Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course Five, Lesson 27
Developing Teams That Help Their Members Functionally
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
Sometimes teams need to help their members with individual job functions. This might be necessary when a task needs to be learned or when job demand is excessive and the individual cannot possibly get the work done within the team’s time frame.
Usually, it is left to one team member or the team leader to teach job skills. But, if this task is given to the team as a whole, there is much benefit that would otherwise be lost. (a) When the team trains someone, everyone becomes cross-trained, at least a little. (b) When the team trains someone, the person trained receives encouragement from a lot more people. (c) When the team trains someone, everyone is invested in that person’s success. (d) When the team trains someone, the team leader can spot potential leaders for future tasks and company promotions. (e) If the team leader assigns training to one person, he or she might be selecting the most outgoing person rather than the best teacher or leader. (f) When the team trains someone, the team and the team leader will be able to identify those team members who are weak in the area being taught and avoid giving them special assignments involving that skill set.
Secondly, many things can impede an employee’s production that are not the fault of the employee. Illness is the most familiar, but there are many other things like equipment breaking down, unexpected and unusual traffic jams, unforeseen special tasks that eat time, etc. When these kinds of things put a member of the team behind, it often affects everyone, as well as the team deadline. Successful teams watch to see who is falling behind and help out. Even if it is the employee’s negligence or work style that is at fault, the team helps out and then deals with the problem of negligence or poor work habits later.
This task of seeing if anyone needs “a little help from his/her friends” is usually done by the team leader. But the astute team leader will avoid doing this task. It is much better that the team and its members spot when a team member needs help getting something done. This is because the team will often find out much sooner than the team leader and, therefore, jump into the action earlier and prevent a workload crisis. The employee will also appreciate the team discovering and acting on the problem (rather than the team leader), because often the team leader will have job performance evaluation duties. Help from friends is safer than help from the boss almost any day. Besides, if the team reaches out and helps on its own, then any team member who sees that he or she needs help will be able to freely ask for it from the team. This will encourage an employee to seek help at the earliest possible moment. But, if the team leader asks the team to help, then such help is felt to be coming in the way of a work assignment rather than help freely given.
How does a team leader get the team started in giving help freely? Well, the best time to address the responsibility of the team to functionally help out team members is when the team is started. (During the Contracting Phase we discussed in earlier courses.) Remember that the beginning team should discuss what behavior on the part of individual team members and the team as a whole is necessary to make good progress on the team purpose. But, if that was not done, then during a meeting or in a memo, the team leader should state something like, “It seems that if your team is to reach your goal, the team will have to jump in and help when someone falls behind in his or her work. What do you think?”
Next: Developing Teams That Help Their Members Get Outside Help
When Necessary to Be Able to Do Their Jobs Better