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Groups and Teams: Becoming High Performers

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Essay title: Groups and Teams: Becoming High Performers

Groups and Teams: Becoming High Performers

A team is a small group of people with complementary skills who work actively together to achieve a common purpose for which they hold themselves collectively accountable (Schermerhorn, J.). A major challenge in any organization is to turn the group into a high-performance team that can function well in any setting. High-performance teams have special characteristics that allow them to excel at teamwork and achieve special performance advantages (Schermerhorn, J.). This paper will discuss how groups can become high-performance teams and how demographic characteristics, cultural diversity, and group behavior affects or contributes to this goal.

Demographic Characteristics

Demographic characteristics usually consist of age, sex, race, education level, and work experience. According to research, these characteristics can be classified into two groups, visibility and job relatedness or informational. Visible demographic characteristic refer to age, sex, and race. Informational demographic characteristics refer to differences in education levels, and work experience (Jhen, K., 2000). The distinction between these two groups is important because visible characteristics may not be as relevant to a given task, but they shape individuals, perceptions, and behaviors.

People often use visible characteristics to categorize others, which can cause hostility, anxiety, and stereotyping. The initial perceptions made by team members can often signal the quality and type of future relationships amongst the group. Therefore, visible characteristics are more likely to create conflict than informational characteristics. This occurs when visible attributes draws attention to features of an individual that may be irrelevant to the task at hand (Jhen, K., 2000). On the other hand, attributes such as education level and work experience often show how one thinks and understands tasks. Informational demographic characteristics are more apt to bring in conflict that is task related.

High performance teams are able to focus on tack completion rather than misplaced efforts on squabbling, or avoiding issues with interpersonal differences. Diversity in these teams has been shown to be positively associated with performance if visible and informational characteristic challenges are addressed. Diverse teams have been shown to generate a greater variety of ideas, draw on a greater store of tacit knowledge, make better decisions, and more effectively accomplish complex tasks than individuals (Boiney, L.,2001).

Cultural Diversity

Culture affects teams through three interrelated but distinct mechanisms. They operate at different organizational levels but all contain both cognitive and motivational elements. The three mechanisms are, cultural norms or values, work group cultural composition, and relative cultural distance. In addition, the nature of the task in which the team is engaged and the structure of the work group interact with diversity to moderate its effect. The challenge for today's high-performance teams is how cultural diversity can be turned to advantage (Thomas, D., 1999).

Cultural norms or values are described as culturally based norms for functioning in a work group are based on their prior experience with groups in their own culture. When confronted with a new team or group and faced with certain cues as to how to behave, individuals rely on the behavior that has been learned from their own culture (Thomas, J., 1999). Some of the characteristics of this mechanism can be damaging if it is used as standards without being pro-actively named or chosen by the group. This can be damaging because it marginalizes people outside of the dominant culture.

Cultural Composition is the number of different cultures in the work group. This composition can have negative or positive effects. Negative effects because of increased process losses. One reason could be because of a difficulty in communicating. Cultural composition can be positive because of more different ideas and approaches. Also, diversity may cause groups to focus more attention on group processes, thereby improving them (Thomas, J., 1999).

Relative Cultural Distance is the extent to which an individual is culturally different from other group members. High cultural distance creates self-awareness that can have either a positive or negative effect depending on the individual. Self-awareness invites a comparison with other group members. The results of this comparison can influence the extent to which the individual contributes to the group process (Thomas, J., 1999).

Group Behavior

The behavior of a group may not be predictable from an understanding of each of its members. Blake and Mouton analyzed

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