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Are homogenized teams preferable to well balanced teams, or is it a situational question?

Hi Community,

A question I've been pondering for some time; when we look at the make up and balance of internal teams and work groups, which situations call for more homogenized teams, and which situations call for more balance?

I've noticed in my career that having that balance is a critical component to well reasoned thinking and third party perspective, and often those who can take a bit of a different view than I or others in the group can give revolutionary insights and forethought that our team may not have come to without the different perspective. Similarly though, if those points of balance aren't given support, they can feel disengaged, dissuaded, and as though their view is drowned out.

I've also seen that with far reaching, difficult but attainable goals, teams that need to move at high velocity and are more homogenized tend to outperform balanced teams that struggle to make more quick and collective decisions. The similar thought, focus, and commitment can help that team focus and drive with clarity towards its goal.

What patterns have you noticed behind homogenized teams and well balanced teams? Is one always better than the other, or how should internal team creation be managed and supported?

Comments

  • @Thad Peterson @Victoria Nichol your teams have grown a lot recently. What's been your thinking on this topic?

  • Great question. I have had numerous conversations with HR professionals and business leaders about strategically crafting or evaluating a team.

    For example, a sales team (like our direct team at PI) would likely be better suited to be a more homogenized team and focused around action, agility and innovation. In order to balance this team out would adding a individual more suited towards following processes and structure be a good fit on this team? Maybe, maybe not. I look at the balancing piece on the sales example making sense when adding Sales Operations or Enablement to support the sales team with their tech stack and operationally.

    When does it make sense to have a more well-balanced team? Many C-Suite professionals I have spoke with may lean heavier in some areas versus others. The message remains consistent, which is that a well-balanced team is necessary on the executive level to have leaders in place to inspire and influence while others may support the structure and procedures and then other may focus on the teamwork and environment of the team.

    In conclusion I believe a homogenized team works well with smaller teams that have the same goal. A more well-balanced team makes sense on the executive level and in other scenarios like a product and marketing team with a wide breadth of initiatives and strategies.

  • LOVE this question. So I oversee one of the major marketing functions at the company... what we call demand generation. We've grown from about 6 people on the demand gen team to 10 people in the demand gen team over the last year. We pay a lot of attention to people's behavioral profiles, and one thing I've absolutely noticed is that we've evolved from having a bunch of high dominance, high extraversion marketers (basically a bunch of swashbucklers) to balancing the team out with people who have more attention to detail and process and consistency. All things considered, the evolution has been absolutely amazing and awesome for the team. Without question, as teams grow, the types of behavioral drives required to be effective evolve as well. FASCINATING topic @Adam Patterson !

  • edited July 2019

    Great question. I have had numerous conversations with HR professionals and business leaders about strategically crafting or evaluating a team.

    For example, a sales team (like our direct team at PI) would likely be better suited to be a more homogenized team and focused around action, agility and innovation. In order to balance this team out would adding a individual more suited towards following processes and structure be a good fit on this team? Maybe, maybe not. I look at the balancing piece on the sales example making sense when adding Sales Operations or Enablement to support the sales team with their tech stack and operationally.

    When does it make sense to have a more well-balanced team? Many C-Suite professionals I have spoke with may lean heavier in some areas versus others. The message remains consistent, which is that a well-balanced team is necessary on the executive level to have leaders in place to inspire and influence while others may support the structure and procedures and then other may focus on the teamwork and environment of the team.

    In conclusion, I believe a homogenized team works well with smaller teams that have the same goal. However, as teams continue to grow the well balanced approach can help sustain growth and gain traction on completing goals for the team.

    A more well-balanced team makes sense on the executive level to cover the overall strategy of a business.

