Perfect pairings, Belbin and the SDF

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Perfect pairings, Belbin and the SDF



There are many perfect pairings – the seaside and fish and chips; the SDF and quality, challenging thought-provoking speakers.

You know when you’ve found a great conference. You begin by taking notes, tweeting and downloading slides. But then you find yourself sitting back, really listening to the speakers and feeling enriched as a result.

The 2018 SDF Conference was one of those. Belbin have supported the SDF Conference as key sponsor for two consecutive years, and not only do we have great conversations with delegates, we also learn from the speakers and contributors. The shared insights and ideas were engaging, and my note taking really did slow down!

My highlights

Bournemouth University set the scene, discussing co-creation, teams and inclusivity. Creating cross-university teams (including students) has enabled them to break down silos and create a strategic plan that includes everyone. They have truly made their vision and strategy accessible to all.

Bournemouth University’s passion and practical approach was followed by an immensely engaging talk from Nathan Palmer of the RNLI, who talked about fostering a culture of honesty and transparency. He emphasised the importance of addressing where the organisation is at ‘right now’ and communicating in a language that is common to everyone. Nathan also spoke about facing up to significant issues, speaking out when things aren’t working, and helping individuals understand the value they bring to an organisation. When 95% of your workforce is made up of volunteers, a ‘Why’ that resonates with all staff is crucial.

Justin Hughes, team leader of the Red Arrows, was a breath of fresh air. The resonance with our work here at Belbin was incredible – and no, we hadn’t spoken beforehand! The key ‘take-away’ for me (and there were several) was the recruitment policy for new pilots – namely that the flying test is treated simply as a ‘line in the sand’. You must be on it or over it, but that’s it. Further to this, it is the attitude of an individual which is key to success. Is the candidate a team player who wants to be part of something bigger? Is the person motivated to learn and improve? With this approach, a marginally on the line candidate will succeed over one who is massively over the line, but has an ego to match. How often organisations fixate on the qualifications (what we at Belbin call the ‘eligibility’ criteria) and not the person’s appetite and attitude (the ‘suitability’ factors).

There were many other captivating talks, and I applaud the quality and enthusiasm shown by all the contributors.

We’d like to thank the SDF for letting us be part of it. Belbin and the SDF are shaping up to be one of those perfect pairings…

Here’s to next year!


Belbin Team Roles are used to identify behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. Whether developing people, resolving conflict or fine-tuning high performance, Belbin provides the language to ensure that individuals and teams communicate and work together with greater understanding.

Jo Keeler, Managing Partner, Belbin.