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Identify your GP partnership role

Do an online test to find out if you are a shaper, completer finisher or a plant, says Dr Neil Paul.

A few years ago my practice merged with the only other practice in town. With a much larger team - 10 partners, a salaried GP, two registrars and over 35 staff under the same roof - we had to give some thought to how the merged teams would function.

It was critical that the GP partners should be able to work together harmoniously. So we decided to each take the online Belbin self perception test at www.belbin.com to give us insight into what our respective roles should be.

This was an inexpensive exercise - the current online test fee is only £30 per person.

The Belbin method identifies nine different personality types that can be found in teams. These include the 'shaper' who likes a challenge and thrives on pressure; the 'completer finisher' who delivers on time and the 'plant' who is good at solving problems.

The exact description of each type is more complex and there are both good and bad things about all of them. For example, plants can be great at coming up with ideas, but bad at communicating them or involving anyone else in a project.

In the self perception test, you score marks in all nine categories, and the ones in which you score the highest are your preferred roles.

Good mix of traits
We were delighted to find that our enlarged partnership included a good mix of traits. We did not blindly follow what the tests suggested. To some extent, we found the right people were already in the right roles.

Several years on, Belbin team roles surface in discussions. We try to ensure all the practice's working groups contain a range of personality types and attempt to delegate tasks to those suited to them.

For example, we passed on fine detail work such as the IT directed enhanced service to our completer finishers.

However, while our business development group that comes up with great ideas, it constantly wishes it had more implementers.

I was not surprised to score highly in the resource investigator and shaper categories but was taken aback by my low team worker score.

I also scored low as a completer finisher, but the Belbin test has taught me to resist putting off until tomorrow the things that should be done today.

Dr Paul is a GP in Cheshire

Belbin team players
PlantCreative and solves problems
Resource investigatorExplores opportunities, develops contacts
Co-ordinator Brings people together and clarifies goals
ShaperDynamic and thrives on pressure
Monitor evaluatorStrategist with good judgment
Team workerWorks well with others
ImplementerReliable and disciplined
Completer finisherConscientious and delivers on time
SpecialistDedicated; with skills in short supply

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