By Nilooka Dissanayake, ACMA, MBA (Strathclyde)
According to the results of a survey conducted by Athwela Business Journal, the majority of small business owners state that they cannot stay away from their businesses for even one day. The situation is so bad in some cases that the entrepreneur cannot participate in a seminar to better his knowledge. He cannot afford to fall sick. For many small business people it is an unpleasant fact of life.
What can be done to remedy the situation? One suggestion is to seek to develop a strong team who can carry on even in the absence of the key person. This is, of course, easier said than done. Before you strengthen a team, you need to have a workable team in the first place. Most of us, whether we are in a small business or a large one, at the highest level or at the lowest, will be working in teams. And, one unpleasant reality is that you hardly ever have control over who become your team members.
In this context, let us look at how we can make our teams more balanced by understanding what types of behaviour must come together in a successful team.
After a lot of research into successful teams, Dr. Meredith Belbin of the Industrial Training Research Unit at Cambridge listed out eight categories of persons that are necessary to make up a successful team. They fall into four main categories with two sub types each. They have interesting names that are not always self-explanatory.
- Creators – include Plants and Resource Investigators
- Leaders – include Co-ordinators and Shapers
- Implementers – include Team Builders and Team Implementers
- Completers – include Monitor-Evaluators and Completer-Finishers
If you notice, all the team types are described according to the functions they take up in the team.
The Creators are the ideas-men (or women).
The Plant role was so named because it was found that ‘planting’ an ideas’ person was one way to wake up ineffective teams into action.
The Resource Investigators take over fresh ideas and build upon them with enthusiasm. They help the ideas to take root, where they may otherwise be ignored.
The Leaders—whether they are in formal leadership positions or otherwise—guide everyone in the correct direction.
The Co-ordinators are the social leaders in the team and help co-ordinate the work with or without formal authority.
The Shapers are the energetic souls in the teams who will run with the ideas. The Shapers act as task leaders in a team and help marshal the team efforts towards achieving the objectives.
The implementers, you can say, are the drones or the worker bees. Without them, others—the ideas men and leaders—will get nowhere. Think of teams where everyone want to dream big ideas and talk big and you will get the picture.
Team Builders are sensitive, supportive individuals. If you want to know how everyone is feeling, ask the Team Builders.
Team Implementers are the practical organizers of the team. If you want to know anything about decisions taken or the reason for something, ask these members. They also attend to the work that all others find uninteresting.
The Completers will look into the details and finish up the icing on the cake. They are the perfectionists who will tie up the loose ends for the rest of the team.
The Monitor-Evaluator is the rational team member with a tendency to analyse and take a hard, cold stance of the situation.
Plant and the Monitor-Evaluator are generally highly intelligent individuals and need that intelligence to perform their role. (Others can sail through without a high IQ).
Completer-Finisher lives up to his name and is the perfectionist of the team. You can also call him the worrier because they tend to worry about what can go wrong.
If you are working in a small team, do not worry. None of us are perfect team types. We are all having bits and parts of many types within us. So, to ensure your team is balanced, what you can do is to watch out how each team member performs and understand their natural types. Then, if you feel that one team type is not present, then, you can get one or more members to consciously act that part. That is where the understanding of team types can help a small team be more effective.
If, however, you are responsible for putting new teams together, remember the team types and try to make up a well-balanced team.
Originally published in the Business@Home column in the Sunday Times (2003 Sept.)