Several team composition factors are important to a team’s effectiveness. These include team member abilities, per- sonality, role allocation, diversity, size of teams, member flexibility, and member preferences.
Part of a team’s performance depends on its members’ knowledge, skills, and abilities.34
Research has shown that to perform effectively, a team needs three different types of skills. First, it needs people with technical expertise. Next, it needs members with problem-solving and decision-making skills. Finally, a team needs people with interpersonal skills. A team can’t achieve its performance potential if it doesn’t have or can’t develop all these skills. And the right mix of these skills is also critical. Too much of one at the expense of another will lead to lower team performance. However, a team doesn’t necessarily need all these skills immediately. It’s not uncommon for team members to take responsibility for learning the skills in which the group is deficient. That way a team can achieve its full potential.
As we saw in the last chapter, personality significantly influences individual behavior. It’s also true for team behavior. Research has shown that three of the Big Five dimensions are rel- evant to team effectiveness.35 For instance, high levels of both conscientiousness and openness- to-experience tend to lead to higher team performance. Agreeableness also appears to matter. And teams that had one or more highly disagreeable members performed poorly. Maybe you’ve had that not-so-good experience in group projects that you’ve been part of!
Fundamentals of Management: Essential Concepts and Applications, Seventh Edition, by Stephen P. Robbins, David A. DeCenzo, and Mary Coulter. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc.
CHAPTER 9 | UNDERSTANDING GROUPS AND MANAGING WORK TEAMS 253
Nine potential team roles have been identified. (See Exhibit 9-7.) High-performing work teams have people to fill all these roles and have selected people to fulfill these roles based on their skills and preferences.36 On many teams, individuals may play multiple roles. It’s important for managers to understand the individual strengths a person will bring to a team and select team members with those strengths in mind to ensure that these roles are filled.
Team diversity is another factor that can influence team effectiveness. Although many of us hold the optimistic view that diversity is desirable, research seems to show the opposite. One review found that “Studies on diversity in teams from the last 50 years have shown that surface- level social-category differences such as race/ethnicity, gender, and age tend to . . . have negative effects” on the performance of teams.37 However, there is some evidence showing that the disruptive effects of diversity decline over time, although little evidence exists that diverse teams perform better eventually. The “Managing Diversity” box describes some of the chal- lenges managers face in managing diverse teams.
What size should a work team be in order to be effective? At Amazon.com, work teams have considerable autonomy to innovate and to investigate ideas. And Jeff Bezos, founder and
Developing Your Skill About the Skill Effective managers are increasingly being described as coaches rather than bosses. Just like coaches, they’re expected to provide instruction, guidance, advice, and encouragement to help team members improve their job performance.
Steps in Practicing the Skill 1 Analyze ways to improve the team’s performance
and capabilities. A coach looks for opportunities for team members to expand their capabilities and improve performance. How? You can use the following behav- iors. Observe your team members’ behaviors on a day- to-day basis. Ask questions of them: Why do you do a task this way? Can it be improved? What other approaches might be used? Show genuine interest in team members as individuals, not merely as employees. Respect them individually. Listen to each employee.
2 Create a supportive climate. It’s the coach’s respon- sibility to reduce barriers to development and to facili- tate a climate that encourages personal performance improvement. How? You can use the following behav- iors. Create a climate that contributes to a free and open exchange of ideas. Offer help and assistance. Give guidance and advice when asked. Encourage your team. Be positive and upbeat. Don’t use threats. Ask, “What did we learn from this that can help us in the future?” Reduce obstacles. Assure team members that you value their contribution to the team’s goals. Take personal responsibility for the outcome, but don’t rob team members of their full responsibility. Validate team members’ efforts when they succeed. Point to
what was missing when they fail. Never blame team members for poor results.
3 Influence team members to change their behavior. The ultimate test of coaching effectiveness is whether an employee’s performance improves. You must en- courage ongoing growth and development. How can you do this? Try the following behaviors. Recognize and reward small improvements and treat coaching as a way of helping employees to continually work toward improvement. Use a collaborative style by allowing team members to participate in identifying and choos- ing among improvement ideas. Break difficult tasks down into simpler ones. Model the qualities that you expect from your team. If you want openness, dedica- tion, commitment, and responsibility from your team members, demonstrate these qualities yourself.
Practicing the Skill Collaborative efforts are more successful when every mem- ber of the group or team contributes a specific role or task toward the completion of the goal. To improve your skill at nurturing team effort, choose two of the following activities and break each one into at least six to eight separate tasks or steps. Be sure to indicate which steps are sequential, and which can be done simultaneously with others. What do you think is the ideal team size for each activity you choose? a. Making an omelet b. Washing the car c. Creating a computerized mailing list d. Designing an advertising poster e. Planning a ski trip f. Restocking a supermarket’s produce department