One of the principle insights of Belbin’s theory of team roles is that all of us have preferences for particular roles within a team. Belbin lists nine of these roles emphasising that all of these roles need to be filled if there is to be a fully functioning team. Our role preferences are governed by our strengths. For example, somebody has to check the bright ideas that come from the team members. That person, is, according to Belbin’s description, a “monitor evaluator”. This will be a preferred role for someone who is “sober, strategic and discerning” and “who sees all options”. But there is a downside to these “strengths”, and for the “monitor evaluator” there are “allowable weaknesses” of lacking drive and being unable to inspire others.
Our default position about weaknesses is complaint and annoyance. The consequence of this is that it is more usual not to publicly acknowledge individual weakness, and internalise the complaint and annoyance. That can’t be good for teamwork! Weaknesses are only usually judged negatively, but some weaknesses are allowable and could be viewed constructively.
Why do we not celebrate our weakness? It seems to me that Belbin gives us permission for that, because there is always a flipside to weaknesses. Instead of complaining about X’s lack of drive, we can recognise that X can play a vital part in our enterprise.
For my part (my preferred role is “plant”), I know that some may find my inability to “communicate effectively” (because I get “too preoccupied”) and my “ignoring of incidentals” frustrating and annoying. But that’s what you get in exchange for someone who can be “creative, imaginative, unorthodox”. Personally I am grateful for those who have seen the potential that I have through those weaknesses.
So, why don’t we talk more openly, and more positively, about weaknesses?