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C’mon England

Don’t score an own goal, put the right people in the right positions.

As the World Cup approaches I am listening more and more to sports radio stations, watching more sports channels on TV and reading more news stories in the free papers you get on the train. What has stood out for me more than anything else is that every single football pundit who appears on TV or radio, or who writes a newspaper column, advocates the essential need for getting the balance in the team right.

Questions are asked, such as:

‘What’s the ideal make-up of the team?’ ‘Who should play where and why?’

Rooney or Sturridge

Arguments and debates rage over whether we should drop Wayne Rooney to the subs bench. What?! Surely not – he’s our best player!

Why would we do this?

Well, I suppose Daniel Sturridge is currently fulfilling the striker role and performing superbly. So, why don’t we put Rooney in a different position to play.

We’ve tried this, but forcing him into a position that he doesn’t naturally play slows the game down and disrupts team strategy – which is to attack at speed.

So, can we play both players?

Well, if both players play in the same position there are significant consequences – they tend to get in each other’s way, the other members of the team don’t know which one to pass to and critically there is a gap in the team that affects both defence and attack.

If they play in different positions team strategy is compromised.

But, he’s our best player.

Well, you know, sometimes it’s more effective to leave the best player out of the team because they don’t fit into the system or because there is an overlap; i.e. two players playing in the same position. They could be the best player in the world, but if they’re not making the right contribution to the organisation of the team this will adversely affect the team dynamic and results. And we all want to win – don’t we?

The Left Wing Conundrum

There’s also the argument of who should play in the left wing position. England don’t have a natural left winger – someone who can fulfil this essential team role. Therefore someone in the team has to make a team role sacrifice – i.e. a right footed player has to play in a position he’s not comfortable playing. This creates a weakness in the team as the player who is making the sacrifice will have to put a lot more effort and energy into the role he has been asked to play and will therefore make more mistakes and become frustrated at having to work in a way that’s not natural for him. We need to put the right people in the right positions.

Just as in international football, synergy in our business teams is also key to our success – however, this can only be achieved when we truly understand which roles and behaviours exist within them. It’s far easier in football because players have a ‘position’ that they play. In business this balance of role and position is not so easily understood and determined.

So, how can we understand the natural roles within our teams and put our people in the right position to ensure we draw on each other’s strengths, highlight and address any natural weaknesses and ensure the team runs as cohesively as possible.

The answer lies in Belbin® Team Roles!

Belbin® Team Roles provides a common language, enabling individuals and teams to communicate and work together with greater understanding. Moreover, it is about celebrating – and making the most of – individual differences. Each of us has the potential to make a valuable and positive contribution to the team.

In the 1970s Dr Meredith Belbin and his research team at Henley Management College set about observing international management teams with a view to finding out what made some teams successful and others not.

As the research progressed it was revealed that the difference between success and failure for a team was not dependent on factors such as intellect, but more on behaviour. The research team began to identify separate clusters of behaviour; each of which formed distinct team contributions, or Team Roles – a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way. It was found that different individuals displayed different Team Roles to varying degrees.

The key was balance. Successful teams were characterised by the compatibility of the roles that their members played while unsuccessful teams were subject to role conflict.

Belbin® Team Roles are used to identify peoples behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. This means that wherever people are involved within an organisation, Belbin can provide the language to ensure that individuals and teams communicate and work together with greater understanding.

Belbin® Team Roles can be used to:

  •  Build productive working relationships
  •  Select and develop high performing teams
  • Raise self-awareness and increase personal effectiveness
  • Build mutual trust and understanding
  • Facilitate change management
  •  Leadership development
  •  Resolve conflict
  • Aid recruitment processes


Belbin® Team Roles provides a framework for increasing understanding of collective strengths and how to use these to best effect. The Team Roles that Meredith Belbin identified are used widely in thousands of organisations all over the world today – not the England football team.

Just like the England Football Team, simply putting a number of people together and expecting them to work as a team is not enough.

So, don’t score an own goal; put the right people in the right positions by using Belbin® Team Roles and ensure you have a Shaper – a competitive and combative midfielder, a Plant – a creative genius who occasionally gets sent off, Implementers – those hard-working wingers who know the system and track back, a Specialist – the free-kick expert, a Co-ordinator – the captain who brings everyone else into play, a Monitor Evaluator – who makes the right decision in front of goal every time, a Team-worker – the player who motivates others to deliver and unselfishly allows someone else to take the glory knowing it’s a job well done, a Resource Investigator who understands the tactics of other teams and brings that knowledge to help create an effective way of playing the opposition and finally the Completer Finisher who buries the ball in the back of the net… what a result!

C’mon England!!




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