  • If we're talking about behavioral homogeneity, it definitely depends on what the team is tasked with doing. There are studies that show that having similar behavioral styles across the team can lead to improved team level performance and functioning when the team has a well-defined, stable set of tasks. For example, a team that just has to handle customer service inquiries all day, every day, would benefit from having more homogeneity in their behavioral styles. Teams that have more fluctuation or uncertainty in their day-to-day tasks benefit from having a more diverse set of behavioral drives. We can think of them as having a broader array of behavioral tools that they can apply to unexpected or changing situations. For example, in a 2014 study, Dhaouadi hypothesized that highly cohesive, homogenous leadership teams perform better because of their similar behavioral, communication, and decision-making styles, which he believed could be linked to a productive work climate within the team. Conversely, Dhaouadi posited that heterogeneous leadership teams might have communication issues which could exacerbate conflict, limit their ability to reach consensus, and impede the processes of the company; however, this was not true in every case. Dhaouadi noted exceptions where heterogeneity is desirable, such as newly-formed leadership teams or companies operating in a turbulent environment where things are changing rapidly.

    Dhaouadi’s results were based on somewhat limited proxy measures, and Dhaouadi did not have measures of behavioral drives or personality; however, in a study of 96 CEOs and 760 senior leaders from credit unions, Colbert, Barrick, and Bradley (2014) found that some personality measures of the leadership teams had low to moderate correlations with measures of organizational commitment and organizational performance. Their work also suggested that the entire leadership team impacts strategic outcomes (not just the CEO), and that similar personalities were desirable for some traits. Meta-analytic studies have also shown that when people’s personalities are all well-aligned with the culture, job performance, engagement, commitment, organizational citizenship, and turnover measures are all positively impacted. This trend would also suggest that there are times when having a behaviorally-aligned team that matches the team’s or organization’s culture would pay off.

    But that is just thinking about behavioral homogeneity. Even if a team has similar behavioral drives, there can be value in having differences in other areas. For example, there are very compelling arguments to be made about how diversity of opinions and experiences can lead to better problem-solving and smarter solutions in a team. Some organizations may find business or cultural benefits from having demographic diversity on teams too. So even if we build a team with similar behavioral drives, it doesn't mean we have to have monotony.

  • Building teams is complex and highly personal to each department and organization and there isn't always a one fits all answer and in addition, the needs of today are to going to be the needs of tomorrow. Having said this, I have a few recent examples to share:

    1. I run a Customer Success team and so most of my hires are Captains, Persuaders and Mavericks. During a teamwork session, we identified that there was a lack of overall process on the team due to having a full team full of high A's and low Ds. Working with my partner in recruitment we were able to adjust our job target to include for a Controller profile. This is an individual who still has a high A and B and low C however has a the high A which I am hoping will help to balance the team.
    2. I recently opened a new role for a Customer Engagement Specialist. I knew I needed someone who could spearhead into the unknown so we hired a Maverick and I also need I needed to compliment that with someone who could help develop an ongoing process so we hired a Crafsman to help balance.

    Profiles can only go so much so we need to make sure we take into account experience and the whole person but in general I am a big supporter of diversity without swinging too far from the type of profile that works!

  • First of all, GREAT question @Adam Patterson

    I believe that it is situational and depends on the business strategy of the organization and the team's role in that. So, by extension, it is situational.

    Piggybacking off of @Victoria Nichol here, I thought there were some fantastic insights provided by this McKinsey podcast on  building high performance innovation teams at scale.  

    Although this piece is specifically oriented around building innovation focused teams, there are a load of gems in it about team building at broad.

    Here are a few of my key takeaways:

    • Think about “the talent mix across the entire life cycle of the innovation project”
    • We often see a big difference between innovation teams that originated the idea and are carrying it forward versus innovation teams that are assigned an idea.
    • “talent management is going to be a continuous job with any innovation program or any innovation team, rather than a one-off thing where you try and set it and forget it.”
    • Regarding the placement of “high performers” on the team: “thought partnering” with the leadership team along the way… about who to add and when to add them from the pool of “high performers”
    • Regarding the inclusion of HR in the talent strategy of team building: “It’s very rare that I’ve seen an HR group engage at the construction of an innovation team.” (this is a pity...)

    As far as linking these back to the conversation, the most obvious place to start is with the last one…  If we’re not going to our “people people” about who already exists in the organization, who are we going to when it comes to thinking about the best add to the team?

    In these cases it is CRITICAL that leadership and HR are connecting about aligning Talent strategy and Business strategy…  The essence of Talent Optimization at its core!

    Love to see this topic discussed in such rich detail!

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