All Alone In The Office

Team Role Theory, as defined by Dr R. Meredith Belbin from his research at Henley Management College, explains the individual’s tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way. We all have certain strengths and weaknesses, but get the right group of people together with the right mix of strengths and the weaknesses can be managed.

What sort of person are you? Belbin breaks down the roles in the workplace thus: firstly, regarding doing/acting.

Are you a shaper? A person with lots of energy and action, the one who always challenges the rest of the team to move forward? You’d be an asset but occasionally you can be a tad insensitive.

Or maybe you’re an Implementer? You’ll be a well-organised, predictable person who takes basic ideas and makes them work in practice. The downside? You can be slow.

Perhaps, like me, you’re a Completer/Finisher – someone who reliably sees things through to the end, ironing out the wrinkles and ensuring everything works well. The downside to this is that you’ll have a tendency not to trust others and worry too much.

Secondly, in the area of thinking/problem-solving, which category do you see yourself slotting into? A Plant solves difficult problems with original and creative ideas though s/he can be a poor communicator and may ignore the detail.

A Monitor sees the big picture. S/he thinks carefully and accurately about things but may lack the energy to inspire others.

A Specialist has expert knowledge they can apply to key areas but a tendency to ignore other areas outside their expertise that might be just as important to developing the project.

Finally, Belbin deals with People and Feelings. Team workers care for individuals and the team. They’re good listeners always striving to resolve social problems. However they often find making difficult decisions problematic.

The Co-ordinator is a respected leader, helping the rest of the team to focus on the task. They can be seen as excessively controlling, though.

And then there’s the Resource/Investigator. A great networker, who explores new ideas energetically. The downside is that this person can be optimistic and lose energy after the first initial bout of enthusiasm.

Teams in the workplace work best when there is a balance of roles and when team members both know what their roles are and stick to them. To achieve the best balance there should be:

One Co-Ordinator or Shaper (not both) for leader
A Plant to Stimulate Ideas
A Monitor/evaluator to maintain honesty and clarity
One or more Implementer, Team Worker, Resource investigator or Completer/finisher to make things happen.

Okay, so far so good. Seven people, each fixed in their role and comfortable with it. What a brilliant team! But what happens when you aren’t part of a team and you work at home, alone, at a computer screen, attempting to write your novel, short story or screenplay?

If it’s not working for you right now, maybe it’s time to figure out your own role and invite a few, new imaginary friends on board to even out the lumps and make progress towards your goal of publication.

Like I said. I’m a Completer/Finisher. So much so that I’ll flog away at an idea and write the story even if a little bit of me tells me it’s a rubbish one. I could do with a Plant on board to stop me getting bogged down in the detail and add a bit of sparkle to my writing. And I definitely need a Shaper for those Monday mornings where bed seems infinitely preferable to getting up and hammering out a new idea.

What about you? What gets in the way of your writing? Are you a Specialist who spends too much time on research only to find that your energy for actually writing the story has all fizzled out? An evaluator, constantly editing and re-editing the same 500 words and never moving forward? A predictable Implementer, who needs a shot in the arm to spice up their story now and then or, like a Plant, full of great ideas but with a limited amount of staying power.

You have to write your story by yourself and there’s no one in the office to bolster up your sagging bits. But maybe if you’re aware of the characteristics you lack you can say a little prayer to your Muse and ask for a few more members to join your team. Only if they complement your strengths though.


Susie Nott-Bower said...

Fascinating, Geri. You put your finger on such an important point here. A novel is like an office project, isn't it? - and needs all these skills - so I suppose that developing the ones we lack individually is bound to make us more rounded people?
Or shall we team up and write together? You're a Completer/Finisher and I'm a Plant!

Administrator said...

Very interesting, Geri.

I think that's why it is so important to find writing friends on line - for bolstering and also suggesting plans of action, things you may not have thought of line - like a virtual office team. I have many friends on-line now - like many of us - and i go to them for different things. Some for support. Some for their specialist knowledge. And sometimes i'd like to think i fulfill a role for them.

Caroline R said...

A couple of years ago, when I still had a proper job, my company did a Belbin day and I seem to remember I was a Plant, a Shaper and a Resource Investigator in fairly equal proportions. It was fun to do, but the discoveries didn't make the slightest bit of difference to anyone's roles when back in the office the next day!

I could do with more of the Completer/Finisher aspect as far as writing is concerned, as I tend to want to work on lots of things at once, and the novelty of new projects wears off very quickly.

Caroline Green said...

This is really interesting, Geri, especially as I found myself thinking, 'But I work alone and don't fit those profiles!'..right before you addressed that point! I do find it difficult to see exactly where I fit into this model, but will be musing on this for sure...great stuff.

Jeannette said...

Enjoyed the post. It is much nicer to tell myself "hey, you need Completer" than to beat myself up about not getting to the end of anything!

Personally I'm feeling very much in need of a Team Worker to make me cups of tea and find my red pen....

Geraldine Ryan said...

Thanks, everyone! As Susie says, maybe we should get together and write a complete novel between us! Those people who belong to writing groups may get just the support they need from other "office types." And, as Sam says, you can't better online friends for giving you the shove you need or the virtual hanky to sob in when it all goes pear-shaped.

Katy said...

Great post, Geri, thank you - and timely too as our team head up to a 'development day' on Friday...

I'm a plant too :-)

Geraldine Ryan said...

So what are you, Katy?