Leading work teams Learning resource
Teams and team planning
- 1.1 What is the role of a team leader?
- 1.2 What is the role of the team leader in a disability business service?
- 1.3 What skills and abilities do effective team leaders have?
- 1.4 What is a work team?
- 1.5 Why do workplaces establish teams?
- 1.6 How can a team leader help team members understand the purpose of their work, their roles, responsibilities and accountabilities?
- 1.7 How can team leaders develop team goals and plans?
- 1.8 Who should be involved in the team planning process?
- 1.9 When should work plans be reviewed?
- 1.10 What is the team leader's role in monitoring and adjusting team performance?
- 1.11 How does a team leader monitor team performance?
- 1.12 How can a team leader assist a team to work within continuous improvement policies and processes?
- 1.13 How can a team leader use the competencies of each member for team and individual benefit?
- 1.14 What is the team leader's role in monitoring team competencies?
- 1.15 What is a team leader's role when monitoring indicates a gap between competency and team requirements?
As a supervisor or team leader in a disability business service working with supported employees you have a role to:
- assist your team to establish its purpose, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities in line with the organisation's goals, plans and objectives
- assist your team to monitor and adjust its performance within the organisation's continuous improvement policies and processes
- encourage your team to use the competencies of each member for the team and individual benefit
- monitor the team competencies.
How each of these is achieved will depend on a number of factors related to you, your team and your organisation. Each team leader, team member and organisation has characteristics, aims and expectations that impact on how the role of team leader is carried out. Being aware of the basic principles and practices of team leadership can assist you in completing your work successfully.
Generally, in disability business services, the team leader provides support to the employees to assist the organisation to meet:
- Strategic business objectives. Strategic objectives relate to the aims and targets the organisation has set for a period of time, for example, a financial year. These in turn impact on the production targets and activities for each part of the organisation. For example, the organisation has set its profit at $100,000 for this financial year. To help reach this, your team has a production target of 5,000 units per year. This means 100 units per week for each of the 50 operation weeks. Your role is to provide supported employees with the continuous leadership needed to reach that target.
- The 12 Disability Services Standards. There are quality assurance and continuous improvement guidelines to guide Disability Business Services' performance. For example, Standard 10 requires that the employment opportunities of each person with a disability are optimised by effective training and support. Copies of the Continuous Improvement Handbook and the Quality Assurance Handbook will be available from your manager or the FaHCSIA website if you want to read them.
Team leaders are all different but there are some skills and abilities that all effective team leaders have. They are:
- respect for team members
- good communication skills
- job related knowledge. In addition, an understanding of the impact that some disabilities can have on a team member's ability to complete tasks will assist you as a team leader.
Remember your first time at work or in a new job. Think about the team leader or supervisor who helped you most.
What did you admire about their leadership skills and abilities?
What did they do to ensure they communicated effectively with you?
How did they indicate that they had good job related knowledge?
Does this have any relevance for how you might lead in the workplace? If yes, how?
A team is a number of people working to achieve a common goal. In the workplace a team is a number of employees working together on a regular basis to achieve a shared organisational goal.
The membership of work teams is often decided by management choosing which employees have the skills and knowledge to complete the work required to achieve the goals of the team. Team members interact and communicate with each other and coordinate their actions to achieve the shared goal. Teams in the workplace are usually small, around six to ten people.
Teams can be formed for short periods of time to complete a specific project or activity, or they may be formed for extended periods of time. Membership of teams can change over time.
The following criteria can be used to identify a team:
- definable membership: a collection of three or more people identifiable by name or type
- group consciousness or identity: the members think of themselves as a group
- sense of shared purpose: the members share some common tasks, goals or interests
- interdependence: the members need the help of one another to accomplish a purpose
- interaction: the members communicate with one another, influence one another and react to one another
- sustainability: the team members periodically review the team's effectiveness
- ability to act together, for one purpose.
Usually, the tasks and goals set by teams cannot be achieved by individuals working alone because of constraints on time and resources, and because few individuals possess all the relevant competencies and expertise.
Think about a team you have worked with and write down the criteria you used to identify it as a team.
Businesses will have a number of reasons for wanting work teams. These reasons may relate to improving performance, increasing market share or ensuring staff are well skilled. Generally, teams are established in a workplace because they offer:
- Advantage to the organisation. For example, because the nature of its work is best arranged for completion by work teams rather than by individuals.
- Continuity of work flow. For example, a team can continue to package products for distribution to a market when a team member is absent. If one employee has sole responsibility for completing that task it becomes more difficult for an organisation to meet its goals and objectives should the employee be away from the workplace.
- Opportunity to extend capacity. For example, the skills and abilities of team members can be blended to the advantage of the task the organisation plans to complete.
