!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Getting Along on a Diverse Team

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Getting Along on a Diverse Team

As a follow-on to an earlier post looking at research concerning the relationship between diversity and team performance, I'd call attention to what Jeffrey T. Polzer, a professor of human resource management at Harvard Business School, has to say on the subject in a brief piece in the July-August 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Along with Bill Swann, a professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Texas, and Laurie Milton, a professor of human resources and organizational dynamics at the Haskayne School of Business of the University of Calgary, Polzner has researched
the fit among team members and how to optimize it. We define “fit” as interpersonal congruence — the degree to which members’ appraisals of one another are similar to their self-assessments on dimensions relevant to team functioning. For example, if a team member sees himself as a creative leader, do others see him the same way? Our research has shown that high congruence improves the performance of diverse teams.
To facilitate achievement of interpersonal congruence, Polzner recommends use of 360-degree feedback. He argues,
When thoughtfully gathered and exchanged, such information can open the lines of communication on topics that are usually off-limits precisely because they are uncomfortable to discuss. Members can correct colleagues’ inaccurate perceptions, learn where their own judgments of others may be skewed, and adjust their behaviors and self-assessments.
Polzner cautions that teams must be ready to handle 360-degree feedback constructively. He identifies four readiness criteria:
  • The team leader is open to receiving feedback and is able to model appropriate responses to it.

  • Team members have at least a degree of mutual respect and trust, and they want to improve their joint performance in order to achieve a shared goal.

  • The feedback data are used for development, not evaluation.

  • A qualified and trusted facilitator guides the team discussion and helps with planning the improvement steps the team members will take.
As an example, Polzner describes the experience of a management team in Bangalore that used 360-degree feedback to help improve members' collaboration.