History & Research

"A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them." Dr. Meredith Belbin

What are Belbin Team Roles ?

A unique study of teams took place at the Administrative Staff College at Henley (now known as the Henley Business School) which ran an internationally famous 10-week course for successful managers with board potential.

Part of the course involved a business simulation in which the managers were put in to competing teams. This simulation contained all the principal variables that typify the problems of decision-making in a business environment. The experiment was designed along scientific lines with careful measurement at each stage.

In 1969, Dr Meredith Belbin was invited to use this business game as a starting point for a study of team behaviour. He came to it as a highly respected academic / industrialist, chairman and co-founder of The Industrial Training Research Unit (ITRU), which was founded by the Manpower Services Commission.

Having an interest in group as well as individual behaviour, but with no particular theories about teams, he enlisted the aid of three other scholars: Bill Hartson, mathematician and international chess master; Jeanne Fisher, an anthropologist who had studied Kenyan tribes; and Roger Mottram, an occupational psychologist. Together they began what was to be a nine-year task. Three business games a year with eight teams in each game, and then in meeting after meeting, observing, categorising and recording all the different kinds of contribution from team members.

Further Reading: The research carried out at Henley, along with the outcomes, explanation of the theory and its applications can be found in the following books by Dr. Meredith Belbin:

Should you be interested in buying these books, please leave your details here.

Reliability & Validity

Reliability and validity are concepts commonly used in evaluating psychometric tests. Reliability is a measure of the internal consistency of a test. Validity is concerned with the strength of the conclusions and inferences drawn.

Clusters of Behavior

Internal consistency is highest where test items are repeated, but this narrows the focus of the test overall. Rather than repeating questions, or introducing items which are virtually identical, our algorithm seeks for clusters of related behavior. For example, the Shaper cluster refers to an individual who is challenging, competitive, hard driving, tough and outspoken. However, that does not mean to say that everyone who is competitive will necessarily be outspoken.

The Full Picture

Most psychometric tests rely on self-reporting. However, the behaviors identified may not correspond with what others observe. The strength of the algorithm rests in its emphasis on construct validity: using multiple sources of evidence to draw a conclusion. The system`s outputs are designed to take account of the degree of consensus on observed behavior. Disparities between self-analysis and the perceptions of others can provide valuable leads for action. Formal correlations are, however, difficult to calculate, as those providing feedback are not required to make a fixed number of responses. This is because genuine responses are more easily obtained - and more valuable - when forced choices are avoided.

Remember that the self perception and observer assessments feature several different behavioral traits for each Team Role. This is not the case in a psychometric test, where single personality traits are measured. To be a good example of a particular Team Role, an individual would have to demonstrate the cluster of positive traits for that role.


Information regarding the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory and Observer Assessments, reliability and validity and research into Belbin Team Roles. Download the Paper

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