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Leading work teams Learning resource


Teams and team planning

1.1 What is the role of a team leader?

As a supervisor or team leader in a disability business service working with supported employees you have a role to:

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.

1.2 What is the role of the team leader in a disability business service?

Generally, in disability business services, the team leader provides support to the employees to assist the organisation to meet:

1.3 What skills and abilities do effective team leaders have?

Team leaders are all different but there are some skills and abilities that all effective team leaders have. They are:

Activity: First job

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?

1.4 What is a work team?

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:

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.

Activity: Team criteria

Think about a team you have worked with and write down the criteria you used to identify it as a team.

1.5 Why do workplaces establish teams?

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:

Activity: Why have a team?

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:

Team members with an understanding of these issues will have a greater likelihood of working effectively towards team goals.

1.7 How can team leaders develop team goals and plans?

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:

Activity: Work goals

Think about the work goals you set. Write down a work goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time related.

Case Study: The daily plan at ET

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.

1.8 Who should be involved in the team planning process?

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.

Case Study: Tea and coffee

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.


1.9 When should work plans be reviewed?

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.

1.10 What is the team leader's role in monitoring and adjusting team performance?

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:

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.

1.11 How does a team leader monitor team performance?

Team leaders should use a range of monitoring tools. The most commonly used ones include:

Activity: Monitoring tools

List the tools used at your workplace to monitor team performance. Take note of the Hint below when developing your response.


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.

Case Study: Pencil packing

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?

Activity: Ensuring improvement

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.

1.13 How can a team leader use the competencies of each member for team and individual benefit?

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:

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.

Case Study: Kerylyn's work preferences

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.


1.14 What is the team leader's role in monitoring team competencies?

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.

Activity: Team competencies

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:

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