Team Leadership Conflict Resolution Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4327 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Leadership

¶ … Team Building and Conflict Resolution

Teamwork and teambuilding are touted in all management, business and organizational newspaper articles, magazines and books, yet numerous companies either pay lip service to this tool or do not use it at all in their structure. Yet, it is an essential tool for internal and external effectiveness. In order for an organization to have high-quality products and services and be globally competitive, it needs people who are supportive and work together toward its mission and goals. If any conflict exists among employees, this will become a barrier in reaching strategy. Conflict resolution can be addressed through team efforts and lead to increased communication, consensus decisions and positive results. Unfortunately, too many companies do not consider the importance of managing conflict until a specific cause arises. Farsighted leadership organizations understand the need to have team procedures in place that will support management conflict and be available if and when a problem arises.

History of Team Development

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The interactions of small groups have been of interest to social psychologists for sometime. However, it has only been in recent years that they began to look at teams and how they function within the organizational setting. The term "sociometry" first appeared in the Psychological Abstracts index in 1940 with references to the work of individuals such as psychiatrist Jacob Levi Moreno, and the term "group dynamics" was listed in 1945 with reference to the work of Kurt Lewin and his colleagues. The first use of "small groups" and "group interaction" was in 1950 in conjunction of researchers such as Robert Bale.

Term Paper on Team Leadership Conflict Resolution Assignment

The actual use of the concept "team" did not appear in the Abstracts' index until 1971, with a reference of educational institutions using the "team teaching method." However the general heading of "teams" did not appear in the index until 1988, including 21 research studies about teams and how they were used in clinical practice, sports, business and the military. Finally, an article in that same year by Robert Lefton and Victor Buzzotta began to address the theme of "team work"

Buzzotta and Lefton had founded Psychological Associates much earlier in 1958 and were among the first to apply behavioral science methods to business solutions. In fact, so little information was available at this time, that these two psychologists designed their first training seminar using psychological research literature in basic interpersonal behavior, communications, and motivation.

Their first article "Teams and Teamwork," was a study of 26 American executive teams with 275 CEOs, company presidents and vice presidents, many from the Fortune 500 companies, which found that "while these teams came much closer to the ideal than most, the members of the teams themselves acknowledged that less than 40% of their interaction could be called teamwork." Most of the time, according to these leading executives, their interaction consisted of internal conflict and competition, in the worst case scenario, and non-listening and hypocritical agreement, in the best situations.

Lefton suggested that teamwork would not be possible with ineffective leadership and defined two basic management styles that negatively rather than positively impact teamwork: (1) the first was "hierarchical" or "formalistic" teams, where the individual members spend most of their time ratifying the leader's demands and do not have the opportunity to critique them. The meetings that are held are formal, superficial and perfunctory, and (2) "circular" teams, where it is mistakenly believed that harmony and equality will bring results, rather than the more insightful give-and-take of discussions and collaboration. Instead, said Lefton, effective teams "are recognizable by the easy frankness that marks team discussions." The team members are not afraid to disagree with one another, but recognize that this commitment will lead to a strong team effort. The team leader remains in charge, while encouraging the entire team to set strategy, problem solve and make decisions.

In 1989, Ned Rosen wrote the book Teamwork and the Bottom Line: Groups Make a Difference that began to look at the correlation of negative aspects of productivity and employee interaction and lack of teamwork. He stated, "The nation's productivity and labor problems and achievements...are strongly influenced by group dynamics in work organizations. The enthusiasm displayed by space workers after a successful rocket launch reflects a common form of team spirit." On the other hand, however, "chronic absenteeism, sub-standard productivity, negative attitudes, poor service, and shoddy workmanship are at least partly a function of inadequate attention to social organization in general and group dynamics in particular."

About this time, certain corporations started to notice the strength of teambuilding as well. General Foods found out the importance of teamwork when it launched a line of ready-to-eat desserts by setting up a team of nine people with the freedom to operate like entrepreneurs starting their own business. It also was in charge of building a factory with the equipment needed to assemble and manufacture the product line. Normally, it took companies five to seven years to go from product idea to shipping, but teamwork put Jell-O Pudding Snacks desserts in grocery stores across the county within three years. It established a dominant market position that quickly was in the hundreds of millions of dollars of sales.

Conflict Resolution

In 1988, William Ury, Jeanne Brett and Stephen Goldbert wrote Getting Disputes Resolved, which included guidelines for designing systems to assist organizations and other systems to handle conflicts effectively on an ongoing basis. They provided an in-depth case study of a labor/management conflict to illustrate the importance of this system. In order to make the grievance process more responsive to the concerns of the Miners Union, the authors devised an experiment, which had similarities to similar to early experiments with prison mediation. Miners and their supervisors met informally with outside mediators, who aided in discussions and created options for resolution. Some participants had the opportunity to choose mediation, others were referred automatically. If the parties were not able to reach an informal resolution in one meeting, the mediator offered additional motivation for a settlement by trying to predict the way an arbitrator would rule on the grievance.

There were significant results with 139 of the 153, or 89%, of the mediation conferences that were held during the experiment's first year resulting in settlements. The settlement rates were the same no matter if the parties volunteered as mediators or were automatically sent as part of the grievance process. The average cost per case was $295, in comparison to the arbitration cost of $1,034, and the average time was 15 days, as compared to 109 in arbitration.

Most of those involved with the experiment agreed that seeking compliance with mediated settlements was easier to obtain than compliance with arbitration awards. In other words, the experiment not only showed how to greatly reduce the number of wildcat strikes but how to give individual miners more feeling of control over their problems. This concept of working together to resolve conflict then spread slowly to other industries, including telecommunications and retail sales.

Thus, by 1990, it was recognized that teams were an essential part of building a successful organization and that they could effectively be used for internal purposes, such a conflict resolution. Increasingly, companies began to incorporate teams into their strategy.

Building Effective Teams

However, it is not just the teams, alone, that are essential to an organization's success. These teams needed to function effectively. They needed to be "built" in the correct way, in order to be a high-performance and efficiently running entity. Beckhard saw four major purposes of teambuilding: (1) to set goals or priorities; (2) to analyze or allocate the manner in which work is performed in agreement with the team members' roles and responsibilities; (3) to look at the way a team is functioning together, such as norms, decision-making, and conflict management; and (4) to examine relationships among team members. Reilly and Jones defined teambuilding as the ability for a workgroup "to assess its strengths, as well as those areas that need improvement and growth." Similarly, Dyer, in his seminal book on teambuilding, provided three checklists to analyze the need for teambuilding in a workgroup. Solomon defined teambuilding as "the introduction of a systematic, long-range plan for the improvement of interpersonal relationships among those workers who are functionally interdependent."

These researchers recognized that teambuilding was one of the most important, if not the most important, strategies of organization development (OD). Effective and productive teams, at both the worker and supervisor level, are the essential outcome of most OD interventions. As organizations increase in structural complexity, teamwork, through such means as taskforces, and committees, is even more important. Experts agree that effective, successful, high performance teams have several similar characteristics. These are: clear goals, defined roles, open and clear communication, effective decision making, balanced participation, valued diversity, managed conflict, positive atmosphere, cooperative relationships and participative leadership. Beich in the Pfeiffer Book of Successful Teambuilding Tools: Best of the Annuals visualized these in a pyramid step fashion.

Beich stated that "The participative leadership block is not at the top… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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