Abstract Today’s leaders face many challenges in the creation of a high-performing team. Effective leaders are able to assemble a high-performance team with good hierarchical balance, measurable and attainable goals, and appropriate communication expectations across the team. They promptly address conflict resolutions and break down all physical barriers in managing multi-city offices and dispersed employees. By paying close attention to team demographics and diversity, good leaders will establish a solid group foundation which will result in a high-performance team.
Groups and High-Performance Teams There are many factors that affect a team’s behavior and overall performance. Group demographics and diversity can ultimately play a key role in the success or failure of any team. This paper will identify some of the challenges that today’s leaders face in turning a group into a high-performance team, and the impact of demographic characteristics and cultural diversity on group behavior. Groups vs. Teams As defined by Schermerhorn (2005), “A group is a collection of two or more people who work with one another regularly to achieve common goals.
An effective group is one that achieves high levels of task performance, member satisfaction, and team viability. ” Teams on the other hand, are usually time-limited groups that get together to achieve a common purpose. “An essential criterion of a true team is that the members feel ‘collectively accountable’ for what they accomplish. ” (Schermerhorn, 2005). The manager or team leader must remember the importance of the team members’ ability to associate themselves with a group identity and begin to form an attachment to their teammates. The fact is that it takes a lot more work to build a well-functioning team than simply assigning members to the same group and then expecting them to do a great job. ” (Shcermerhorn, 2005). Team Identity Setting a team’s identity is one of the first steps a manager must take in forming a high-performing team. As we often witness in the sports world, a team’s identity can help to rally team members and build camaraderie amongst its members. The same approach holds true in a business setting. Computer Weekly (2004) reports, “The project start process can also be used to build team identity and build psychological attachment between members. (p. 24). This psychological attachment will serve as the foundation upon which the team is built and will affect the team’s overall performance. According to Turk (2005), “As the project manager you need to build a staff that can get the job done. You need the right mix of expertise, creativity, flexibility, enthusiasm, and experience. ” ( p. 30). These key attributes will work to motivate other team members and assist the manager in establishing the appropriate balance to the team. Team Diversity When forming effective teams, managers must consider team synergy an important goal, and diversity plays a major role.
Managers should strive to create the appropriate balance between workers and their personality types. As Martinette (2005) points out, “Work groups and teams that have too many people of one type or another soon find themselves out of balance. ” (p. 117). “For good problem solving and decision making, you need a diversity of personality types. ” (Hill, 2005, p. 37). Striking the proper team balance is important and balance does not mean people with a background and disposition just like the boss. Many types of diversity are to be expected on any team, and can be the source of many differences of opinion.
Age, gender, ethnicity, and personality differences can affect the team’s cohesiveness, or non-cohesiveness as may be. Obviously, with a diverse group the possibilities of conflict increase, but so do the possibilities of a greater outcome. Hill (2005) gives us an example, “Meetings are more raucous and consensus is harder to achieve. But these arguments often spark new ideas. As a result, the company is constantly spawning and sculpting new innovations in a way the old team never did. ” (p. 38). Differences in world view can create dynamic conversations and results, if the team can learn how to effectively deal with conflict.
According to D Andrea-O Brien and Buono (1996), “True team learning is the ability of members to… build on their knowledge so that their collective knowledge enables them to continually improve team… performance as well as to discover, develop and implement completely new ways of doing business (p. 1). Demographics Managing remote employees is a growing challenge for many of today’s leaders. It is not just about managing employees at satellite offices; it is also managing telecommuters who work a certain number of days from their home offices.
A manager needs to understand the complexities of managing a virtual team and communicating across the boundaries of time zones, organizations and cultures. Good communication practices as well as building personal relationships are both key to working with remote employees. As Pauleen (2003) states, “Effective communications is a key to successful virtual teams, and one of the keys to effective communications is how well team members are able to build and maintain their personal relationships. ” (p. 229).
Video conferencing works well and provides a company’s employees with a visual link that serves to backfill for the lack of face-to-face communications that employees would have if they were collocated. Trust and Motivation An important goal for managers, in addressing and monitoring a team’s behavior, is to develop the trust of his or her team members. Employees that trust one another will often be motivated to go the extra mile in meeting and exceeding team objectives. Team motivation is extremely important because it makes the team more effective.
Stephen Covey (1989) states: “Unclear expectations in the area of goals also undermine communication and trust. ” (p. 194). If goals seem unachievable, it could affect the teams buy-in to the whole process. Giving, receiving and being responsive to feedback should be a fundamental part of the team process. Conflict According to DeJanasz, Dewd and Schneider (2001), “Conflict is any situation in which there are incompatible goals, cognitions, or emotions within or between individuals or groups that lead to opposition or antagonistic interaction. ” (p. 243).
Conflict among team members is inevitable and desirable, because “conflict in itself is not the problem. It is, rather, our reactions to it that determine the impact, and causes us to characterize it as a negative experience. ” (Porter, 2005, p. 1). It should be anticipated that the team will disagree, and therefore, conflict should be considered a part of the process. “In fact, if we define conflicts as simply differences of opinion, this is exactly what we want to happen. In bringing together a diverse group of experts, we expect and want these differences to surface because, in the end, we expect a better outcome or result. (The Team, p. 171). If everyone agreed, there would be no reason to team up to resolve a situation, or to come up with new ideas. Teams are developed for a specific purpose, and diverse opinions, ideas, and perspectives will make the team most effective. Conclusion Team diversity and demographics play a key role in determining the success or failure of any team. An appropriate understanding and acceptance of a diverse group will benefit the organization through innovative and diverse ideas. “Of course, that doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to hire people you don’t like.
While a certain measure of conflict is healthy, too much conflict can be destructive. ” (Hill, 2005, p. 39). Paying close attention to team identity, trust, diversity, motivation and conflict resolution will go a long way in paving the road for a successful team outcome. Employees will appreciate that their leadership cares about these issues and will reward the team with their best efforts in meeting goals, which results in a high-performance team. References Computer Weekly. (2004, June). Plan your web project milestones. Computer Weekly. 4-54. Retrieved October 8, 2005 from Business Source Premier database. Covey, Stephen R. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York: Fireside. D Andrea-O Brien, Charlene & Buono, Anthony F. (1999, Summer). Building effective learning teams: Lessons from the field. S. A. M. Advanced Management Journal, 61(3), 1-6. Retrieved September 23, 2005, from ProQuest database. DeJanasz, Dewd & Schneider. (2001). Conflict: Sources and solutions. Interpersonal Skills in Organizations. University of Phoenix Custom Edition e-text]. McGraw-Hill Companies. Retrieved October 3, 2005, from University of Phoenix, rEsource, GEN 300 – Skill for Professional Development Course Web site: https://ecampus. phoenix. edu/secure/resource/resource. asp. Hill, Dee. (2005, November). Dealing with diversity. Inc. , 27(11), 37-40. Retrieved January 13, 2006, from Academic Search Premier Database. Martinette, Jr. ,C. V. (2005, April). Leadership and Balance. Fire Engineering, 158, 117-126. Retrieved October 8, 2005 from Academic Search Premier database.
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