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You are only as good as your team - discuss?

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Here's a problem you may be familiar with, many teams today don't work together any more. 

In today's technology driven workplace it has become increasingly commonplace for leaders to liaise with their team via a virtual team framework (video conference calls, cloud project management etc.) where team members could potentially be from anywhere in the world.

New ways of working has meant more team diversity, not just in terms of location but age, ethnicity, cultural philosophies, disciplines and expertise.

However, mention the word diversity and it can be something of a 'hot potato' topic for leaders/manager whether in the virtual or local workplace.

Some believe that diversity within a team is beneficial and only makes a group stronger by bringing a mix of ideas, talents, and perspectives; while others believe that it can result in an all-too-easy breakdown in communication, significantly impacting productivity through misunderstandings.

If you are only as good as your team but your team is diverse and spread out across locations - how do you make sure your team works well? 

Anne Neederveen Pieterse and her colleagues at Erasmus University, Rotterdam examined the potential benefits of diversity via the interactions between team members.

They split 436 business school students into 4-person teams. Each participant completed a survey which asked them to rate the cultural diversity of their assigned team, primarily either all-Dutch or comprising people from various different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

The survey also assessed how participants valued two different types of goal orientation:

  • Approaches to learning - where participants would value opportunities to expand their knowledge and assimilate new information.

  • Success/failure - the value participants put on succeeding in a task and avoiding being seen to fail.

Each team was then asked to run a fictional company for a three week period and were then graded on their overall performance by tutors who were unaware of the purpose of the research.

The results of the research suggested that diversity affected team performance. But this effect changed drastically depending on how individuals had scored on their goal orientation.

When teams scored high on being open to learning, then diverse teams actually performed better than the all-Dutch teams.

Conversely, when teams scored low on the same measurement, the diverse groups performed worse.

Finally, diverse teams who scored high on the second measurement of desiring success and avoiding being seen to fail, performed worse than the all-Dutch groups, but better when they scored low on that measurement.

The EBW View

Not surprisingly perhaps, the research supports the view that when people working together are open to learning and trading ideas, then diversity becomes a real advantage.

Such diversity encourages the exchange of viewpoints and the introduction of ideas which facilitates high performance within groups; however, when diverse teams are more concerned with appearing to succeed then they become closed off from one another and the differences in personality, emotional drives and communication become problematic.

The main take away from the research is the importance of understanding the needs of team members and what drives them and what stage the team is in terms of its development and function.

But if you have a diverse team, whether in terms of their location, age, discipline etc., how do you make sure your team works well? 

Answer these 5 questions to assess are you getting the best out of your team:

  1. Do you really know what makes all your team members tick?
    Successful team leaders, find the time to understand everyone on their team, regardless of differences in age, geography or experience and what makes them tick and how they can best contribute.

  2. How often do you give feedback?
    Only 50% of employees think their team leader provides them with enough feedback. There is a simple metric to remember - The more diverse the team the more regular feedback you need to give.

  3. Would your colleagues say you "really" listen to them?
    Over a third of employees think their bosses do not listen to their workplace concerns. Different people like to raise issues in different ways, and not always in an open forum. Good team leaders understand what makes their team tick, so are ready to listen…. whatever the format the message arrives in.

  4. Have you got an agreed set of team goals and guidelines?
    In teams conflict always, always happens. When describing effective leadership, high performing teams do not point to the big, company-wide initiatives like values, but rather having a common set of team goals and guidelines for things like meetings and day-to-day conversations.

  5. Are your messages understood by everybody on the team?
    A third of leaders/managers do not check what they are saying is being understood, do you check the message is being received and understood in the way you intended, how would you know?

If you have not been able to answer these questions to your satisfaction and you want to know how we build disruptive teams that work well together check out our EQ Team Maps here.  

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The EBW Global Emotional Intelligence System is a unique assessment and development tool for Managers, Executive Coaches, HR experts and Psychologists.

Based on over 20 years of worldwide use and research, it enables you to get leaders and teams to understand why they behave the way they do and use a highly effective 10 step framework to improve their occupational performance.

With a practitioner's network based on 6 continents, all of whom are licensed to use the EBW System, we guarantee the EBW Emotional Intelligence approach empowers leaders and teams to transform themselves and their organisations. 


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