Cognitive Team Roles: which one are you?

The theory

There are a few ‘team role’ models around and they are all pretty much designed to do the same thing; help you work out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and as a result, where you can contribute to team and organisational success.

It doesn’t really matter which models you choose to explore; each one will add something different and each one will build on ‘the theory of self’ that you hold about yourself as you travel along your journey of continuing professional development. Early models like Belbin’s (behavioural) Team Roles, or de Bono’s (cognitive) 6 Thinking Hats weren’t statistically robust, but that didn’t matter – they still fulfilled the same purpose, and they are still quite useful today. I would recommend that every employee read up on them to see where they ‘fit’, and every team leader use them to start to understand their own team members and colleagues a bit better

Over time however, psychologists like myself became frustrated with the over-simplification of the early models. So we used modern mathematical methods to combine elements of both thinking and behaviour to generate newer, more sophisticated and statistically robust models that add value to peoples’ personal understanding and performance. Models like Cognitive Team Roles™ for example. Research undertaken with real teams using the profiling tool Thinking Styles™ identified that within any team, in order for that team to be successful and achieve its objectives, there are ten different kinds of thinking that at least someone in the team must undertake.

“In order for a team to be successful and achieve its objectives, there are ten different kinds of thinking that at least someone in the team must undertake” Dr. Fiona Beddoes-Jones – Chartered Psychologis

The Practice

They are described in the following infographic. It is rare for someone to have only one preferred role; being a Collaborative Altruist is quite common for example, as is being a Detailed Troubleshooter, a Strategic Driver or an Intuitive Creator. When you read the role descriptions, which roles do you prefer and are they the same ones that your team relies on you to undertake? I once coached a client who was particularly talented at data analytics, being promoted to Department Head because of it. Unfortunately it was a role they hated as it involved a new focus on people and team building; they were much more comfortable with numbers.

They didn’t want to lead a team and their team didn’t want to be led by them. Using Cognitive Team Roles™ clearly identified the issue and enabled an honest conversation to take place so that the right person could take on the role and thrive with it. Do you love your job? If you do, then maybe you have slipped into the roles that suit you best. If you don’t, then by not working to your strengths, you’re not going to be as productive or as mentally resilient as you could be. If you lead a team and your team members aren’t working to their strengths, then you’re never going to have a really high performing team. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true.



Cognitive Team Roles™ has been used successfully with high performing teams to help them maintain their levels of excellence as well as with existing teams to assist them in becoming high performing teams. Project teams, where the right balance between focusing on the task, managing the people and managing the project as a whole is critical, have benefited enormously by learning more about their colleagues’ role preferences and strengths. Newly formed teams need to develop mutual respect and trust within the team; using Cognitive Team Roles™ will enable them to do this. ‘Dysfunctional’ teams will be the subject of another article. Long story short; Cognitive Team Roles™ will undoubtedly help.

Dr Fiona Beddoes-Jones is a Chartered Psychologist with more than 25 years industry experience of developing teams and coaching leaders. She is the creative originator of the psychometric tools Thinking Styles™, Cognitive Team Roles™, Leadership Temperament Types™ and the Authentic Leadership 360™.

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