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Teams and Their Leaders

A Communication Network Perspective

J. David Johnson

This book provides the first truly comprehensive treatment of three topics that have traditionally been treated separately: teamwork, leadership, and communication. Teamwork has become central to the operation of the modern organization. People from diverse backgrounds culturally, professionally, and demographically must work together to develop the well-rounded decision making needed for organizations to survive in our modern economy. Leadership, and relatedly management, have more traditionally been the focus of organizational operations.

While it is easy to rule by dicta, it is much more difficult to establish a framework in which true teamwork is possible. Teamwork is a very fragile thing. The minute managers start becoming too directive a slippery slope is started in which one's followers, perhaps better cast as team members, constantly look to them for direction and approval rather than acting on their own best instincts. Communication plays a central role in resolving these tensions. Messaging is central to traditional management functions, while providing a communication network structure that enables action is a more subtle, but longer lasting function of leaders. All three processes, teaming, leading, and communicating, must act in concert for the many benefits of teamwork to be realized.

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7: Deciding

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A major raison d’être for teams is the potential of diverse members to pool information in such a way that better decisions are made. Teams should be considered information processing units—they encode, store, and retrieve information (Henttonen, 2010). They, then, cognitively process this information to reach decisions on courses of action. If there is consensus on this course, then this leads to more commitment, higher performance, and better implementation of decisions. Unfortunately a number of natural social processes, which we will detail in this chapter, often lead to this promise being unfulfilled in practice.

Our first order of business then is to define decision making with a special focus on the conditions that promote creativity as a result of the diversity of team membership. We then turn to how teams find information critical to reaching well-rounded decisions. One role of management in self-managing teams would be providing people with the resources and skills necessary to seek information related to their problems/concerns by facilitating and creating rich information fields. Often different perspectives resulting from the varied backgrounds of team members and the differing information they bring to the table result in a storming stage where conflict over the direction of the group occurs and cooperation among group members may be affected. This can result in divisive internal coalitions forming within the team. On the other hand too much cohesion can also produce ← 205 | 206 → harmful impacts on team learning and adaptation. Ultimately, however, developing...

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