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Being an effective manager Learning resource


The role of managers


Planning is one of the key activities for management in any organisation. The results of the planning process provide organisations with a purpose and a framework for activity to ensure everyone is working toward the same goal/s. The planning process also enables organisations to identify problems and opportunities as well as to highlight strengths and weaknesses.

Organisations need a range of different plans to assist them in achieving their goals. An organisation's strategic plan sets the foundation for all other planning activities. The strategic plan is a long-term approach to the organisation's future. They are generally five to ten years in duration, with some strategic plans looking up to twenty years ahead. Strategic plans assist managers to:

From the strategic plan the departments, sections and teams can develop operational plans for how their activities will fit with the activities of other departments, sections and teams, and support achievement of the organisation's goals. Plans offer a reference point for communication between all employees in an organisation.

Flexibility is essential in the planning process, as it enables organisations to take advantage of opportunities as they arise and to act quickly to reduce the impact of any unforeseen problems. Good planning involves consideration of contingency measures – answering the question 'what will we do if this doesn't happen?'.

Case study: K9

In 2006, Longford Enterprises, a large Disability Business Service, decided to extend its business operations into pet services. Senior management accepted a recommendation that K9 Pet Service be established to provide a pet care service for people needing assistance caring for their cats, dogs, rabbits, birds and other domestic animals. The agreement was that Longford would support the new business for two years and then review its operations.

Two years later, K9 was operating with a team of five people very successfully. Business was booming and the demand for the service was more than the current team could handle.

Ailsa Flemming, the manager at Longford met with Harry Trimbole to discuss the future of K9. Harry reported that it was doing well, but that he had a concern that K9 didn't have a direction, and was not using its resources to best advantage. He agreed that a plan was required.

They listed the key questions to commence the planning process, including:

After consulting with managers, team leaders and employees from Longford and K9 Ailsa and Harry wrote a strategic plan for K9. In the plan they included a review process and a plan for monitoring progress against the goals.

In your workplace

1. Describe the strategic planning processes in your workplace. How do the team's operational plans fit in this process?

2. What suggestions would you make to improve the planning process in your workplace?

Key learnings


Successful leadership of work teams requires managers and supervisors to have an understanding of the organisational goals and the team's role in assisting the organisation to meet its goals. Leadership means that managers and supervisors have to undertake a number of actions including:

In addition managers and supervisors have to focus on both the team as a whole and team members as individuals.

Actions that build the team include:

Actions that develop individuals include:

Case study: What makes a leader?

Jason, who had recently joined Garden Sheds, was discussing leadership in the organisation with Michael, a long-term employee. Michael was dissatisfied with the way his new supervisor was leading the team. He asked Jason about his supervisor in his previous job. Jason described how his previous supervisor had been considered to be a good leader.

One of the key points Jason talked about was how Marie, his supervisor, had focused on what the team was there to do, and on the people in the team. In particular he described how she had made sure that the team members knew the standards they had to reach, including quality and quantity measures. She had also made sure that everyone in the team had the skills and knowledge needed to do their jobs. She trained them on the job and arranged other types of training they needed, either as individuals or as a team. He offered an example of how she had organised for the team to attend an occupational health and safety seminar, and when everyone was back in the workplace she had followed it up with one-onone training for individual team members.

Jason believed that Marie's skills in communicating well with team members at the right time and in the right manner and her inclusive and respectful behaviour meant she was an effective leader.

In your workplace

1. What does leadership mean for you?

2. How do team leaders in your workplace show that they are focused on what the team is there to do?

3. How do team leaders in your workplace show that they are focused on the team members?

Key learnings

Effective leaders need good communication skills as well as a clear understanding of workplace plans, policies and procedures. In addition leaders must have the ability to focus on individual needs and team needs.

Team building

Team building requires managers and supervisors to undertake three key actions.

These are to:

When managers and supervisors are able to respond to the following questions positively they are working towards building a team:

Teams are built over time with constant attention to the needs of individuals and the team as a whole.

Case study: The first pieces of the puzzle

Marny was employed as a supervisor at Puzzles, a Disability Business Service that made jigsaws and wooden puzzles. After a managers' meeting, where the general manager had emphasised the importance of the role of managers and supervisors as team builders, Marny decided to talk to Walter, a well-respected supervisor, about how he saw the role of supervisors as team builders at Puzzles.

