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Working in groups

Learn how to make the most out of your group, allocate work to get the best results and develop your team

An appreciation of team roles to be performed underpins effective team performance. This page gives a basic overview of how roles can be allocated to individuals to form an effective team. It briefly outlines the allocation process, then provides information on team roles and learning styles. These are set out in two tables.

The team role descriptions below are very broad descriptions designed to give you a basic idea of the different types of characteristics which may be associated with various roles. Most people do not fit just one role and have a mix of traits. A team member can perform more than one role and could take on a second role in a “back-up” capacity, share roles, or hold two roles equally. This may depend on the number of members in your group.

The process

There are three essential things to consider in your team:

  • task needs
  • team needs
  • individual needs

In your first team meeting, you should share and discuss how you prefer to work and learn. This enables you to consider how each of you learns and works and gives an indication of where your team strengths lie. This can also highlight if there are any gaps which need to be adapted to and managed.

Use the Team Roles table below to allocate team members a role. This simplified table focuses on the types of roles and their strengths and weaknesses. It uses a simplified version of Belbin’s (1993) model of team roles, from his book, 'Team Roles at Work' (updated in 2010).

Next, explore how each group member’s learning style, characteristics and preferences relate to other possible roles to develop your team. Use the Learning Styles and Roles table as a guide. This process may involve disagreements and challenges; some people feel very able, or less able or confident, in some areas, but others in the group may disagree with their self-evaluation.

Open and honest discussion, presented respectfully and politely, are vital if the whole team is to work effectively for the good of the whole team.

Through team discussion and negotiation, roles can be allocated to use the strengths of the team members as far as possible. Gaps can provide opportunities for personal development. The group should allocate the role to the person they think would fulfil the role the best. As some team members may not feel comfortable in new roles, it is important that the whole group supports them. It is also important that any problems or difficulties should be acknowledged, and openly discussed in order to find solutions.

The most significant gain is that open and honest discussion develops communication between individuals, helping to build rapport and trust. It enables the team to identify current difficulties and possible future challenges, and to develop a firm foundation for dealing with future problems.

Table 1: Team roles, strengths and weaknesses


Team role  Strengths Weaknesses (acceptable)
Plant Envisioning. Thinks ‘out of the box’. Generates inventive solutions. Can lack attention to detail
Resource investigator Outgoing. Networker. Prefers unusual options. Can be unrealistic.
Co-ordinator Leadership. Catalyses decision-making. Shares work. Can pass own tasks onto others.
Shaper Energetic and likes deadlines. Not fazed by barriers. Can lack sensitivity to others.
Monitor-evaluator Calm. Objective. 360 degree awareness of everything that is happening. Can be a source of negativity
Team worker Empathic. Mediator. Sensitive to others' feelings. Can find decision-making under pressure hard.
Implementer Coverts concepts into reality. Rigorous. Dependable. Can take time to adjust to new realities.
Completer Attentive to detail. Precise. Meets deadlines. Can be reluctant to share tasks with others.

Table 2: Learning styles, roles and strengths


Learning style Team role Traits
Activist Plant Developing/delivering presentations, contacting/liaising people, solving problems.
Resource investigator
Pragmatist Co-ordinator Chairing meetings, planning and setting goals and deadlines, researching.
Reflector Monitor-evaluator Maintaining team communications, identifying problems, progress chasing against plan.
Team worker
Theorist Implementer Collecting/Processing data and information, quality control, finalising detail.

Download our allocating and developing team roles revision sheet

Download this page as a PDF for your team building notes.

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