Use the evidence-based research and insights of Team Roles to help your people understand one another and adapt to virtual working.
Like co‐located teams, virtual teams need a balance of Team Roles in order to succeed.
The exact combination required – and when they should be added to the mix – will vary depending on what the team is required to do. But it is important to remember that virtual teamworking may come more easily to some than to others, and that some Team Role contributions rely more heavily on visual cues which may be absent in virtual teamworking.
Belbin's 9 Team Roles measure the natural behavioural clusters that define our contributions to teamwork, working relationships and management. People deploy more than one in isolation, we all have a unique chemistry of natural, manageable and least preferred roles. How these occur in real-world scenarios characterises our approach to work, other people and also the potential challenges of remote working.
Some people are also more adaptable than others in which roles they can deploy at any given time. There is no right or wrong combination, just a manifestation of strengths and weaknesses that will impact well or poorly depending upon how well a person manages them.
When we better understand the behavioural Roles we play best, and then those of others in our team, we are far better placed to understand one another and leverage our strengths whilst offsetting weaknesses.
Plants and Specialists may relish the freedom and independence remote working offers, but they may need close monitoring to ensure that they remain in line with the team’s objectives, as they may become distracted by ideas or other subjects of interest, respectively.
Monitor Evaluator, Shaper and Completer Finisher behaviours are perhaps the most likely to be misconstrued in virtual teams, for different reasons. Monitor Evaluators may be seen as uncommunicative or overly negative; Shapers, too harsh, and Completer Finishers, splitting hairs. Different cultural expectations have the potential to magnify these difficulties, so it is vital that the importance of these contributions is reiterated when these roles come into play.
Resource Investigators and Teamworkers might find that they need to adapt their communication style to relate to others within and outside the team. Teamworkers might be required to bridge cultural gaps, whilst Resource Investigators may find that they need to listen more (rather than talk) on group calls, to ensure that everyone is given ‘airtime’.
Co-ordinators and Implementers are responsible for the organisation of people and tasks, respectively. Implementers will face organizational changes on a logistical level – ensuring that plans are clear and concise, with no room for ambiguity across time‐zones. According to Harvard Business Review, virtual teams work best with a ‘monitor and mentor’ approach to leadership, which fits most closely with the Co‐ordinator role. It is also stipulated that sharing and rotating power in a virtual team engenders trust, so it may fall to the Co‐ordinator to identify the best person to lead the team at any given stage, and to ensure that this process takes place.