Walter had explained that when Puzzles had been established it had been decided that a teambased approach would be a way to involve all the employees in creating a successful business. Puzzles had wanted to meet customer demands as well as create opportunities for employees to gain skills and knowledge. One of the first steps had been for management to communicate Puzzles' objectives to each employee in ways that best met the employee's communication needs.

Management realised that the key to building effective teams was to make sure that each supported employee knew what their job was and how it fitted within the overall purpose of the business. It was part of the supervisor's job to make sure team members knew this. Walter gave the example of how, each day, he had talked to the team about what they had achieved including the number of puzzles produced, and the quality of the work completed. He mentioned how important it was to take the time to regularly check that team members were clear about what they were doing at work (their jobs), and what they were achieving (the end product) and where each team fitted in the production of the puzzles and games.

In your workplace

1. Do all team members understand their jobs and how they contribute to the end product or service? If not, what can be done to rectify this?

2. Do team members have the knowledge, skills and capabilities to do their work? If not, how can this be achieved?

3. Does the team have the resources and support needed to do its work? If not, how can the team get the resources and support it needs?

4. Describe how the team demonstrates that it knows its goals and objectives.

5. Describe how the team knows how the outcomes of its work are measured.

Key learnings

Team building is an ongoing and daily part of managers' and supervisors' work. As with other key parts of a manager's and supervisor's role, good communication skills are essential. The ability to communicate expectations clearly and appropriately to employees is a skill that requires constant practice and attention to feedback.

Appraising performance

Performance appraisal involves determining how well employees are doing their job, communicating that information to the employees, and establishing a plan for performance improvement. Information from an appraisal process is used for linking rewards to performance, identifying training and development needs, and making job placement decisions. Performance appraisal is usually a formal process conducted on a regular basis and should be consistent with an organisation's induction program and performance planning process. A successful performance appraisal process has to be approached carefully, it must be well planned, and the people involved need to be informed about the roles they have as part of the process.

The benefits of a performance appraisal process include:

Managers and supervisors appraising performance should:

Case study: It's that time of the year again

Selma, the new HR manager at Parcel Packers, had been informed that the business had a very successful performance appraisal program in place. However, as the time for the annual appraisal drew closer, she began to hear comments from team leaders that indicated there were a few problems with the process.

The comments were generally negative and included statements such as:

'A few weeks before the annual performance appraisal time and everyone starts working really hard. It's ridiculous.'

'I hate performance appraisals. They take time and don't mean a thing to anyone. Nothing happens after they are done. We just go on like nothing has happened.'

'Why do we wait until performance appraisal time to let someone know they are doing the wrong thing?'

'Performance appraisals are a one-way street. The bosses do all the talking and we just sit there and say nothing.'

'How are we supposed to contribute to a performance appraisal if we don't know what we are supposed to be doing in the first place?'

'The trouble with performance appraisals is I don't know what is being appraised.'

'It's time something was done to fix it up. We need a program that helps us do our job,' said one team leader.

Selma decided to brief the team leaders about what the performance appraisal process set out to achieve for Parcel Packers. She made sure that the team leaders were aware that the formal performance appraisal was not a time to talk to team members about performance problems. She reminded the team that giving regular feedback was still an essential part of the daily role of team leaders and that the performance appraisal process needed to look at past performance and also plan for the future.

In your workplace

1. List some benefits of the performance appraisal process in your workplace.

2. List some disadvantages of the performance appraisal process in your workplace.

3. Describe the strengths of the performance appraisal process in your workplace.

4. What recommendations would you make to improve the performance appraisal process in your workplace?

Key learnings

Performance appraisals do not replace the day-today roles of managers and supervisors but they can be useful tools for helping organisations and employees clarify expectations and plan for future activity. Successful performance appraisal requires skills and planning and should be linked to organisational goals as well as the employee's career goals.

Maintaining duty of care, confidentiality and privacy

Managers and supervisors have legal responsibilities to meet duty of care, privacy and confidentiality requirements as part of their roles in Disability Business Services.

