Leading work teams Learning resource
Managing and developing team performance
- 3.1 What can team leaders do to manage and develop team performance?
- 3.2 How can team leaders ensure that the team contributes positively to the business plan?
- 3.3 How can team leaders encourage the team to be innovative and use initiative?
Team leaders can manage and develop team performance by:
- ensuring the team contributes positively to the business plan
- encouraging the team to be innovative and use initiative
- enabling team members to share and enhance their knowledge and skills.
There are three essential criteria that must be met if team leaders working in Disability Business Services are to ensure that the team contributes positively to the business plan. Team leaders must have an understanding of the:
- links between the tasks each team member completes, the overall team performance and the organisation's business plan
- team's performance targets
- communication needs of the team members and use of appropriate processes to communicate the tasks to each team member.
The complexity of the information about the organisation's business plan (that is provided to team members) will be dependent on the ability of the team members to relate the information to their daily work. An important skill for team leaders is the ability to give and receive information from team members, for example, providing opportunities at staff meetings for team members to discuss the team's work.
As a team leader Roberto makes sure each team member knows the performance targets for the team and how individual performance assists in meeting these. He considers this to be part of his day-to-day work. Some of the team members have memory retention difficulties and others need reminding about new roles when they change tasks within the team. On a regular basis Roberto also brings the team together to talk about how it is going. He doesn't call these discussions planning sessions, but that is what they are. Each team member has the opportunity to talk about the team's work.
He has been relatively pleased with the results of the previous sessions. Team members have been keen to talk about the work they do and what they would like to do, but Roberto believes the process could be improved. Some of the sessions get off-track quite easily and not everyone is contributing as much as he thinks they would like. He realises that if the meeting is based around four questions, the team may gain greater benefit from the discussions and contribute more to the overall planning process for their team.
The questions he decides on are:
- Who are we?
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- How will we get there?
Roberto recognises that some team members may need assistance to understand the intent of the questions so he begins to think about how he would explain the questions to the team.
Think about your current team or a past team to answer the following questions.
If 'Who are we?' relates to the team's understanding and supporting the values and vision of the organisation, how is this best explained to the team?
How is the answer to 'Where are we now?' best explained?
If the question 'Where do we want to be?' relates to the long term goals for the organisation, how is this best explained to the team?
What response is expected from 'How will we get there?' What action can result from recommendations from the team?
Roberto also considered developing some guidelines for the team meetings to ensure everyone had an opportunity to contribute. He soon realised that the guidelines would be best developed between all the team members, however, he jotted down the guidelines he wanted to contribute:
- encourage each other to contribute
- listen carefully to each other.
What guidelines would you suggest to help ensure all team members have the opportunity to contribute to team planning discussions?
Team leaders can encourage team members to be innovative by ensuring that team members know that their ideas and suggestions are welcome. If team members know that their ideas will be thoughtfully considered and that they will be provided with useful feedback, team leaders are likely to receive ideas and suggestions that benefit team members, the team and the organisation.
Innovation and use of initiative can have an element of risk taking. This should not be confused with unsafe behaviour. Innovation relates to the opportunities team members are provided to offer new ideas about ways to complete tasks. The risk is whether the innovation will be successful or otherwise.
Similarly, the use of initiative requires organisations and team leaders to create an environment where team members can try alternative ways to complete work.
Juku Antique Restorations operates as three sections, each specialising in restoring particular types of furniture. The team has worked together for a number of years. It is successful and the team members are skilled and knowledgeable about their work.
The chair restoration section has been arranged the same way for quite some time. As each chair (or set of chairs) arrived it is assessed for the work it requires and a timetable for work completed. The work is assigned to specialists within the team. For example, one team member specialises in sanding and another in small repairs. At a recent team meeting one of the team expressed a desire to learn new skills, this was followed by nods of agreement around the room. One team member suggested that the team all swap jobs. Again, there were nods of agreement around the room.
May, the team leader, was a bit surprised by the suggestion but agreed that it should be discussed in more detail at the next meeting. The following week saw much discussion between team members about who could do what tasks. At the meeting the team members expressed a desire to try a new way for a week. May recognised that this would be a risk, it was likely that work completion would slow and there was also a possibility that there would be poor matches between individual team members and the skills required for a particular task.
Despite her misgivings, May agreed to the one week trial.
If you were May, how would you respond to the request from the team?
What advantages would the trial have?
What disadvantages would the trial have?
Think about the organisation you are working with. How does it handle innovative ideas and suggestions from team members?
Think about the organisation you are working with. How does it promote initiative from team members?
The promotion of innovation and initiative is possible, and healthy, in every organisation on the understanding that, with the recognition of every opportunity or problem, there is a need to assess the impact of potential solutions. Recognising that the initial idea may not be the optimum solution and allowing time for the development of the idea is also useful.