Understand your behaviour [2/2] BELBIN and the Confirmation Bias
In this article you will find out how BELBIN, a behavioural test, can help you work better with labelling and the confirmation bias (concepts every human uses, consciously or unconsciously, which we detailed in this previous article, Labelling and the confirmation bias).
For those unfamiliar with the methodology, BELBIN is a way of thinking of ourselves through our Team Roles: in BELBIN language, these Team Roles represent nine clusters of behavioural attributes that, brought together, facilitate team progress and can be a predictor for a successful team.
While being satisfying from a labelling point of view, the methodology constantly gives a reminder that the Team Roles an individual has can change at some point, depending on context.
Moreover, Belbin can challenge the confirmation bias especially when one’s perception of themselves differs in smaller or greater degree from that of the people around them. In that scenario, that said individual’s first reaction to his/ hers profile report usually is “this is not me; these people don’t see me well enough” or “the test doesn’t work” or similar other such statements. We accept that we don’t like it when we see ourselves in a certain way (and we have the feeling that we transmit that certain image externally), but the feedback received does not confirm our self-image.
In such a context, knowing about the confirmation bias and with the objectivity given by the Belbin report, instead of rejecting the external feedback, we can first take a good, in-depth look at ourselves and ask:
1. “is what I thought really reflecting reality?” OR
2. “maybe I should challenge my perspective?”
We should also talk to people and try to see what they see and why they see it that way. For example, we might find out that the difference comes from:
- the fact that we have responsibilities that don’t necessarily match our preferences, but that do match certain Team Roles our colleagues see in us or
- the fact that the people that gave the feedback don’t really know us well enough yet – in this case, we should wait a bit more time during which to get better acquainted to each other before asking for feedback.
How BELBIN looks like in practice
From our experience, people might have a preconception regarding certain Team Roles – some we perceive as good and some as bad (for example, Plant is original and creative, so it has to be a role I want to have; Resource Investigator reminds me of a chatty person who’s always talking to some person or other – I don’t like that, so I’m definitely not a Resource Investigator) or we attach cliché jobs to those Team Roles (Resource Investigator HAS to be sales, and I’m not a sales person!). In these cases, the rejection of a role or another comes exactly from the confirmation bias: we think a particular role looks a certain way and/or fits certain people, we form that image and that’s that, we don’t try to analyse it further – so, when people see it in us, we just deny it.
That’s why, asking questions and trying to understand BEFORE rejecting, might be a better way to understand ourselves.
To clarify, BELBIN is not just a test, it is a whole methodology offering us a common language in which to talk about our preferred behaviours, what we like to do and what we’d prefer to avoid, or with what we would love to help others, for example.
A language in which we can address potential issues of individuals or teams and ways to minimise their impact. A language in which we can talk about one’s strengths and weaknesses and how we can bring together individuals that, as a team, can achieve much better results than on their own. A language that allows us to identify potential causes for conflict and proactively work on them so we could prevent them.
The BELBIN methodology says that every coin has two sides, so every good part has its associated weaknesses. This is valid for the Team Roles, but also valid for the methodology in itself.
A kind reminder to keep an open mind
While offering a common language, it can also become a bit limitative if people don’t take into account that second part of labelling – keeping an open mind. In this case, it means that we shouldn’t just find out our roles and then regard ourselves just through that lens (maybe just through the lens of the first Team Role), but instead to talk about Team Roles in terms of actions. Instead of sticking individuals to their report results, discuss about preferred and less preferred behaviours, tasks, responsibilities.
Activity trading is a very good example of how the BELBIN methodology can help you avoid sticking to labels, encouraging the team to collaborate in order to achieve common goals instead of keeping people on a specific, limited job description. It helps each individual play to their strengths so that the whole team can benefit as a result. The guys at BELBIN UK do a very good job of describing how to do this here, for each Team Role.
In a nutshell, BELBIN can be of help in offering a common language when talking about our way of acting and interacting, as well as clarifying possible preconceptions and diminishing chances of conflicts. In a world where each individual sees life and people through their own glasses, this proven methodology can help create a common picture for the whole team.
This article is written by our colleague Mădălina Ungureanu, EDUROM Consultant and BELBIN certified consultant, lifelong learner on topics of teaching, languages, and anything HR-related. If you want to discuss more with her on this topic you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on her LinkedIn profile.