Many organizations have turned away from the individual approach when making an attempt to find solutions for complex situations such as increasing sales, marketing tactics and product creation. It has been found that forming a team of individuals who are mutually dependent on each other for the purpose of achieving a common goal provides a quality solution. Through teamwork it is less likely that steps will be missed, ideas and decisions are often creatively combined to provide alternate solutions and increased ownership. (Biech, 2001, p. 2)
Teams are successful when they can maintain a level of high performance. High performance teams are not the result of purely placing talented individuals together for the purpose of gaining a quality result. Teams must combine their talents and creativity in such a manner that they are productive and in order to achieve a high level of productivity teams must follow a series of steps.
Teams exhibit high performance when their goals are clearly defined. Each person on the team must clearly understand the purpose and the vision of the team. This sense of understanding allows them to know where the team is headed, when the team is successful and when the team stumbles or faces some type of obstacle. Clearly defined goals help smooth the transition of combining several different personalities and talents for a common purpose. (Biech, 2001, p. 15)
Yet another characteristic of a high performance team is defined roles for each team member. Team members must be aware of what is expected of them while participating with other members on the team. This definition offers them the realization as to why they were chosen for a particular assignment in the first place. These roles also help the other members to recognize each other’s talents and tap into the expertise of each individual member of the team. This expertise does not have to be solely job related; people obtain talents and acquire expertise from day to day experiences and through cultural teachings. (Biech, 2001, p. 16)
Probably the most important characteristic of a high performance team is open and clear communication between team members. When looking at the history of teams that proved unsuccessful the most common issue surrounded the lack of communication between members. Teams must develop a knack for listening to each other, providing and accepting constructive feedback and encourage each other through the stressful as well as the successful moments. (Biech, 2001, p. 16) With the combination of various individuals it is important that leadership realize that “all human behavior is potentially a communication.” (Henderson, 1994, p. 151)
Teams must be able to effectively reach a decision together. Decision making is effective when the team utilizes the various methods available to reach a combined decision. Consensus, majority rule, expert decision and authority rule with discussion are a few of the options available to promote effective decision making. Effective decision making is essential to show progress and if they make the right decision at the right time they will save time as well as make the best decisions. (Biech, 2001, p. 17)
Team member participation is imperative to building a high performance team – “without participation, you don’t have a team, you have a group of bodies.” (Biech, 2001, p. 17) The participation of each team member must be balanced. Balance participation means that each team member’s contribution is applicable to the team’s assignment. This also means that each team member’s opinion is sought and valued by other team members. (Biech, 2001, p. 17)
Effective leadership is required for the high performance team. This person must see themselves as a coach and a mentor, rather than an expert on the problem at hand. This person will be faced with the challenge of creating an environment where employees with various abilities and identities are respected and appreciated. Leadership must be able to capitalize on diversity, take and use feedback in a positive fashion and assist the team to build a bond between them. (Bourey & Miller, 2001, p. 4)
Cultural diversity within an organization can pose a conflict between team members as well as management. Because people are “creatures of culture” they tend to react differently to various types of individuals with diverse backgrounds – “prejudices found in the community are acted out in the workplace.” (Henderson, 1994, p. 133) As the most important aspect of a team is communication, cultural differences can and often do create a barrier between team members. The act of communicating “constitutes the basic process of human interaction.” (Henderson, 1994, p. 150) Teamwork is successful when communication is effective; therefore, cultural differences can create friction between members of a team that affects the level of performance. (Henderson, 1994, p. 150)
Demographic diversity has been shown to have a negative impact on various organizations and again affect the level of team performance. Again, this type of diversity has impacted the team’s ability to communicate effectively between members. This type of diversity could pose conflict if members have a variety of educational background, technical skills or age differences. Team members may feel superior or inferior to other members of the team and this will affect the level of performance. (Henderson, 1994, p. 170)
The heart of a high performance team is found in valued diversity. Valued diversity is defined as “team members are valued for the unique contributions that they bring to the team.” (Biech, 2001, p. 20) Diversity within the high performance team is not based upon gender and race, it is how people think, and the past experiences they bring to the table as well as their personal style. Diversity can be defined as an individual’s creativity, logical thought patterns and methodical behavior. (Biech, 2001, p. 20) Leadership must learn to manage diversity in such a manner that the team can benefit from the various individuals’ input. If leadership is successful, then the high performance team members will see these differences as essential to the team’s success and respect each other’s point of view when it’s brought to the table. (Biech, 2001, p. 21)
Biech, E. (Ed.). (2001). The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Team-Building Tools: Best of the Annuals. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer. Retrieved April 3, 2007, f
Bourey, J., & Miller, A. (2001, October). Do You Know What Your Emotional IQ Is?. Public Management, 83, 4. Retrieved April 3, 2007, from Questia database
Henderson, G. (1994). Issues and Strategies Issues and Strategies. Westport, CT: Praeger. Retrieved April 3, 2007, from Questia database
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