What are some of the reasons for having workplace teams at the disability business service where you work?
1.6 How can a team leader help team members understand the purpose of their work, their roles, responsibilities and accountabilities?
Team leaders are the link between management and its employees, the team members. A clear understanding of the goals, plans and objectives of your organisation is essential to ensure that you are able to help team members understand and act toward meeting work requirements. This understanding has to be combined with an ability to communicate well with team members.
In a disability business service this may mean ensuring that team members are aware of:
- the type of business they are employed in
- how the organisation expects employees to behave in the workplace
- what the organisation expects team members to achieve in the workplace
- how tasks will be completed
- how performance will be measured.
Team members with an understanding of these issues will have a greater likelihood of working effectively towards team goals.
Once an organisation has established its broad aims, it then develops detailed goals and objectives for how it will achieve those aims. Team leaders may be involved at some or all stages of the planning process, however, an integral part of their role is determining the targets, roles and responsibilities for their work team. These will have a direct link to the detailed goals and objectives of the organisation, and will guide the short term targets for the team.
Work goals should be:
- time related.
Think about the work goals you set. Write down a work goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time related.
David, a team leader at EnviroTransport, needed to work out a daily plan for the team. EnviroTransport worked on the basis that, on average, a full detail and wash took 2.5 hours, based on a wash taking 0.75 hours and a detail taking 1.75 hours.
The five supported employees hand cleaned and detailed large trucks. Trucks were usually booked in to the organisation about a week in advance and the drivers selected the type of clean and detail they required. The booking system helped David to make sure that the organisation didn't take more work than the supported employees could complete during a day. It also helped with ordering cleaning products and equipment. This helped David plan from day to day what needed to be done.
He set some time aside each afternoon to plan the next day. An example of one of his plans is below.
|Tuesday 11 January|
|Client name||Truck type||Service required||Collection time||Team|
|Helpman Brothers||Kenworth||Full detail||12.30pm||Suzi, Jacko, Madde, Gus and Purna|
|Ken Sutton||Mack||Wash and tyre black||3pm||Gus and Purna|
|Joseph Transport||Double B||Full detail||5.30pm||Suzi, Jacko and Madde from 1.30 then full team when Gus and Purna finish the Mack|
Review David's plan in terms of whether it has specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time related goals. Make a note of any suggestions you might make to David.
All team members should be involved in the planning process.
In addition to team members, management will have a role in confirming that the work plan aligns with organisational goals. Prior to commencing a planning process it is best to check with management to determine the reporting and communication requirements that the planning process will need to follow.
T&C packages tea and coffee for distribution to specialty shops around the country. Each year the senior managers meet to decide the strategic plan for the business – where it is going and how it's going to get there. The specialty tea and coffee industry is growing fast and it has attracted a lot of competitors in recent years. T&C is still competitive but it needs to regularly review its strategic plan to make sure it retains its competitive advantage.
The CEO, Rolf, has asked that each manager explain and discuss the plan with T&C's team leaders. He wants to make sure that everyone in the business knows what T&C wants to achieve and how each person employed at the organisation can work to achieve the goals.
Evelyn, the production manager, calls a meeting to talk to the packaging team leaders Frank and Samantha. After she explains the strategic plan for the next year they talk about how the packaging teams can work to achieve the plan. They develop a plan for the packaging section and then one for each team (Frank's coffee packing team and Samantha's tea packing team). They also decide to review all job descriptions to ensure that they are in line with the direction the organisation and teams are taking.
Evelyn also requests that Samantha and Frank talk to the team members about how they can help meet the goals. Each team has three supported employees.
Based on your work experience, what information would you need before you talked with the team members? Take note of the Hints below when developing your response.
- An understanding of the organisation's strategic plan and details of the team plans would be essential information for a discussion with team members.
- It would be important for supported employees to know if their job is going to change, and if so, what the changes might be and how these changes will impact on their daily, weekly and monthly work arrangements.
- Communication about work, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities must be clear and appropriate for each supported employee.
There is no set time when a work plan should be reviewed. It makes sense to review them at regular intervals that are relevant to the team's goals. It also makes sense to undertake reviews when specific milestones are met or scheduled to have been met.
The review dates or times should be decided when the work plan is being established.
Team leaders are expected to monitor and adjust team performance to assist the team in meeting its goals. How this is done will vary from organisation to organisation. Most organisations will require team leaders to ensure that teams complete work:
- on time
- within budget
- to specifications.
An everyday part of a team leader's role is to assist the team to complete its work successfully. This is greatly assisted by clear communication of the team's goals, objectives and targets in a manner that aligns with team members' needs.