Duty of care is a general legal duty on all individuals and the organisation to avoid carelessly causing injury to people. It requires everything reasonably practicable to be done to protect the health and safety of others at the workplace. This duty is placed on:

Duty of care to employees means that organisations must:

Managers and supervisors must ensure that:

Confidentiality requires employees not to misuse personal information about the operations of a workplace or about employees or clients of the workplace.

Confidentiality relates to the actions of individual employees.

Privacy relates to the collection, protection and disclosure of personal information provided to a workplace by customers and employees.

Privacy relates to the practices of the workplace.

It is generally recognised that privacy relates to the:

For example, in relation to the collection of information, organisations must ensure that:

Case study: We need to be clear

Brenda, the CEO of a Disability Business Service, was speaking to a group of team leaders about confidentiality and privacy. She was concerned that while attending a BBQ the previous weekend she had been told about an incident in her workplace the previous week involving an argument between two supported employees.

It had been made clear that the person recounting the incident had been told the story by a supervisor currently working at that Disability Business Service. Brenda spoke to the managers and supervisors about the importance of keeping information about the activities in the workplace as confidential information. She emphasised to the supervisors and managers that confidentiality in the workplace involved relationships between employees and employers as well as financial and operational information.

In your workplace

1. How is duty of care demonstrated in your workplace?

2. What practices and policies exist in your workplace regarding confidentiality?

3. What practices and policies exist in your workplace regarding privacy?

Key learnings

Each organisation will have specific requirements regarding duty of care, confidentiality and privacy provisions. Managers and supervisors should familiarise themselves with the particular requirements of their workplace.

Record keeping

Records include papers and documents, emails, spreadsheets, information in business systems, notebooks and diaries, and even Post-it® notes. Photographs, films and sound recordings can also be considered to be records. Records are valuable assets and good recordkeeping supports improved productivity because it enables easy access to the information needed to make the right decisions at the right time.

Useful records help organisations do their work; important records assist organisations to meet their obligations. However, not all records need to be kept indefinitely.

The value of a record is dictated by its content (for example, whether it is trivial or important), its scarcity (for example, whether it is unique, or one of many copies), and its context (for example, the considerations that gave rise to its creation). It is vitally important to ensure that personal records about individuals (especially file notes) are prepared in an accurate, factual, appropriate and sensitive manner without personal bias. It is important to be aware that at some time they might be viewed by the subject, his/her family, and possibly in an alternative forum such as worker's compensation or industrial. A number of agencies offer courses on preparing appropriate file notes.

Efficient and effective recordkeeping means focusing on managing only the useful and important records. Even though a record has been created, this does not mean that the record needs to be kept. Non-essential records should be disposed of as part of normal administrative practice and records of short-term value via other methods.

Every manager and supervisor has an obligation to ensure that their records are accurate with sustainable details, are kept appropriately and that useful or important information is available to other employees and managers.

Disability Business Services have a responsibility to gather, retain and maintain information for Commonwealth records. These records can be used only as authorised by the Commonwealth or by the law, and information contained in Commonwealth records may only be disclosed with authorisation or in accordance with the law.

Case study: It's all on the record

Regent Enterprises manufactured boogie board and surf board covers for travellers. The company had a good reputation for making wellconstructed, strong covers and in recent months had begun building a reputation overseas. Orders were coming from countries around the Pacific Ocean.

The growth in business meant that Regent could employ more supported employees and supervisors. It had also meant that manufacturing equipment had been upgraded and a new computer-based, order-tracking system had been purchased. There was a lot happening in the business. Unfortunately the fast growth had meant that the recordkeeping system hadn't been kept up to date. It had also meant that some managers and supervisors were behind with their record keeping.

The general manager recognised that Regent needed to undergo a review of its recordkeeping system if it was to continue as a viable business.

In your workplace

1. What recommendations would you suggest to improve the records management system in your workplace?

2. How would you go about implementing each of the recommendations? Who would you discuss the recommendations with? For example, you can discuss personnel records with the human resources manager.

3. Who should be involved with changes to recordkeeping processes and procedures?

Key learnings

While organisations are responsible for establishing and maintaining recordkeeping systems, good recordkeeping depends on managers and supervisors being systematic about maintaining records and using good judgement about when records should be developed and which should be retained. Managers and supervisors should refer to their workplace's guidelines when making decisions about records and recordkeeping.

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