Know to succeed as a team

In 2012, a group of Google employees began investigating what makes some teams succeed, while others fail. Sound familiar? See what the Google work group discovered and how it relates to Dr. Meredith Belbin’s research more than forty years earlier.

Aristotle project

Google named his project after Aristotle because of his famous phrase: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” They began, as Dr. Belbin did, examining various assumptions for team success. They examined whether successful teams were composed of timid or outgoing individuals, those with similar interests or those who socialized together outside of work.

But among Google’s 180 teams, none of them provided a clear indicator of team success.

QI vs. QE

In some teams, although individuals were not necessarily those with the highest intelligence scores, they created ways to use each other’s strengths. Some groups had strong leaders, while others were more fluid. The researchers finally concluded that instead of intelligence – what separated high-performance teams from dysfunctional teams was how team members treated each other.

In working with the Henley Management College teams, Dr. Belbin created the term “Apollo teams” for teams composed of high-minded individuals who spent a lot of time engaged in abortive debates. In ‘Management Teams: Why They Succeeded or Failed’, Dr. Belbin comments that: ‘The lack of coherent teamwork has nullified the gains of individual effort or brilliance.’

Then also on Google. Although “medium-minded” teams did not seem to function as efficiently, their understanding of each other’s feelings and emotions helped establish trust and various other factors necessary for success.

Group Rules

The researchers found that “group norms” were meaningful – in other words, the traditions, behavior patterns, and other unwritten rules that govern how people function when grouped into teams. For example, this included holding conversations or adding time at the beginning of the meeting for team members to talk informally. After studying the groups for more than a year, the researchers found that being able to influence the cultural norms of the group was fundamental.

Five factors for the success of the team

Using their findings on group norms as a starting point, researchers began to identify five key factors for team success, and these findings closely relate to the Lencioni model. Here we examine these factors in a little more detail:

1.Psychological security

Individuals need safe space to take risks and make mistakes without fear of recriminations. Identifying and communicating our Belbin Team Roles – the behaviors we tend to adopt in a team – provides individuals with positive language to share preferences and discuss shortcomings. In Belbin’s theory, ‘weakness’ is not a dirty word – we actually talk about ‘admissible weaknesses’ of a particular Team Role as mere advantages of a Team Role force – a trade-off to play a certain role with good results.

2. Reliability

The team needs to ensure that work is done on time and to a high standard. In terms of Belbin, this means ensuring there are those with Implementer and Full Finisher behaviors present on the team. In particular, company cultures – especially those that value creativity and the early stages of a project – these functions can be neglected, with the result that the team starts well, but produces a poor outcome or can not deliver anything.

3. Structure and clarity

Clear roles, plans, and targets are essential. Each person on the team needs to understand where it fits and what it has to offer. Belbin can clarify contributions by helping managers assign the work more effectively according to the strengths. With a greater understanding of each other’s strengths, team members know who to consult and how project teams can shape.


Work must be personally important to each of us. Gallup has shown that collaborators who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to get involved in the job. In other words, playing with our strengths allows us to take ownership of our work, knowing that we can stand out and be recognized for our achievements. Belbin can help individuals recognize and maximize these strengths and use them in the best way when they interact and work with others.


People need to know that what they do matters and creates change. Work is more than just work, and Belbin can help people to give their “pulse” to what’s important to them at work, allowing them to align their ambitions with the organization’s target

Data and discussions.

As Charles Duhigg wrote in the New York Times:

“The paradox, of course, is that Google’s intense data collection and data analysis led to the same conclusions that good managers have always known. In the best teams, members listen to each other and show sensitivity to feelings and needs. “

We know that data can only take it to a certain extent. So these are conversations you need – with your manager, your colleagues, your team in general. Belbin can help open these conversations by giving you a constructive and depersonalized language to help individuals and teams work with the best effect.

Source: By Belbin team | Pássaro Victoria, March 19, 2018

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