Team leaders should use a range of monitoring tools. The most commonly used ones include:
- completion time
- product quality indicators
- team membership turnover
List the tools used at your workplace to monitor team performance. Take note of the Hint below when developing your response.
- Remember to include the 12 Disability Services Standards as part of the list.
1.12 How can a team leader assist a team to work within continuous improvement policies and processes?
Continuous improvement means that all aspects of a team's work are reviewed to ensure it meets the standards, goals and expectations of the workplace. In addition, Disability Business Services are guided by the Disability Service Standards.
A team leader's role is to ensure that supported employees are kept informed of work requirements. Team leaders also have a role in ensuring that supported employees are empowered to suggest and discuss potential improvements.
Colour for You is an art supply business. Supported employees work in small teams packaging specialist art supplies such as crayons, watercolour pencils and brushes. Rufus, Roseanna, Matte and Bruna have the job of collecting twelve different coloured watercolour pencils and placing them in a tin pack. Recently there have been some complaints from customers about packs of watercolour pencils containing too many red pencils and no white ones.
Cyan, the team leader, has been asked by her manager to 'ensure the team knows its role, responsibilities and accountabilities'.
What are some of the things you think she needs to do?
What is some of the information each team member may need in order to know the team's role, responsibilities and accountabilities?
Talk to a manager in the organisation you currently work with about how that organisation ensures that it meets its continuous improvement requirements. Write down those processes and concepts that are related to your work as a team leader.
Competency is related to skills and abilities. Team leaders need to combine the competencies of the supported employees in the team to benefit both the individual and the team. This means that team leaders must be aware of each team member's skills or competencies and recognise the benefits of a diverse set of skills and abilities.
Awareness of a supported employee's skills and abilities can be gained by:
- asking the supported employee about the skills and abilities they have
- seeking information about skills and abilities of the supported employee from team leaders who have supervised them in other relevant work
- observing the supported employee at work.
The advantage of diverse work teams is created from the strengths that are brought to the team by individuals in combination with each other. Unfortunately, there are times in any workplace where this diversity results in difficulties between team members. Team leaders working with supported employees need to be aware of the diversity of the team members and its potential impact on the work of the team.
Work teams can have members of different ages, race or ethnicity, sex and sexual preference, physical and mental ability. It is part of the team leader's role to help team members develop relationships that respect these differences.
Team leaders also need to recognise that each team member will have different work preferences. These preferences relate to how team members may prefer to complete their work.
Kerylyn, a supported employee, had been working at Bonway's Printing Service for 15 years. She had quite strong ideas about how she did her work. Her routine was the same every day. On arrival she said hello to all the team and then spent her time concentrating on the tasks for the morning. She didn't like to be disturbed, not liking to chat or move from her work station.
Merv was a new team member. He loved talking and laughing with the other team members and it required quite a bit of time from the team leader, Greg, to help keep Merv focused on his work. Each morning Merv would stop and talk to everyone he passed. He took lots of breaks from his work and was very interested in talking to Kerylyn.
Greg realised the team needed to address a potential problem. Kerylyn was becoming agitated by Merv's chatter.
If you were Greg, what would you do? Take note of the Hints below when developing your response.
- Discuss workplace expectations about team behaviour.
- Review workflows and the placement of team members.
Team leaders need to be aware of the skills, knowledge, abilities and competencies of team members before monitoring can proceed. Monitoring is essential to ensure a close alignment between team competencies and the team's ability to meet team goals.
Each team member will have an individual set of competencies. When team leaders are equipped with this information, decisions about matching team members to tasks and developing appropriate training and development can begin.
List some team competencies that are important in your organisation. For example, consistent approach to work, uses equipment safely.
Describe how team competencies are monitored in your organisation. For example, day-to-day observation, performance appraisal programs.
Would you suggest any improvements to how team competencies are monitored? What are the suggestions?
Who could you suggest any improvements to?
1.15 What is a team leader's role when monitoring indicates a gap between competency and team requirements?
When there are indications that the competencies needed by the team to reach its performance targets or goals are not available within the team, team leaders should consider providing training and development activities for the team or the team member/s.
For more information about training supported employees you can refer to the FaHCSIA product Training & Assessing: A resource for team leaders training and assessing supported employees in Disability Employment Services. There is an e-book version and a print based version of this resource. Copies of these resources are available from your organisation.
Effective team leaders need to be aware of the goals of their organisation. This information enables them to assist the team of supported employees to understand their role, responsibilities and accountabilities.
As a team leader you need to know:
- what the organisation needs your team to do
- the standards the work needs to meet
- the skills and abilities the work team needs to meet these requirements
- the skills and abilities the work team currently possesses.