How do you build a high performing team for your project?

"Nobody is perfect but a team can be"

Belbin asked himself: "Why do some management teams succeed and others fail?" After 30 years of research he came up with an answer. Behavior is more important than intelligence. 

We describe a high performing team as a situation in which project members deal flexibly with changes, are constantly focused on improvement, give each other feedback and any discord is solved through mutual trust and respect. The atmosphere in a high performing team is open and action-oriented, team members dare to be vulnerable, respect each other, use everyone's qualities and are personally committed to each other's development and success. In addition, roles and tasks are clear to everyone and team members keep each other accountable for getting results.


One of the models you can use to build your high performing team is Belbin’s team role model. A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role that is understood by other members. Belbin found out in his research that you need different behaviors within a team to be successful and that intelligence is not decisive. Don't confuse personality with behavior. They are linked to each other, but different in nature. After analyzing all the data he came up with eight teams roles. Lessons we can learn from Belbin are:


  1. We do not need balanced people in our project team, but people who counterbalance each other. Shakespeare wrote in Measure for Measure "They say, best men are molded out of faults, and, for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad". In this sense Belbin doesn't talk about weaknesses, but allowable weaknesses.
  2. The optimal team size is between 4 and 6 people.
  3. The most effective team in Belbin’s research has covert all 8 team roles. Belbin tells us "all teams are groups of individuals, not all groups of individuals are teams”.
  4. Effective leaders can be found in team members with the team role chairman or shaper. 


Maarten conducted hundreds of Belbin analysis in the last decade and with good results. Belbin gives a common language to discuss team members behaviors. It also makes clear in which problems a team can run into e.g. if you focus on the team roles which are missing. Know that there is a technique in teamwork – and it can be done well or done poorly. In the end effective teamwork increases productivity, encourages engagement, spurs innovation and builds morale.Would you like to know more about building a high performing team? Please contact us.

Interessed and want to read more?

  • Belbin, Management Teams - Why They Succeed or Fail
  • Belbin, Team Roles at Work