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Leading work teams Learning resource

Chapters

Participating in and facilitating a work team

4.1 How can team leaders assist team members to participate in and facilitate work teams?

There are three ways team leaders can assist team members to participate in and facilitate work teams. They are by ensuring:

4.2 What is the team leader's role in assisting team members to participate in and facilitate a work team?

Workplace participation means that team members can:

As a team leader you are in a position to influence the ability of team members to participate in decision making through:

Case Study: My team, our team

Zac was feeling on top of the world. His team had completed its best week for the year. Production targets had been met, few team members had been away ill and the team had been happy and content for some time. There had been few of the arguments and disagreements that had plagued the team some weeks earlier.

Before a team leaders' meeting later that week, Zac told Antonio, a close friend and fellow team leader, how he was feeling. Antonio thought for a while and then told Zac that he thought Zac had improved as a team leader.

'Remember when you first got here', he said, 'you thought you knew it all. You had all that experience with the car company and had worked on production lines for years and you were going to waltz in and show us all how to lead a team. It was all my team this and my team that. The first few weeks were really hard for you; the team wasn't responding the way you expected. Then you got your act together'.

'What did I do?' asked Zac. 'I think I still act the same.'

'No, you've changed, for the better', replied Antonio. 'The best things you did were getting to know the team members. You found out how to communicate with each person in the team. Remember, you used to stand too close to Nick and he couldn't concentrate on what you were saying because you were so close and then he'd make mistakes. Eliza needed everything repeated a few times slowly and she would do the work perfectly. All those things made a difference; the team became a real team after those types of things happened.'

Zac thought for a time then said, 'I know I learned pretty quickly that the team was good at giving me feedback. Some of them let me know how I needed to spend more time getting to know what they could and couldn't do, and where they needed some help. I was really surprised to find out all the skills and knowledge the team had. I had really underestimated them when I started'.

Activity: Team dynamics

Provide some examples of how your organisation ensures that the potential of all team members is used.

Provide some examples of how to ensure you provide effective feedback to team members.

Provide some examples of how to ensure you are receptive to feedback from team members.

Provide some examples of where team leaders have established and maintained productive relationships with team members? How was this achieved?

Provide examples from your workplace where team leaders are effective at matching the communication processes with supported employees' communication needs.

List the skills and abilities needed by team leaders to ensure their communication processes suit the needs of supported employees in the team they are leading.

4.3 What can a team leader do to help team members take individual and joint responsibility for actions?

Team leaders should always remember that they are part of the team, not separate from it. This means that there is a shared responsibility between the team leader and team members to take responsibility for actions occurring as part of the team's activities in the workplace.

For team leaders working with supported employees there is a need to acknowledge the varying ability of each team member to recognise their responsibilities as part of the team. Assessing individual capacity for recognising responsibility will provide a starting point for team leaders to communicate individual and joint responsibilities.

Activity: Influencing team members

The following table shows some of the ways team leaders can influence team members' work performance. Complete by adding suggestions for your workplace.

Method of influence Actions required
Treat team members as individuals Different people need different approaches
Create a sense of energy Work quickly to solve problems
Develop a vision for the team  
Listen to team members and recognise their efforts  
Practice visible management Be available for team members
Give responsibility and build self esteem  
Build confidence and empower the team  
Make work interesting and worthwhile  
Remove barriers to good performance Check for faulty tools or equipment
Promote cooperation and team support  
Keep promises and build trust  
Manage conflict and complaints Deal with conflict as soon as possible
Model the behaviour you want in others  

4.4 What can be done to ensure the team receives support to identify and resolve problems which impede its performance?

A team leader's skills, knowledge and ability to communicate effectively with the supported employees in the team will be of paramount importance in assisting the team to identify and resolve problems.

The ability of a team leader to solve problems and to develop problem solving skills in team members is also important.

Case Study: We can fix this

Annaleise was concerned about the number of arguments occurring between team members. Over the past weeks two new supported employees had joined the team and the previously calm and quiet atmosphere of the workplace had been transformed into a battle ground. No one was sure when the next argument would happen and some of the team members were showing signs of withdrawing from discussions they had previously taken pleasure in contributing to.

The next morning Annaleise decided to talk to the team about the problem. She thought that the best solution would come from the team. She approached the meeting carefully and began by asking the team members to set some rules for the meeting. The suggestions included listening carefully, letting everyone have a say and not getting angry with each other.

'A good start', thought Annaleise, 'but where to next? One step at a time is best'.

She decided to outline her concerns about the team's performance and ask the team members to share with the group what they thought the problem was.

The meeting took some time and Annaleise wasn't convinced the problem had been solved, however, she did recognise that some steps had been taken toward improving workplace communication. She would have to monitor the situation and decide on the next steps following this.

Activity: Problem solving guideline

Set out below is a seven step problem solving guideline.

Review the guideline in terms of how your work teams operate and suggest any changes to make the guidelines effective for your teams.

  1. Define the problem
  2. Identify the type of problem
  3. Identify constraining issues
  4. Develop alternative solutions
  5. Evaluative the alternative solutions
  6. Decide on a solution and implement it
  7. Monitor and evaluate the action

Successful team leaders need to invest time and effort into developing team members' skills and abilities to participate in and facilitate teams. Communication skills are at the core of effective team leadership. These, combined with a clear understanding of organisational goals and knowledge of each supported employee's competencies, will mean a team leader has the skills and abilities to carry out the role well.

Summary

Successful leadership of work teams requires team leaders to continually review the environment the team is working in to ensure all members have opportunity to participate in the team. In working to achieve participation team leaders will draw on their communication, organisation and planning skills to develop a team with members who are willing to contribute to decision making and to take responsibility for their actions.

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