Team role

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Team role is the name of the function, position or task which has been assigned a team member within a workgroup or on the basis of existing eligibility and service areas over a team or group dynamic has emerged within the team.

Definition of terms

The concept of role

A social role describes the rights and obligations of the holder of a position , i.e. his position in society , whereby the members of reference groups have certain expectations , i.e. assumptions about what a person will or should do, of this person's behavior . Each role bearer is exposed to a bundle of differently strictly binding behavioral norms which, depending on their characteristics, are called optional, should or mandatory norms.

Since individuals often want / should / have to meet contradicting expectations of different reference groups at the same time, an inner role conflict arises , which is countered with the help of role distance .


A team is understood to be small, functionally structured work groups made up of various specialists who work together to fulfill certain tasks ( teamwork ). Characteristic for these groups are a cooperative behavior , relatively intensive mutual relationships and an equal participation of all members in the discussion of methods, content and goals of their work. In addition, these groups have a pronounced community spirit (team spirit) and a relatively strong group cohesion .

Team roles

Especially when dealing with complex tasks and long-term projects , their success or failure depends on the effectiveness of a team. Not the expert knowledge of individual members, but the optimal use of the entire spectrum of knowledge, including the skills and abilities of all team members, is crucial here. In this context, the question arises as to which factors have a positively reinforcing or negatively reducing effect on the performance of a team.

Team roles according to Belbin

In the 1970s, the Englishman Meredith Belbin studied the effects of team composition from different personality types on team performance. Based on the assumption that a person's personality profile is based on differently pronounced characteristics , Belbin analyzed the results of teams made up of course participants at Henley Management College and identified eight different team roles that result from the behavioral patterns of the members. He summarized these in a model in 1981 and later added a ninth role to his catalog, the role of the specialist.

People develop differently through the influence of different and mutually influencing factors , whereby certain characteristics of the personality profile and thus of the role behavior in teams develop. Everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses, which Belbin works out using a questionnaire for self-assessment and these assessments are supplemented by outside observers in order to be able to determine the team role profile of the participants. The evaluation of the questionnaires can also be supported by a special software tool. The assessment of entire teams is possible by summarizing the individual results.

According to Belbin, teams work effectively when they consist of a large number of heterogeneous personality and role types, whereby he distinguishes three main orientations in his structure, which in turn each comprise three of the nine team roles:

  • 3 action-oriented roles: doer (shaper), implementer, perfectionist (completer, finisher)
  • 3 communication-oriented roles: coordinator / integrator (co-ordinator), team worker / teammate (teamworker), pioneer / switch maker (resource investigator)
  • 3 knowledge-oriented roles: innovator / inventor (plans), observer (monitor evaluator), specialist (specialist)

Overview of team roles

Team role Role contribution Characteristics permissible weaknesses
Innovator / inventor brings in new ideas unorthodox thinking often lost in thought
Trailblazer / switchman develops contacts communicative, extroverted often too optimistic
Coordinator / integrator promotes decision-making processes confident, trusting can be perceived as manipulative
Doer has the courage to overcome obstacles dynamic, works well under pressure impatient, prone to provocation
observer examines proposals for feasibility sober, strategic, critical lack of capacity for inspiration
Team workers / fellow players improves communication, reduces friction losses cooperative, diplomatic indecisive in critical situations
Converter puts plans into action disciplined, reliable, effective inflexible
perfectionist avoids errors, ensures optimal results conscientious, on time overprotective, reluctant to delegate
specialist provides expertise and information Self-centered, committed, expertise counts often gets lost in technical details

Description of the team roles

Plant: the innovator / inventor

Inventors are introverted, creative, imaginative and have unorthodox thinking. You bring new ideas and strategies into the discussion and look for alternative solutions.
Your special abilities are to find solutions to difficult problems.
As a result, by tending to ignore details and trivialities, they make careless mistakes. In addition, they are bad at handling criticism.
Application area
Inventors should focus on their high problem-solving potential and ability to develop new strategies, taking into account the ideas of other team members.

Resource Investigator: the trailblazer / switch maker / organizer

The Resource Investigator is extroverted, enthusiastic and communicative. He is quick to make friends, is social and sociable.
It is easy for him to establish and use useful contacts with sources outside the team. He also finds new possibilities and alternative solutions.
Switchmen are often too optimistic and easily lose interest after the initial enthusiasm. They tend to get into the irrelevant, which is why they digress from the core topic.
Application area
Pioneers should intensively cultivate contacts with the world outside the team and use the sources found in this way intensively for their brainstorming.

Co-ordinator: the coordinator / integrator

The coordinator is confident, decisive, communicative and a good listener. He coordinates the work process, sets goals and priorities, recognizes relevant problems and delegates tasks to those colleagues who are best suited to deal with them. He pays attention to the observance of external targets and time limits.
His colleagues can often find him manipulative. This can lead to them moving away from the coordinator, especially on a personal level. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that he tends to delegate personal tasks.
Application area
People with the characteristics of a coordinator are suitable as team leaders whose tasks should be to coordinate and assign the subject areas.

