Over the years there has been a number of people who have conducted research into team building theory.  Team building was pioneered by Belbin in the early 1980’s.  He observed teams undertaking a management game and identified that different people naturally undertook one of 8 different roles when working in a team.   Subsequently other researchers have similarly identified 8 roles.


For example Charles Margerisson and Dick McCann conducted extensive research into what makes management teams succeed or fail, and identified 8 key roles that are essential for high performance.  The roles are:


Reporter Adviser – has a preference for gathering and reporting information for the team. Thruster Organizer – is the team organiser, the person that ‘makes things happen’.
Creator Innovator – the team experimenter and ideas person. Concluder Producer  – enjoys bringing tasks to a conclusion.
Explorer Promoter – the team salesperson, who enjoys exploring and presenting opportunities. Controller Inspector – prefers controlling and auditing work for the team.
Assessor Developer – likes to assess and test ideas and approaches. Upholder Maintainer– works hard to uphold team standards and systems.


More recently Honey Langcaster-James identified 8 different team roles during her research on workplace motivation which was commissioned by T-Mobile.  The 8 team roles or ‘typpologies’ that describe the behaviour of individuals when working in a team are:


Mother Hen – nurturing, approachable and empathic. Joker – sociable and witty.


Cool Dude – unfazed by things and has a calming influence. Cheerleader – enthusiastic and optimistic.


Realist – pragmatic, logical and able to see through spin. Link – sociable and flighty, and believes it’s all about ‘who you know’.
Geek – technically minded, quiet, good with detail Innovator – creator of big ideas.


Whatever theory you subscribe to, they all have some things in common.  For example, all researchers agree that teams containing people who are the same type will not be as successful as teams that have a mix of role types.  A team full of ‘ideas people’ may well come up with many ingenious innovations but will invariably fail because their focus will be on generating more and more ideas as opposed to selecting one or two ideas and seeing them through to successful completion.

While the most successful teams have a mix of people with different role preferences, the downside is that by their very nature they are more likely to develop misunderstandings and have disagreements about what is important.  Team development theories therefore can be used to help teams understand, appreciate and manage their individual differences better, which will enable them to develop more effective and productive working relationships.

In today’s recessionary climate, any manager worth their salt will want to get the most from their team.  No one wants a group of individuals competing against each other slowly eroding the teams morale and performance, and whether you feel that Belbin, Margerison and McCann or  Langcaster-James’ theories suit your team and workplace the most, they all have a valuable role to play in developing and enhancing  team motivation, effectiveness and performance.