Defining Team Roles: the Missing Link in Creating Winning Teams in Corporate Teamwork

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All across the world corporate executives, managers, and employees are looking out the windows of their offices thinking about team work. How can we develop new teambuilding trainings? How do we implement a new team? How do we disassemble a current team? How can I highlight my attributes in a team setting? In today's workplace, teamwork has become an epidemic, or a cure all for corporate problems. Because of its popularity in today's corporate environment, employers are adding teambuilding into their handbooks, orientations, and trainings; while employees are incorporating team building skills into their resumes. According to Carroll Lachnit's (2001) article, Training Proves its Worth, corporations spend between from $221 to $252 per employee on training. But if teamwork is so important, are teams being frequently overused and poorly designed, resulting in failure? Teams fail because many corporate team leaders ignore the importance of team roles. They fail to realize that a team must do several things in order for it to be successful. Various team roles are needed to highlight one another, in turn creating an effective team. Unfortunately, corporations around the world are rushing into the popularity of team dynamics without realizing the importance of defining team roles and incorporating those roles into their daily operations.

In order for a team to be successful team roles need to be understood and redefined to fit today's corporations. Some define (Biddle, as cited in Fulmer, Ingrid, Hollenback, Murray & Stewart, 2005) roles as a set of behaviors that are interrelated with repetitive activities of others and characteristic of the person in a particular setting. From this definition it can be seen that roles are a combination of interactions between team members that result in teamwork. Team roles are also defined as being a single role for a single member. However, in today's changing workplace team roles should be flexible positions. In 2006, Vivien Martin reported that workplace objectives are accomplished today through "networks, partnerships and project groups with frequently changing memberships and with team members taking multiple roles" (Vivien, 2006, Team and roles section). The rule that team roles should be for one member is outdated; with the incorporation of clear team roles, anyone can take leadership. Once team roles are understood and redefined in the context of today's workplace, many benefits can be reaped by corporations implementing winning teamwork into their daily operations.

Overall research has concluded that corporate workplace teams can be benefited by including team members that fit well together. As noted by Katz and Kahn (cited by Fulmer et al., 2005) roles are seen as "the major means for linking the individual and organizational levels of research and theory..." There are many additional benefits for incorporating team roles in the workplace. Defining roles create winning team members, and winning team members create winning teams. Vivien (2006) noted that winning team members benefit teams and corporations in many ways. Winning team members harmonize team roles with organizational needs, they develop responsibility and trust. The most important characteristic of winning team members that Vivien (2006) noted was the ability for members to share their opinions and suggestions without the fear of being ridiculed or belittled. In order to create winning teams, corporations today should embrace the implementation of team roles; however certain strategies should be in place for that implementation to be successful.

Team leaders have researched many methods for incorporating team roles into their corporate environment. Through this research two major methods have stood out: Meredith Belbin's nine team roles and Glenn Parker's Team Player Survey. Meredith Belbin (1993), after a nine year study of managers around the globe, identified nine team roles with...
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