What are Observer Assements?

Why Observers matter

To learn and understand ourselves better, we need to broaden our perspective – to look at ourselves through a new lens. It may sound obvious, but we need to move beyond what we already know. It’s important that we’re open to receiving new information; that we look for this information in the right places, and that we interpret it correctly, so we can act on it.

Only then can we set about changing the way we work and communicate with others.

Observing behaviour is at the heart of what we do.

When Dr Meredith Belbin’s research team set out to investigate why some teams succeed and others fail, they did it by observing teams in action.

The team members in their study had already completed a number of personality and critical thinking tests, but those results didn’t tell the researchers everything they needed to know. Using a method called Bales Analysis, the researchers made and coded observations on how the teams communicated and acted during a simulated business game. They took measurements every thirty seconds throughout weeks and months.

The result? The original big data.

From their analysis, the nine Team Roles were discovered – nine key clusters of behaviour that were effective in facilitating team progress.
Having discovered that behaviour was key, it became equally apparent that the behaviours needed to be measured by others – by observers – to ground the findings in reality. In other words, the researchers couldn’t rely solely on the individuals themselves to provide the full picture.

Self-reporting isn’t the whole story.

Many tools and tests rely on self-reporting. We answer questions about who we are: personality (which is fairly fixed), our internal thoughts and feelings, and even who we want to be.
These tools can make us feel really ‘seen’ and understood. There’s an instant ‘feel good’ factor. That’s because there’s really nothing to disagree with! In essence, we’re looking in a mirror and reflecting our own view back at ourselves.

But there are a couple of limitations with this kind of measurement.

For one thing, we might miss out on hidden strengths that others see in us. This is crucial information for growth.
Secondly, our own view can easily be distorted – by mood, limited self-awareness or even aspirations to work in a certain way.
Even for those who are self-aware, who we are at work can change: in response to colleagues, our environment, our functional roles, and other experiences in our lives. In other words, the picture we see may not be the one everyone else sees.
In order to make lasting, meaningful improvements to individual and team performance, we need everyone to be looking at the same picture. To solve team problems, we need a team perspective.

“The Observer Assessments are essential, I think for the programme that we use it on the most, a big part of it is raising self-awareness. We’ve used lots of tools over the years and we had to go back to using Belbin because with the behavioural element, the observations, it just heightens people’s self-awareness.”

So, how is Belbin different?

Belbin measures behaviour, not personality – what we do, not who we are.
And because behaviour can be observed by other people, we ask others in the team (colleagues, managers etc.) for feedback on those behaviours, via a short questionnaire called an Observer Assessment. This is completed after the individual’s Self-Perception Inventory (or SPI), which is the self-reported part.
Observer Assessments provide independent evidence on our working styles – a ‘reality check’ which enhances the accuracy and validity of the Belbin Individual Report.
Our sophisticated algorithms ensure that Observer feedback is considered and constructive. Then we compare individual and Observer views, and advise on any significant similarities or differences between the two.
In short, adding Observer feedback to a Belbin Report gives teams, managers and coaches a wealth of information to unpack. It helps people to understand how others experience their behaviours, and offers practical advice and strategies to hone strengths and build on latent talents.
Observer Assessments are fundamental to Belbin. Because understanding our behaviour – and acting upon our understanding – helps us to work smarter and become more engaged in what we do.
Some of the Belbin Individual report pages that highlight the Observer feedback:

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Lindsay Lalla

Lindsay Lalla is the VP of Marketing and Client Support for Belbin North America. Most recently, she has been spearheading the introduction of the Belbin Team Role methodology into North America. Lindsay is a skilled facilitator, and also runs the Belbin Accreditation classes where she certifies others in the Belbin method.
Lindsay’s formal education is in instruction and performance. Combined with her 17 years of adult education experience, she brings a depth of understanding in how to deliver the highly experiential workshops that are a hallmark of the Belbin North America approach to education and organizational development.

Patrick Ballin

Patrick offers more than 25 years of experience with some of the most successful businesses in Europe as a consultant, change manager and executive coach.

He has helped many well-known organisations to get their ideas and projects off the ground by working with business leaders and their teams to optimise interaction, strategy and execution.
Patrick was Global Head of Supply Chain and Logistics Development for The Body Shop, an international retailer of ethical health and beauty products, and managed its change programme across 52 countries. In 2009, he set up the national redundancy coaching service, Rework, for the UK industry charity, Retail Trust. Patrick spent his earlier career with ACWL Group, one of the pioneering UK Apple Centres, where he was a divisional Director.
He holds an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, is a Visiting Lecturer for Brighton Business School, a Fellow of the RSA and coach for social enterprise incubator On Purpose.

Max Isaac

Max is the CEO of 3Circle Partners. He brings a depth of knowledge and experience from his career in general management and consulting in North America, England, Europe and Asia.
Max has assisted CEOs and senior leaders within client organizations with the design and implementation of Interaction Planning processes, team based organizational development programs and Lean Six Sigma initiatives.
Prior to moving into the field of organizational development, Max was the CFO for the Retail Division within The Molson’s Organization, where he took a lead role in growing the business to over $1 billion in revenues, doubling its size in four years through acquisitions and internal growth.
Max is co-author of Close The Interaction Gap, The Third Circle – Interactions That Drive Results, Setting Teams Up for Success and A Guide to Team Roles. He is also the contributing author of the Organizational Change sections of Mike George’s books Lean Six Sigma published in May 2002 and Lean Six Sigma for Service published in June 2003. Max is a registered CPA, CA in Canada. His undergraduate degree was earned at Witwatersrand University, South Africa.