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Organisations are powered by sets of relationships. Belbin can help increase the power.


The Hunter-Gatherers may be seen as mankind’s first use of sets of working relationships. From there we have progressed to the highly complex intellectual “think tanks” to be found in modern organisations; but in every set of working relationships there is potential to work together to achieve group objectives, to “coast along” in neutral mode, or to be destructive and counter-productive.


We all have a professional and a personal relationship with our colleagues. Some we work gladly with, others we manage to get along with, and some we dislike! All these attitudes have an impact on our productive effort and our morale. There are many sets of relationships in any organisation – between managers, financial people, administrators, design, personnel, production, information technology etc., and of course relationships with clients, potential clients and the community.

A SET OF WORKING RELATIONSHIPS can have a constructive, neutral, or negative effect on the morale and hence the efficiency of each group or team of people at work. These “work relationships” are what power the effectiveness of an organisation and they need to be assessed rather than as is so often the case, taken for granted!

HOW ARE THE SETS OF RELATIONSHIPS IN AN ORGANISATION ASSESSED? At simplest level by asking the questions:- “Who would you most like to work with, who would you least like to work with, and who don’t you mind working with”? At a much more sophisticated level, a well researched and internationally favoured method to assess relationships in work teams, or the relationship between any pair of people in an organisation is to use the world-famous Belbin “Team Roles”. Dr. Meredith Belbin from Cambridge suggests that there are a finite number of working styles or TEAM ROLES.

These nine Team Roles can be classified into those that can be adopted naturally, adopted with some difficulty, or should be avoided by each individual, and their delineation pattern becomes as unique as a finger print. As a preliminary, the appropriate people in an organisation each complete a psychometric Teamwork Profile. However, completing only a self report is like hiring someone based on what the person tells you about themselves, without any check with referees or previous employers. We all know what unfortunate results this “half the process” can have! USING COLLEAGUES TO REPORT BEHAVIOUR.

When colleagues are asked to be observers, using the same descriptors which the person has used in their self-reporting, we then have a picture of how that person is “projecting” themselves to the people that he or she works with. In other words, we have the means of describing and comparing relationships between the person and each of their observers.This is a 360 degree profile of a person’s behaviour.

If one observer is the boss, two are colleagues, and one is a subordinate, we have the necessary input data to form a good impression of the sort of relationships that can be expected between the different members of a work team.. This data is presented in a non-threatening way, firstly by identifying each Observer by an anonymous code number, secondly, by being able to see at a glance how closely matched is the relationship between the person and their Observers, and thirdly by using the nine Belbin Team Roles as descriptors of behavior.


Belbin and his team of researchers found that well-balanced teams i.e. teams in which members had different, but complimentary strengths significantly out-performed teams lacking such balance. From the overall distribution data for the Team Roles, we obtain a picture of the Team Role “balance” of each team in the organisation, and we can assess how these sets of relationships will help or disadvantage the organisation in the achievement of personal and corporate objectives.

We can also, by using the aggregate of Observer descriptions, obtain a picture of the behaviours that are valued or de-valued by the team, or, if a sufficient number of staff members have assessed their colleagues, even of the “corporate culture”.


Within each set of relationships in an organisation there will generally be one person who has a significant influence on the performance and morale of the group. Whilst people expect this to be the most senior member, this is often not the case, and the identification of these people who have a key influence on relationships becomes very important to management.

The individuals who demonstrate a significant influence are generally those with not only a combination of skills and attitudes, but they have impeccable timing in knowing when to make their contribution to the group. Here again, the Belbin Team Roles are a significant predictor of the type of behaviour that can be expected from any specific combination of Team Roles that are characteristic of a person.


All the data generated can be obtained prior to an interactive workshop at which relationships within the organisation can be described and explained in a positive, supportive and non-threatening manner. * IDENTIFYING the strengths and weaknesses of each set of overall organisational relationships, enables morale to be improved and assistance unbalanced relationships.

UNDERSTANDING the behaviour of each member of a working relationship, will improve both personal and interpersonal relationships. *IDENTIFICATION of whom and where the “centres of influence” in their organisation can be found will assist management to assess the “balance of power” within the organisation.

“POTENTIAL PEOPLE PROBLEMS” and “problem people” can be identified IN GOOD TIME and suggested solutions to these situations.provided. Interestingly, it has been observed that about half of the appointments of senior executives in the United States turn out to have been wrong choices!

Each such mistake probably costs the organisation more than the first year’s salary of such senior appointments. Perhaps a major reason for this state of affairs is that people who are selected who have the right sort of qualifications and experience for the position (“eligibility” is right), do not have the sort of personality that fits its “shape” requirements, or they may be unable to fit into the relationships of the people surrounding that position (“suitability” is not right!)

Copyright: Applied Psychology Unit Pty Ltd. 2004

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