Map Testing – team work roles

Some of my staff members take part in a professional development course. It’s very expensive and as an outgoing member of the team I never thought I’d see the benefits.

Until now.

The new officers at Leeds Met Students’ Union (2010-11), including my successor, we offered to take a self-assessing 7 section quiz. It explains itself as “this questionnaire is designed to ask you about the way you feel you typically like to contribute to teamwork” it asks you to rank statements then assigns you one of 8 team roles.

The roles are both positive and negative, all of them are needed to form a successful team but some of them struck me as similar. You can have primary and secondary roles, so if you’re working in a team and there is someone who is more dominant and is in your role, you assume the next down the list.

The idea of the roles is of course subconscious. I’ve only been dimly aware of the role I played in team work. It was obvious at training courses or with people who were less senior than I have been in the past that I immediately assumed an organisational role.

The possible choices are as follows:

Implementer: Practical organisers. They turn decisions into manageable tasks. They are disciplined and rely on structures. They are the most likely to bring an organisation chart or time line to a meeting.

Completer Finisher: They check every detail and ensure that nothing has been overlooked. They have a sense of urgency and galvanise the group into action. They are a compulsive meeter of deadlines.

Team Worker: They are sensitive and good communicators. They are unassertive and popular, they are the cement of the team. Their instinct is to build on existing ideas rather than suggest new ones.

Resource Investigator: They are enthusiastic but prone to put things down as soon as they have picked them up. They go outside the group and bring information, ideas and developments back into it.

Monitor Evaluator: They are serious and unexciting. Their strength lies in analysis and preventing the team from committing to misguided project. They assimilate, interpret and evaluate large quantities of written material and have excellent judgement.

Plant: This member is the ‘scatters the seeds which the others nourish’ they are the main source of ideas and creativity. They can be flamboyant and artistic but can be prickly and can cause offence.

Shaper: They are the social leader of the group. Their strength lies in shaping the team’s efforts and trying to unite ideas into broad feasible project which they urgently push forward. Only results can assure them.

Coordinator: They preside over the team on a task level and coordinate efforts to meet goals and targets. They are preoccupied with objectives. They focus on the individual strengths of the team members and establish the roles.

I completed the assessment on the train from Leeds to London, first ticking statements I thought were accurate then going back through it and ranking them. This methodical approach should have been some indicator of the role(s) I was to be assigned.

I completed my assessment with 3 roles appearing my most preferred. One of the three was a good five points over the rest.

Shaper: at 18 points, Implementor: at 13 points and Monitor Evaluator: at 12 points. Incidentally I got 0 points for Plant and 2 points for Team Worker.

The descriptions I find frighteningly accurate. I am forever trying to take a complex problem and either, distill it down into a single phrase or idea, that or breaking things down into small chunks. And all three roles suggest an almost religious deidcation to results and objectives and figures. All me to a tee.

The whole idea of group dynamics is an interesting one. Is this all subconscious? Can you take on roles when someone stronger is ‘sitting in your spot’? Can you become a Plant if you’re used to being a Team Worker or a Monitor Evaluator? How does one acquire these roles? Is it something you pick up or develop? Were you born that way?

Another idea is that some of the roles are more positive than others. I can imagine everyone wanting to be a Shaper or a Coordinator. And some harbouring smug pride at being the Plant.

Some might dismiss this sort of test as new agey-HR-‘know yourself’ nonsense but I would encourage them to take the test! It’s called a Belbin Test, learn more here: