Take one for the team? How to tackle work you don’t enjoy
by The Belbin Team , Adapted by BelbinSA
Gallup tells us that employees who play to their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged.
Nice work if you can get it, but what happens if you don’t have the opportunity? What if your team relies on you to do the kind of work that just doesn’t come naturally to you?
You can’t just say ‘no’ – right?
Taking one for the team?
Teams need all kinds of diversity, in order to survive. In an ideal world, teams would be designed for balance, not least in the kind of contributions individuals can make. There are those who keep an eye on the bigger picture, while others check the finer details. There are some who are great at driving things forward, while others keep relationships in the team sweet and make sure things are running smoothly. However, in real life, teams don’t always work that way.
In Belbin terms…
We all have “preferred” behaviours (that come naturally to us), “manageable” behaviours (that we can adopt when the occasion demands) and “least preferred” behaviours, which are best avoided. We call these behaviours or contributions ‘Team Roles’.
If we are put in a situation where we can not play to our Team Role strengths, we are making what’s known as a Team Role sacrifice. In other words, we are forfeiting the opportunity to play to our strengths, in an attempt to do something that is not so intuitive. If there is no one else around who can take over, we are doing that so that the work gets done.
This is a double-edged sword. When it happens from time to time, it can help to cultivate new behaviours we did not know we possessed. When it is long-term, it can mean that we stop honing our strengths (we call this ‘Team Role strain’) and suffer from lower levels of engagement.
According to Gallup, only 13% of people are engaged at work. In South Africa, it’s down to 9%.
So is it just a case of taking one for the team? Or is there something you can do about it?
Talk, talk talk…
To your manager. To your team. You need to speak out and let people know that the problem exists. Of course, this depends on how strong your working relationships are.
It is important to let people know as soon as possible. Over the past 16 months many people have been ‘playing out of position’; taking on work because it needed to be done. Virtual working has also made it more difficult for managers and team members to see exactly what work you are doing.
Understanding your Belbin Team Roles and those of your team can help open up that conversation, and depersonalise it. Rather than saying that you do not want to do the work and be seen as a cherry-picker, it is a case of looking at the kind of behaviours that work entails, and analysing the disconnect between those behaviours and your own strengths.
Opening up that discussion with the team is recommended whilst we make the next transition to hybrid / back to the office working.
In his seminal book, Management Teams, Dr Belbin recommends declaring what’s called a ‘Team Role void’. In other words, you let your fellow team members know that a certain contribution is needed in the team, that it’s missing, and that you’re trying to plug the gap.
It’s a case of enabling the team to refresh its idea of why that contribution is needed, how its performance affects the team’s success, and what kind of problems the lack of that behaviour could mean for the team.
Here’s the thinking behind it.
As things stand, the team is relying on someone who does not want the role (and therefore is unlikely to perform it particularly well). It could be that another solution exists which would increase the team’s effectiveness overall, but that solution has not been explored, because the status quo works – just about. It is an opportunity to regroup and assess who might be best suited to taking on the role without preconceptions.
From the discussions that arise, you might discover something unexpected. Perhaps someone else would love to do that work, but has not been given the opportunity. Maybe they have not announced their preferred styles and ways of working clearly enough that the manager could allocate the work accordingly. If the work can be reallocated to someone who wants it and has the qualities needed, it’s a win-win.
On the other hand, maybe there may be a particular reason why your manager needs it to be you who carries out this particular function, in which case all will be revealed. It is entirely possible that there is no one else in the team who displays the required skills or behaviour in abundance, therefore in the absence of external resources, you will still be required to pick up the slack.
Even so, you have opened up the lines of communication and aired the problem. This will hopefully give you breathing room if you find yourself struggling to meet expectations with the work in question. It may even give you renewed vigour to cultivate those behaviours, knowing that you are the best person around for the job.
To find out how the language of Belbin Team Roles can help your conversations with your team/allocate the right work to the right people/start the conversation with your manager, get in touch! Email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org