A behavioral framework for skills assessment and development in teamwork training

A behavioral framework for skills assessment and development in teamwork training

Hobson, Charles J

The leaderless group discussion (LGD) exercise is introduced as a behavioral framework for use in teamwork training. The LGD provides an excellent, research supported tool for (1) initially assessing trainee teamwork skills, (2) structuring targeted developmental efforts, and (3) objectively measuring behavioral improvement. The specific steps involved in utilizing the LGD approach in combination with videotaped team exercises are presented. In addition to providing an invaluable methodology for teamwork training, the LGD also helps to actively engage trainees, motivate their participation/interest, and focus their attention on critical teamwork behaviors.

The Importance of Teams and Teamwork Training

There is little doubt that Corporate America has enthusiastically embraced the team concept. Organizations are convinced that the use of teams in the workplace can lead to a number of positive outcomes, including increased productivity, motivation, commitment, and loyalty.

As one might expect, the emphasis on teams has resulted in a tremendous demand for teamwork training. Companies realize that the effective implementation and utilization of teams require well developed teamwork skills.

One of the keys to success in teamwork training, or any skill-based program, is the availability of behaviorally-specific evaluation instruments that allow for accurate selfassessment and improvement planning by participants. A well-designed evaluation tool can offer a number of additional benefits including: (1) stimulating participant interest, motivation, and active involvement, (2) focusing attention on essential behaviors, (3) providing concrete illustrations of important training topics, and (4) serving as the basis for a rigorous assessment of training effectiveness.

Leaderless Group Discussion Exercise

Within the context of teamwork training, an evaluation tool with a long history of successful application in personnel selection can be very useful for self-assessment purposes – the leaderless group discussion (LGD). First popularized as a component in managerial assessment centers, the LGD is designed to evaluate an individual’s teamwork skills for selection or promotion. (Gatewood & Field, 1994, Guion, 1998).

When used in this manner, the LGD approach typically involves the following steps.

1. A group of 5-6 assessment candidates is seated around a small table.

2. The group is given a problem to discuss and solve within a specified length of time (usually 30-60 minutes).

3. Candidates are informed that their interaction will be videotaped.

4. No one is designated to lead the group discussion. Candidates are simply asked to introduce themselves and then begin the process.

5. Group interaction is carefully recorded on videotape.

6. Trained assessors (2-3) review and evaluate each candidate’s teamwork skills using a behaviorally specific rating instrument. Assessors then meet to discuss each candidate and formulate a consensus evaluation.

Figure 1 contains a sample LGD exercise rating instrument. It consists of a set of (1) 15 specific behaviors that are representative of positive, constructive teamwork and (2) 10 specific behaviors indicative of negative, destructive teamwork. Raters are asked to use a 0-4 scale to evaluate the frequency of each of the 25 specific behaviors. An overall score can be calculated by adding the point totals for the 15 positive items and subtracting the total for the 10 negative ones.

Research with the LGD indicates that it is a valid, job-related predictor of performance in team-based environments. Although more time consuming and expensive than other teamwork assessment options, the LGD is presently the best, most accurate way to evaluate teamwork skills for hiring or promotion purposes.

Training Applications of the LGD

The personnel selection accuracy of the LGD makes it an ideal choice for use as an assessment tool in teamwork training. While many potential applications are possible, the following represents a particularly efficacious one.


Prior to beginning a teamwork training program, the LGD can be used in the manner described above to provide a preliminary skills assessment. Trainees in small groups of 5-6 are videotaped for 30 minutes while discussing a problem and formulating solutions.

Explanation of LGD and Rating Procedure

After completing the initial assessment, trainees are introduced to the LGD methodology, the rating form itself, and how to conduct ratings.

LGD Ratings

Videotaped recordings of the LGD exercise are replayed for training participants. Each individual is asked to use the rating form to evaluate his/her own team performance on the 15 positive and 10 negative behaviors. Additionally, it can be very useful to ask


The leaderless group discussion (LDG) approach has much to offer as an assessment tool when conducting teamwork training. Its excellent research-supported record as a job-related predictor of team skills in hiring and promotion provides an excellent foundation for accurately evaluating team training participants. The LGD also helps to actively engage trainees, motivate their interest/participation, and focus their attention on specific critical teamwork behaviors.

If the LGD is videotaped as recommended, trainees have an invaluable opportunity to review and evaluate their own teamwork performance. This can serve as solid framework for developing improvement plans.

In addition to the considerable benefits for individual participants, utilization of the LGD can provide useful information for training development, customization, and perhaps most importantly, program evaluation. Training success can be measured in terms of improvement in specific teamwork behaviors. This provides indisputable documentation of program effectiveness for organizational decision makers.


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Charles J. Hobson

Indiana University Northwest

Dawn Kesic

Indiana University Northwest

Copyright International Journal of Management Jun 2002

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