Why is it that many newly appointed Team Leaders and Mid Level Managers receive little formal training in the hard skills of effective and efficient resource management, either before or after being appointed? In so far as they are trained at all, it is usually in the soft skills of people management that while important, are insufficient. Most appointments are based on either 1) the length of time they have been a team member and/or 2) their expertise/experience of performing the team tasks. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between either of these selection criteria and being a good team leader.
It's often the case that the most technically skilled team member is neither interested in the additional responsibilities nor has the blend of competences required to develop and manage a high performing team. But then, who's going to refuse a promotion and the rewards that come with it? Therefore, the best an organisation can expect from their Team Leaders is to keep moving, follow the basic rules and stay out of trouble, just like being at the dodgems.
Developing Good Team Leaders and Why it's Important.
Work Teams (as distinct from project teams) are the DNA or building blocks of service and knowledge-work organisations. They have properties somewhat like magnets. Randomly place 100 or so average size magnets on a table and then try pushing them together. It works fine until they get close together and then appear to take on a will of their own as they start to push back. To get them to "cooperate", you need to align them so that their polarities are not in conflict, in other words, they need coherence. Teams don't cohere spontaneously nor do processes manage themselves. All managers, particularly team leaders and mid-level managers, need to be trained in the disciplines that underpin effectiveness and efficiency in the performance of individuals, teams and processes.
The coherence of Teams and ultimately that of an organisation, requires Team Leaders to perform at least 4 roles well:
The first role of a Team Leader is to ensure that the team have the levers of control and feedback mechanisms to allow the team manage its workload demand and its available capacity, effectively and efficiently. Anybody who has ever learned to ski will know that the first lessons involve how to slow down, turn and stop, otherwise there may not be a second lesson! The second role is to ensure that the team understands their objectives and direction of travel, and that they have the skills and supports necessary to navigate that journey, regardless of the pitfalls ahead. The third role reflects the fact that no team is perfect, so the team leader needs to mentor and coach the team to continuously learn and improve the performance of the whole team. Finally, for the whole organisation to perform coherently, Team Leaders need to learn how to cooperate in a structured manner with other teams to achieve the organisations objectives, objectives that not only include efficiency and effectiveness but also include providing a fantastic customer experience and an equally fantastic work-life quality and balance for employees.
Our Lean Service Operations Management programme for Team Leaders and Mid-Level Managers, delivered in conjunction with the Technological University of Dublin (5 ECTS per module) is available for booking on our website www.expertivity.com.
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