Myers-Briggs (MBTI) and Belbin Team Roles

July 7, 2009 Max Isaac

Many organizations use more that one assessment tool to help develop self-awareness and increase team performance.  The Belbin Team Role Assessment is one such tool.  One of the most common instruments we run into in our client organizations is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is an assessment based on a questionnaire designed to measure personality differences in people.

The MBTI is based on typological theories (an analysis of personality types) put forth by Carl Jung in the early 20th Century. It has been in use since the 1950’s. It establishes a person’s personality by measuring the following dimensions:

  • Attitudes: Extraversion (E) / Introversion (I)
  • Functions: Sensing (S) / Intuition (N) and Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)
  • Lifestyle: Judgement (J) / Perception (P)

From these dimensions of personality, there are 16 possible permutations. For example, one may be an ENTP (an Extrovert/Intuitive/Thinking/Perceiver).

By contrast, Belbin Team Roles do not attempt to define PERSONALITY. Rather, the Belbin Team Roles represent clusters of behavior that emerged from 9 years of intensive research by Dr. Meredith Belbin.
My opinion is that trying to “connect the dots” between the two systems is not productive. Rather, treat them as separate frameworks:

The Belbin methodology focuses on results. Meredith Belbin adopted a quality-management approach as he spent nine years discovering what inputs are required to be used in team processes to produce an output of outstanding team results. The inputs that he was able identify were the clusters of skills and behaviours that were to become the nine Belbin Team Roles.
The main purpose of the MBTI framework is to provide insights into one’s personality and the personalities of others. The Belbin Team Role methodology is not intended to be used in this fashion. It instead provides the outcome of years of research that indicates that certain clusters of behaviors are needed to succeed in teams.

Using the two systems in combination can be very effective:

  1. Identify your preferred roles (those roles that come naturally to you) through a Belbin Team Role Assessment. This is an essential first step in the path towards being part of a high-performance team. Note: when we do our Belbin Team Role Assessments, we find that over 70% of those analyzed are unaware of some of their strengths.
  2. Then use an MBTI assessment to understand personality factors that may affect your Belbin role either posivitely or negatively.

For example, one individual’s Belbin assessment revealed that he is a strong Resource Investigator (RI). When he completed an MBTI it became clear to him that the RI role was not a preferred role, but instead a manageable role (those that we can be proficient in, but they require us to “stretch”). He was able to gain this more refined knowledge of his strengths by understanding that he is not a naturally extroverted person. He has many of the other attributes of the RI role, but will probably never be as fully effective in it as an individual who is more extroverted.

Therefore, using the two systems (Belbin and MBTI) in combination can increase the effectiveness of both instruments.  The Belbin system identifies clusters of behaviors which link directly to results, whereas the MBTI provides insights into the personality factors that affect these behaviors.

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