for the EU in Brussels, advising how to recruit key staff from member countries for key positions. I also worked with Tony Glaze, who was manpower development director of Cadbury. Tat role brought into
their jobs, and enabled them to steer a more suitable career path. I am also immensely proud of
our own high-performing team in Cambridge, who help to spread the Belbin message all over the world.
What and when was your career turning point?
That experience taught me valuable lessons about how damaging it is when top management becomes separated from line management in a hierarchical structure
focus how best to handle and advance talent once it has been recruited.
What has been your lowest moment, and what your noblest hour?
I have always suffered a blockage with mental arithmetic and only overcame the barrier for entry to Cambridge University by compensating in algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Later, after success in projects to improve quality in industry through statistical quality control, I was invited to contribute to an education course on the subject. My weakness was soon exposed. As a result, I am now reluctant to challenge any change I receive when shopping! I am always delighted to hear
stories of how Team Role theory is making a difference to individuals and within organisations. When I meet those who come to Belbin for accreditation training, it is gratifying to hear how an understanding of team roles has helped them in
Playing to win
“There was a celebrated tip to wisdom in the world of Ancient Greece. It was ‘know thyself’. It is still true today. In our professional language, we speak of it in terms of ‘authenticity’. Do not try to be something you are not. It is a lesson from which politicians could benefit, rather than to aim at pleasing a crowd or echoing the party leader.”
It occurred long ago, when I had the good fortune to be involved with colleagues in long-running experiments at Henley Management College, now part of the University of Reading. Once I knew who was in the team, I had gathered enough information to be able to make a good forecast as to the outcome of a competitive exercise. From this came Team Role theory, and in turn, the Belbin reports, which help individuals to discover their preferred styles and find out how to work more effectively with others. Now in 22 languages, these reports – and Team Role theory – have gained a worldwide reach.
Describe your best learning and development experience
I’ve never worked for a large company, so I have never experienced formal learning and development, but learned a great deal from organisations through my consultancy work. In the late 1970s, I worked with
John Player & Sons in the tobacco industry. We discovered that the new, fast-running tobacco machines required far less operator attention than did their predecessors and we began to experiment on this premise. Against my advice, the manage- ment decided to keep the experiment secret from the Tobacco Workers’ Union and as a result, the TWU called their members on strike, when they discovered what was going on. Tey marched around the roads of Nottingham, carrying a banner which read: ‘Te Doctor’s Medicine Is Not For Us’. Tat experience taught me valuable lessons about how damaging it is when top management becomes
It’s all about me
Clare College, University of Cambridge
My son, Nigel, is the founding and managing partner of Belbin. My
second wife, Sheila, and I married in 2008. I have five talented grandchildren
Cambridge, UK Favourite place
My garden. Open for the last 25 years for charity under the National Garden Scheme, it
allows me to be an artist, like my mother, but in this instance by designing with flowers
For sentimental reasons, a leather-bound edition of Selected Stories by Rudyard Kipling presented to me as the form prize in 1938. Otherwise, Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice – the first book I read in grammar school. It bewitched me with its unrivalled beauty of English and penetrating insights into social character
Notably, Chopin’s nocturnes, etudes, polkas and symphonies, along with the music of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Dvorak and Vaughan Williams
Favourite film and TV
Casablanca is my all-time favourite film. On TV, I like Dad's Army, Hi-de-Hi and Benidorm – uplifting comedies written by scriptwriters about characters so real they must have been there at the time
Technology Email, providing my PA reads it first!
separated from line management in a hierarchical structure.
What’s next in your career?
I am busy writing a book – my last, I promise! At the age of 91, I am rather more interested in the development of the Cambridge team we have so carefully selected, and in spending time with my grandchildren and in my garden.
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