Four go mad in Ely

Kelvin Bathe

Faculty: Lord Ashcroft International Business School
Department: Marketing
Course: MSc Marketing
Category: Business

18 March 2015

A shaper, a co-ordinator, an implementer and a plant run round a field in Ely in search of a missing scientist. Well, the truth is two of them run and the other two stroll but they all cross the line together at the end. And that was the point, we were able to be different but still achieve the same goal.

Many of you will be familiar with the work of Meredith Belbin and his theory of behaviours and how the combination of those behaviours leads to effective teams. Knowing your Belbin ‘type’ should in theory help you and your team manager be more effective in a working environment. Last Saturday the Business School, along with Broad Associates, hosted a training day for LAIBS interns, to put the work of Dr Belbin into practice

Teams of four or five were randomly thrown together and given a series of clues to solve and tasks to perform. All against the backdrop of the third smallest cathedral city in England (research people, it’s all in the research). The training was designed to test our abilities to work with what were effectively strangers in a competitive and challenging activity, and I guess to not fall out in the process!

I have taken a number of Belbin assessments over the years and seen my own behaviours change to adapt to different work situations (I am in no way a completer finisher but if I am the last person to sign off an ad campaign then you can be sure I am checking every detail). I have also often wondered what was the point of knowing what Belbin role I fit? Surely teams in working life are thrown together more by luck than judgement? As we were for this exercise. Most of the people who have managed me in the past have had no idea who Belbin is or what a resource investigator looks like. And even if they did know something, I have never seen any evidence of them building teams with Belbin in mind so that skills and behaviours were used more effectively.

So do some teams perform better just through sheer good fortune? Or is it the behaviours that team members bring to tasks that make them effective? Belbin would say the latter of course and I think he is right. Being aware of your own behaviour patterns or strengths gives you the basis to adapt to others and to recognise in them what their own effective behaviours are. Belbin might be sold as a management tool but for me it works best as self-awareness or personal development information. The more I know about myself the better I can work with others and make choices and decisions that are more likely to be successful, for both me as an individual and the team overall.

Aside from understanding more about Belbin there was one other rewarding element of the day. It is something that we can increasingly lose sight of as we concentrate on our individual goals, the singular nature of our studies and the pursuit of career advancement. That thing is the stimulus of being challenged to do something new, but more than that to take on the challenge with people who before that morning you had never met before.

Call me a big old softie but there is a real sense of achievement and dare I say it, joy, in being thrown together in a team, problem solving together, genuinely getting on and ultimately being successful.

The chance to have your own little world shaken up in a positive way is always one worth taking. To develop the approach that says ‘I know you are not like me but I love what you just did there to help the team complete the task’ is something we all need reminding about every now and then. Vive la difference, as they say in France.

Of course if the team I was in (go, team Crocus!) hadn’t come first then the knives would have been out and the tone of the post would have been much darker with blame being dished out left, right and centre!

That isn’t true of course. Yes we were competitive and winning by being first past the post is great, but success comes in other forms. I can only speak for myself, although I have a sneaky suspicion that my team mates probably felt the same, but the real pleasure of this exercise was finding people who were open, funny, positive and smart and who were able to make me feel that I was open, funny, positive and smart too. Perhaps that’s what Belbin is really saying, understand yourself, be confident about that, then bring it to a team and others will work brilliantly with you.

I have gone all hippy. I need to find a tree to hug.

Top work team Crocus!

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