team’s objectives carefully – you don’t always need all Team Roles present — and aim for balance.


Take the pain out of troubleshooting


Belbin uses a lexicon of behavioural styles and preferences. This can help the team investigate why things are going wrong, without making it personal.


The Team Role Averages Report analyses the team’s culture, so it’s ideal for spotting trends in how the team functions and responds to challenges.


For example, a customer service team is adept at providing support and following through to ensure that customers’ problems are resolved, but the team finds itself hesitating over important decisions and deadlines are frequently missed.


The team may have high Completer Finisher, Teamworker and Monitor Evaluator strengths and not much Shaper.


Is someone in the team able to stand apart and be responsible for taking difficult decisions? If not, does the team need to look to external resources?


This helps boost accountability and psychological safety (the ability to be candid and admit mistakes without fear of blame) and keeps things constructive.


Use it or lose it


After ‘first contact’, it takes time for a team to become ‘fluent’ in Belbin.

It doesn’t happen by magic.


The more the Team Role language is used and applied, the greater the chances of its full benefits being realised.


We’d love to hear how you use Belbin day-to-day in your team, so drop us a line.


And as always, if you need anything Belbin, call us on 1300 731 381 or email Team@Belbin.com.au