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Leading work teams Learning resource

Chapters

Developing team commitment and cooperation

2.1 What does commitment and cooperation mean?

Commitment means acceptance of the responsibilities and duties and cooperation means help and assistance. By developing team commitment and cooperation in a work team you are assisting the team to meet its goals and objectives. Work teams that are committed and cooperative are more likely to achieve the goals the business has set.

Activity: Identifying employability skills

Read the job description provided below. Note how team leaders at the Bakewell Food Company need the commitment and cooperation of the team they are working with to meet all the key responsibilities of the position.

Job description

COMPANY: Bakewell Food Company

TITLE: Team Leader

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

As team leader you are responsible for the direct support and development of each member of your designated team of supported employees. This is to be achieved by direct supervision of all team members, communication with other team leaders and support staff as well as the monitoring of supported employees' goal achievement as documented in their appraisal. You are also responsible for addressing day-to-day performance and behavioural issues of members of your team using agreed strategies. Should members of your work team be temporarily transferred to duties with other work teams, you will remain responsible for their support through continuous communication with other team leaders.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

Train and develop the skills of supported employees in order to achieve the potential productivity of the team and its individual members.

  1. Coordinate and oversee the work of members of your work team in order to achieve expected production targets.
  2. Participate in the development of supported employee appraisals and goals.
  3. Facilitate and monitor the achievement of supported employee appraisal goals.
  4. Address individual and group performance and behavioural issues.
  5. Maintain production records and individual supported employee records as required.
  6. Act in accordance with and maintain an awareness of all company policies, Occupational Health and Safety requirements and Quality Assurance system requirements at all times.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

  1. Achievement of production targets and quality specifications.
  2. The effective and efficient provision of support to supported employees as evidenced by maintenance and improvement of employees' skill and productivity levels and the attainment of their identified goals and objectives.
  3. The level of employee goal achievement within your work team.
  4. The incidence of performance and behavioural issues requiring in direct intervention.
  5. Minimisation of accidents and incidents.
  6. Participation in, and application of, personal development and training.

SUMMARY OF DUTIES

  1. Supervise employees in your work team, including temporary transfers in the production area, maintaining a continuous workflow with minimal downtime caused by disruptions.
  2. Conduct individual and group training and instruction to ensure that each employee's productivity and range/level of skills are maximised in accordance with their appraisal goals.
  3. Actively participate in the employee appraisal, goal setting and monitoring process.
  4. Actively participate in the development and application of specific strategies aimed at addressing individual and group employee performance and behavioural issues.
  5. Maintain direct communication with other team leaders in relation to team members temporarily re-assigned.
  6. Maintain awareness of, and apply all, occupational health and safety and quality management system requirements within the production area. Complete all reporting requirements as necessary and attend and participate in Occupational Health and Safety and quality improvement meetings as requested.
  7. Maintain awareness of, and apply all, company policiesand procedures.
  8. Train employees to follow safe work practices in order to maintain a safe work environment.
  9. Report incidents/accidents as required.
  10. Maintain all documentation as required.
  11. Undertake or manage reporting and data collection duties as required.
  12. Work alongside supported employees in order to set a hands-on example and model appropriate work behaviour.
  13. Actively participate in staff development and training opportunities ensuring that skills are applied in the workplace.
  14. Undertake other reasonable work-related duties that are within the realms of this position and your level of skill as directed.

2.2 How do team leaders develop team commitment and cooperation?

Team commitment and cooperation is developed through good communication and effective decision making, as well as fostering mutual concern and camaraderie between team members.

2.3 What are the signals that team commitment and cooperation has been gained?

There are a number of signals that indicate the work team is committed and cooperating. These include:

Activity: Gaining team commitment

What are the signals that team members in your work team are committed and cooperative? Take note of the Hint below when developing your response.

Who can you speak to about gaining team commitment and cooperation in your workplace? Take note of the Hint below when developing your response.

Hint

An important part of gaining commitment and cooperation is getting information from people. These people could be supported employees, or other supervisors and managers. Information could also be sought from specialists available to your workplace such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists or occupational health and safety trainers.

2.4 How important is good communication for a team leader?

Good communication skills are essential for any team leader. An ability to communicate with supported employees according to their preferences is a first step in developing team commitment and cooperation. Without the skills and knowledge to talk and act in ways that acknowledge the needs of supported employees in the work team, obtaining commitment and cooperation in the work team is difficult.

Knowing how each member of your team prefers to gather information and how each member prefers to get advice and to be given instructions will help you to communicate the team goals appropriately to each team member.

Activity: Work Talk

Take some time now to read the Work Talk series. Your organisation will have copies of these available. In particular read any parts of the series that are relevant to you and supported employees in your team.

What additional information or skills do you need to help you communicate effectively with supported employees?

Who can provide the information?

How can you gain the skills?

2.5 Are the communication requirements of team members easy to identify?

No, at times you may find it difficult to identify the communication requirements as well as the communication preferences of your team members.

