What does it really mean to be a team player?

Posted in: inspire, Tips & Hints

You probably know the value of being a team player, and how important it is to showcase this on your CV. But did you know there are numerous different ways to function within a team? Have you thought about what kind of teamwork you’re particularly good at? Drawing on the research of R. Meredith Belbin, here are some of the different roles you might fulfil in a workplace team.

People-Oriented Roles

There’s no ‘I’ in team, and those who take on these roles exemplify this. Their strengths lie in supporting others. They are often diligent and practical, carrying out their fair share of the workload, and encouraging others by boosting morale. Those who identify with this role are extremely good at recognising what needs to be done to help others.

Belbin’s types:

  • Resource Investigator – brings external ideas to the team
  • Teamworker – cooperative, conflict-averse, versatile
  • Coordinator – identifies other people’s strengths, delegates work


Action-Oriented Roles

Those who are action-oriented possess a similarly strong work ethic to those who are people-oriented. However, action-oriented team players are more likely to focus on the work itself rather than who is doing it. They cope well with pressure and aren’t afraid to be honest. The traits seen in action-oriented team players are invaluable, though they can blunt on bad days!

Belbin’s types:

  • Shaper – drives the team to succeed
  • Implementer – organises ideas to create strategy
  • Completer Finisher – great attention to detail, loves ‘polishing’ work


Thought-Oriented Roles

Thought-Oriented team players may be creative, or logical – or both! The discerning feature of this type is their ability to problem-solve and bring unique solutions or knowledge to the team.

Belbin’s types:

  • Plant – solves problems in creative and unconventional ways
  • Monitor Evaluator – weighs up all the options impartially
  • Specialist – provides niche, in-depth knowledge other team members may not have


A word of warning!

I love Belbin’s work as it expands on the (sometimes vague) identity of the team player. But be careful not to pigeonhole yourself. Most of us have a variety of skills and might identify with several of Belbin’s roles, and that’s fine! Each role has its own strengths, and it shows great versatility to identify with more than one.

Belbin’s research suggests the ideal team is made up of a range of different behaviours, all of which complement each other. So if your strengths lie in one (or more) of these roles, remember not everyone shares these. There are many ways to collaborate effectively, and a crucial part of teamwork is understanding and respecting these. Identifying as a Plant, for instance, doesn’t mean you’ll always work on creative projects with creative people. Instead, it’s more likely you’ll work alongside an Implementer who structures your ideas. This can be challenging initially, but it’s the first step to teamworking triumph.

Going forwards

Anyone can say they’re a team player. Be explicit about your strengths and what makes you, specifically, really great to work with. Is it your empathy for others? Your organisational skills? Your specialist expertise? Before you submit your next application, or attend that interview, ask yourself: what does it really mean to be a team player? Which of Belbin’s nine roles resonate with you?

Find out more about how to sell yourself as a team player with our application resources on MyFuture.

Posted in: inspire, Tips & Hints


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response