Shaper: the doer

The doer is dynamic, charged with energy and is constantly under pressure, he rejects unclear and imprecise information and statements and concentrates on the essential core problems.
He challenges his colleagues and quickly takes on responsibility. He formulates partial goals, looks for structures, ensures rapid decision-making and ensures that tasks are completed immediately.
Shapers tend to be provocative and easily get into arguments with their teammates, but they are not resentful. They are perceived as arrogant, especially by observers from outside the team, and their hectic demeanor causes unrest in the team.
Application area
Doers feel most comfortable in a team of equals. As soon as they have to take on a leadership position, increased control and coordination are necessary, which demand a high degree of self-discipline from this type of role. The concentration and the use of strengths prove to be useful.

Monitor Evaluator: the observer

The observer is sober, strategic, analytical. He gets a good overview from a distance, is more of an introvert and rarely takes the floor without being asked.
The Monitor Evaluator takes into account all relevant options and has good judgment.
Due to a lack of enthusiasm, he is hardly able to motivate others, tends to completely lose interest after criticism has been made, and can be perceived by teammates as tactless and condescending.
Application area
The observer should make sure that his or her opinion is heard. He does this by trying to be less cynical and skeptical.

Teamworker: the teamworker / fellow player

Team workers are personable, popular, communicative, diplomatic and often know the private backgrounds of their colleagues.
They ensure a pleasant working atmosphere and harmony, they can be described as the social soul of the team. Team workers avoid rivalries and are able to motivate introverted colleagues to participate more actively.
They are indecisive in critical situations and tend to leave decisions to others.
Application area
The presence of team workers is particularly important in conflict situations, as this is where they can use their diplomatic skills to resolve differences of opinion. They often act to help from the background and are responsible for contributing to social services.

Implementer: the implementer

The implementer is reliable, conservative and disciplined. He works efficiently, systematically and methodically.
Implementers convert concepts into workable work plans, require stable structures and work on their development.
They are critical of environmental changes and often react inflexibly to new proposed solutions.
Application area
Implementers should be responsible for defining clear objectives, practical approaches and structuring the process.

Completer: the perfectionist

The completer is perfectionist, accurate, punctual, reliable and timid.
He avoids mistakes and ensures precise adherence to deadlines and pays attention to details.
For fear that something will be overlooked, he prefers to check and control personally than to delegate. He is often over-anxious and too precise, which can make him lose track.
Application area
Completer perform v. a. then an important contribution when the team runs the risk of working too superficially or not adhering to deadlines.

Specialist: the specialist, the additional character

The specialist is self-centered, committed and focused on the technical / professional part of a topic. He has extensive expertise, background information and skills that the other team members lack.
It reformulates general statements in the technically correct terms and makes the professional contribution to the respective topic.
Specialists tend to get lost in technical details and therefore only make informative contributions.
Application area
The function of the specialists is to compensate for information deficits in the team and to contribute the necessary specialist knowledge.


  • Depending on their behavior, team members can be assigned nine different roles.
  • The role behavior of a person in the team is predictable based on test results.
  • The right combination of different team roles makes teams efficient.
  • The wrong combination of different team roles weakens teams.
  • An individual team role does not necessarily correspond to its functional and organizational assignment.
  • The absence of one of the eight or nine roles does not necessarily have to weaken a team.
  • There are team roles that are more important than others to success.

With its model, Belbin tries to explain and facilitate team building and team management and thus contributes to the understanding of effective teamwork. The development of the team building process as well as its predictability should be made possible with simple means. This should succeed by trying to assign people to individual categories , taking into account the fact that the boundaries between the respective roles are fluid and several role profiles (whereby a person can rarely fill more than two team roles), depending on the respective situation one person can apply at the same time. Nevertheless, in the context of the questionnaire evaluation, certain dominant tendencies towards a role character could be determined. This knowledge therefore makes an assignment possible, despite the mentioned delimitation difficulties.

When a team member learns more about their own strengths and weaknesses through self-assessment with the help of the questionnaire and subsequent feedback from independent observers, they can fit into the group better, are more motivated and can make an important contribution according to their personal abilities.

There are a number of test procedures that are suitable for determining and moderating team roles. In addition to the Belbin test, which is specifically designed for this task, team and role presentations are possible in the Harrison Assessment.

See also


  • Harald Pühl : Team Supervision - From Subversion to Institutional Analysis . V&R, Göttingen 1998.
  • R. Meredith Belbin: Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail . 2nd Edition. Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford 2003, ISBN 0-750-65910-6 .
  • R. Meredith Belbin: Team Roles At Work . Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford 1993, ISBN 0-7506-2675-5 .
  • Horst-Joachim Rahn: Successful team leadership . Windmühle Verlag, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-937444-666 .


  1. Working group (AG) Sociology: We all play theater - woe if someone fails! In: ways of thinking and basic concepts of sociology: an introduction, Frankfurt / Main, New York 1998, Campus Verlag, ISBN 3-593-34715-6
  2. Monika Heinrich (group work): Theoretical backgrounds and practical applications . In: Kasper, Mayrhofer (Ed.): Personnel management, leadership, organization . Vienna 2002, Linde Verlag, ISBN 3-7073-0430-2 )
  3. ^ Jon R. Katzenbach, Douglas K. Smith () The Wisdom Of Teams: Creating the High-performance Organization . Boston 1993, Harvard Business School Press, ISBN 0-87584-367-0
  4. R. Meredith Belbin 1981 Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail . Butterworth-Heinemann, as well as Team Roles at Work . 1993, Butterworth-Heinemann
  5. ^ Heinz Strobel: Social Competence , June 2003.