2.6 What can influence a team member's communication requirements?

A number of things can affect how a team member communicates with you and with other team members. A specific style of communication, as a consequence of the supported employee's disability, may be a constant factor. There may be other situations which may arise, however, which have unexpected results. These could include such things as a change in the medication or the side effects of a medication, the team member may be ill, or there may have been changes in the work routines.

2.7 Are team leaders always the best people to identify communication preferences and requirements?

Team leaders are the people who spend the most time working with and observing team members in the workplace, therefore they are usually the best person to identify communication preferences and requirements. There will be situations where you are unable to determine a supported employee's needs and will need to seek advice from other people.

2.8 How can team leaders help teams make effective decisions?

Team commitment and cooperation is also based on the team's capacity to make effective decisions. Many teams need assistance to learn how to make effective decisions and it is part of a team leader's role to provide this assistance.

Team leaders can help teams make effective decisions by encouraging a work environment that supports the team and its members to make considered choices, act on them and review the results of the action.

Activity:

Provide examples of where you were part of a team that:

Operated with an appropriate and fair value system  
Encouraged the team and team members to act confidently  
Identified meaningful levels of responsibility for team members  
Trusted team members to act responsibly and autonomously  
Presented opportunities for team members to test and stretch their abilities

 
Recognised and rewarded excellent performance  
Provided support and encouragement  

Provide examples of how can you contribute to ensuring that your current team:

Operates with an appropriate and fair value system  
Is encouraged to act confidently  
Has meaningful levels of responsibility identified for team members  
Knows that you trust team members to act responsibly and autonomously  
Is presented with opportunities for team members to test and stretch their abilities  
Is recognised and rewarded for excellent performance  
Is provided with support and encouragement  

2.9 When should supported employees be involved in decisions relating to the team?

There are degrees of team involvement in decision making. Your knowledge of the skills and abilities of the team members will guide your decision about the extent supported employees can contribute to making a decision. There are no rules for when and how team members should be involved. It is a matter for your judgement. The following diagram shows the degrees of involvement team members may have. At the highest level of involvement the team identifies and solves problems, and brings recommendations to the supervisor. At the lowest level of involvement the team plays no role in the decision making at all. Between these two extremes the supervisor and team may make the decision together, or the supervisor may outline the problem and constraints for solving it (time, money,etc) and hand it over to the team to solve.

This diagram shows the degrees of involvement team members may have

Involving team members in decision making, which can include problem solving, should be based on whether one or more of the following is met:

Case Study: Morning tea chaos

Henry, a team leader, was annoyed. He had tried to involve the team in a decision about when to take a morning tea break and the discussion had ended in two of the supported employees yelling at each other. He spoke to Lisa, another team leader about the experience.

'It was awful, I thought I was doing the right thing and asking everyone. We need to get everyone's input into how we do our work otherwise it's always the team leaders making all the decisions.'

Lisa's reply gave Henry some ideas about how he would approach similar situations in the future. She said, 'Henry, you're right that supported employees should be involved with decisions about their work life. We need to hear and act on what our team wants, it makes us a better team but sometimes it's the team leader's job to make a decision. This morning you asked people to change their routine quite significantly but did you really want them to make a team decision? It sounds as though you had already done that. Jocelyn always takes her medication at 10.30am and Valerina calls her mother, the change you were suggesting wouldn't have meant much difference in the team's output for the morning but it meant a lot for some of the members. We need to choose the times we ask supported employees to be involved in decisions and we have to be prepared for their responses'.

Do you think Lisa's advice should be useful to Henry? Why?

Where did Henry's communication skills let him down?

2.10 How can a team leader develop shared concern and camaraderie in a team?

Shared concern and camaraderie means team members support each other to complete the team's work. Your words and actions will do much to assist the development of this shared concern and camaraderie. Team members need to trust each other and you can act as a role model for this through your work with the team.

Team leaders build trust by:

Case Study: Working as a team

Kim was a new team leader at Craft Packs, an organisation that made children's craft packages. He liked to get things right and had been pleased with how easily he had managed to get into the flow of work at Craft Packs. His team had been meeting its targets, both quality and quantity, and Kim thought he had a pretty good team.

One day soon after Kim had started, his manager asked to have a chat with him. His manager explained that some of the supported employees in the team had spoken to her. They were concerned that they weren't getting a 'fair go', 'were being told what to do all the time', and 'didn't know what was going on'. Kim was quite upset. He told the manager that he was trying to make sure the team got its work done properly. He felt that the supported employees couldn't make the right decisions so he needed to lead the way, he hadn't realised that he was upsetting the team members.

He asked his manager for some advice.

If you were Kim's manager, what advice would you give him? Why?

Summary

Team leader's skills and abilities to communicate with team members and involve them in decision making that recognises their skills and abilities are critical to team success. Teams that are supportive of their members base their strength on communicating well and involving each other in decisions.

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