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Team Role Theory: A Fresh and Effective Strategy to Building a Balanced Orthopaedic Team

Friday, October 26, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Written by Dr. Laura Hills for AAOE

Over the years, organizational leaders, including orthopaedic administrators, have employed a number of different approaches to help them create and foster a well-balanced team. For example, some employed the very popular personality theory. They believed that a balanced team was comprised of individuals with complementary personalities. To that end, they employed and shared the data they gathered through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and other personality typing tools. Other leaders considered the task of balancing a team as a function of job title, rank, seniority, and status. They favored carefully-structured organizational charts that indicated clear lines of power and authority differentiators. They felt that they could move their employees strategically into different positions as needed, much like players on a chess board. Unfortunately, time has shown us that such approaches to balancing a team, while popular, are fraught with significant deficiencies.


Enter the playing field Meredith Belbin, who spent the better part of his career studying workplace teams to develop what we now refer to as team role theory. Belbin’s breakthrough decades-long research led him to conclude that balancing a team is a function of balancing roles. Of course, Belbin was not the first person to suggest that teams are comprised of individuals who perform various roles. Both professional and non-professional sports teams, for example, have long relied upon players assuming different key roles, and most of us readily understand that. We assume in sports that each player plays a different part but contributes in an important or even essential way to the overall success or failure of the team. However, Belbin takes this idea much further and much deeper. He describes essential team behavioral roles in detail, and especially, how such roles apply in workplace teams.


Clearly, orthopaedic administrators want their employees to function as a team, and they want to encourage their employees to be team players. Yet many may continue to fall into habit of assigning and describing team roles by job function and rank. Or, they may cling to the notion that a balanced team is composed of complementary personalities – some employees who are more introverted, some who are more extroverted, for example. Belbin gives us another way, and I believe a much better way, to consider and describe team roles, not simply by job title or function, or even personality, but by behaviors. Belbin asks: What essential behavioral roles do people on a balanced team have to play? This approach is different than anything before it. I am not alone in my appreciation for Belbin’s work. Many theorists and practitioners believe that there is merit in his approach to balancing teams, and that it works. They, like me, believe that learning and using behavioral team roles can help leaders to build more productive relationships, select and develop high-performing teams, improve their employee recruitment process, build employee trust and understanding, and raise their effectiveness.


Would you like to learn more about Belbin’s team role theory? If so, please join me for my AAOE webinar on November 15 when we will take a fast-paced deep-dive into Belbin’s research findings. We will focus first on the nuts and bolts of Belbin’s theory, and look at the nine essential roles Belbin identifies for a well-functioning team. But much more importantly, we will focus on how orthopaedic administrators can practically harness Belbin’s theory to hone and build their own teams. Intrigued? Please join us as we explore how you can use Belbin’s fresh, effective approach to team building with your employees. I’m looking forward to it.


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