teams don't just happen — they're built by design
learning brings critical team skills to students
an organization, cultures, professional experiences and personalities
often present team challenges. Leigh
Thompson, the J. Jay Gerber Distinguished Professor of
Dispute Resolution and Organizations, says many managers realize
they are underperforming in experiential team dynamics.
to improve the connections among colleagues, some leaders
clear out the cubicles and turn to off-site team-building
excursions. Whether the day's agenda promises rock climbing,
go-cart racing, or other customized experiences designed to
bring colleagues together through non-professional accomplishments,
Thompson challenges the notion that such efforts alone can
actually enhance teamwork in appreciable ways.
team endeavors may be great for a release, and team members
will surely learn something about their own physical limits
or personalities that helps them develop as leaders,"
says Thompson, "but when the team returns to the work
environment, they tend to illicit the same dysfunctional behaviors."
counter this tendency, the Kellogg
Team and Group Research Center (KTAG) offers students
innovations that inspire meaningful collaboration and address
the fundamentals of team success. Through efforts such as
teaching improved communication and emphasizing the need to
reward top performers and establish accountability, KTAG scholars
are helping shape tomorrow's team leaders.
more free riders
some leaders take their staff on excursions, others may address
subpar performance simply by breaking up the group and effectively
giving up. But successful managers don't quit, says Thompson.
of dismantling teams, re-engineer them to determine how individuals
can move things ahead," she says. "At Google, employees
are required to send an e-mail to everyone on their team letting
them know what they have accomplished. When people are individually
accountable, they are going to expend more energy to achieve
strategy reduces the so-called "free-rider problem"
in which team members block productivity by relying on others
to get the job done, Thompson explains.
team members identifiable, get people involved, strengthen
team cohesion and provide team performance reviews to address
the free-rider problem," she says.
exemplary performance is critical to maintaining motivation
to over-produce among top employees, says Thompson, an expert
in negotiations and team creativity who has published nearly
100 scholarly articles and chapters and has authored six books.
In her Leading and Managing Teams course, she explains
that these approaches apply to the three key team types: tactical,
problem solving and creative. Regardless of the team, innovation
among the group is essential for success.
for divergent ideas
Lee, visiting assistant professor of management and organizations,
also teaches Leading and Managing Teams. She says that
leaders should establish supportive culture for their teams
a supportive team culture, divergent ideas and viewpoints
can be exchanged without being interpreted as an ego threat,"
says Lee. Also, a leader's clarity in setting the team's goal
will have an impact on the outcome, she notes.
this, unhealthy dynamics, including within-team competition,
power conflicts and self-interest may result."
critical is a midpoint team evaluation by the leader, says
Lee, when the leader will check for any symptoms of unhealthy
dynamics and then communicate with others to determine the
leaders should make every effort to support every member of
the team in actions and words, which is not easy," says
Lee. "Doing so requires awareness of its importance and
long-term implications ... In many cases, people stay with
or leave a team or company because of the level of respect
they have for the leader, and people can be highly motivated
to work hard for those leaders they respect."
assessments and peer feedback, such as those Lee includes
in her classroom, can provide valuable insights for teams,
best' is not enough
personality assessment tools, however, developing a team roster
is more than just choosing people with the most gleaming qualifications,
Phillips, associate professor of management and organizations.
the combination of 'the best' is actually not the right group
of people given the social and political landscape or the
organizational environment," says Phillips.
superior performance out of a team requires attention to interpersonal
and group dynamics — process leadership — that
will help the team reach its potential.
not enough to have smart people surrounding you to ensure
that you will actually get value out of them," says Phillips.
"Harnessing that value is critical for whatever professional
endeavors our students pursue."
do that requires an understanding of the team's role in context
and how both the team overall and its individual members will
be evaluated. Says Phillips: "We teach our students how
to evaluate the context so they can draw on their broader
skills of social networks, motivation, decision making and
organizational change skills, to build an effective team."
learning builds proficiency
she begins her marketing role at General Mills this fall,
Emily Schultz '07 will be eager to apply insights from
the experiential learning of Kellogg courses such as Leading
and Managing Teams.
real power of teams was illustrated in a group consulting
project," says Schultz. "Working with a Greek organization
at Northwestern, my team provided a thorough analysis and
clear recommendations for increased effectiveness and efficiency
of their weekly committee meetings."
Herman '08, found a particular lesson from the course
valuable for demonstrating the need for team creativity and
discussed the saliency of shared information in meetings,
through an exercise in which a group was previously directed
to promote a person based on profiles provided," explains
Herman. "We each had different information on the individuals,
and although we listed it on the board in our meeting, we
ultimately picked the second-most-qualified person, who happened
to be the person with the most shared information, although
not the most positive information."
then illustrated how the group selected the less-qualified
person, Herman says. At that point, students realized that
their decision was based on the amount of shared information
associated with the candidate.
dynamic learning environment is optimal for students to understand
other perspectives and team dynamics — and how
to leverage individual talents, an essential skill for effective
team leadership. With these tools, Schultz knows that she
is prepared for real challenges of team leadership.
a company like General Mills, which depends on high-functioning,
cross-functional teams to accomplish key business objectives,
Professor Thompson's teachings, as well as peer experiences,
in-class simulations and our final group project, will be
indispensable as I continue my career."