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Monday, February 6, 2017

Five Functions of a Team Leader

In the early years of business, a team leader’s function was much less complex. He or she was primarily regarded as an overseer both by employees and by management. The job was quite simple then: carry out orders from above and if the people below don’t produce, fire them. In today’s ever changing business environment, most of that has changed, and changed for the better. The traditional autocratic boss is no longer effective. Employees today have different needs, work for different reasons, and are more educated and aware than ever before. Today’s team leader is looked up as a coach, motivator, mentor, staff development specialist, and person who can be trusted to get results. 

Competition, technology, and economic conditions have forced companies and organizations to realize that their most valuable resource is, in fact, their people. Today’s team leader needs the skills, adaptability, and the flexibility to achieve the results in this fast moving, global marketplace. Today’s team leader must now think in terms of effectiveness, excellence, accelerated results, return on investment, and profitability.

As a team leader, one of your primary roles is developing the resources, specifically, the human resources of your department, business unit, or team. The tasks of a team leader are classically defined as those of planning, organizing, staffing, motivating, achieving, and evaluating results. Let’s take a look at these five functions in a little more detail.

Planning involves establishing and planning the goals of your department, business unit, or team. These goals must be aligned with the overall organizational goals, the goals of your boss, and the individual goals of you and your team in order to achieve the best results. It is proven that if a team, business unit, or departmental goals conflict with overall organizational goals, or if individual’s goals conflict with either, the organization and the individual will not be as productive.

Organizing involves making sure that all of the necessary processes are in place. These processes should include, or be connected to, providing service that exceeds customer expectations or to produce the products your customer requires. Organizing could involve providing customer support or technical assistance, scheduling machine time and ordering raw materials, assigning priorities and routing workflow, as well as developing new products and services. Once your goals are established and action plans are developed, it is your responsibility to organize your efforts and energies and those of your team.

Staffing involves choosing, selecting, or involving the right and best team members. This may occur at the point of employment where you are called upon to interview applicants and select those you would like to hire. It also occurs daily as you are involved with staffing assignments and responsibilities in accordance with your team’s, department’s, or business unit’s objectives. As you lead and guide your group on a daily basis, you are constantly involved in making decisions about who should be assigned to do a particular job or project, who should be scheduled for a particular kind of training, or how many new people you might need in the future.

Motivating or Directing
Motivating or directing may be your most important function. Remember, your role has a lot to do with getting results through others. Ultimately, every team leader is judged by the results of his or her team, department, or business unit. All of the sophisticated planning, organizing, and staffing will be of little use unless you can create an environment where your team is motivated to generate the required outcomes. Remember that once your goals and action plans are established, you must elicit the commitment and cooperation of your team members by establishing and maintaining a motivating environment.

As a team leader you are responsible for evaluating what goes on in your team, department, or business unit and the results generated. You are constantly observing how the team is proceeding to the desired outcomes. You are responsible, when things are not running well, to take corrective action. Proactive evaluation of results and outcomes involve constant monitoring and measuring of processes, resources, and team members to ensure all activities and plans are yielding the results that you are responsible for and the organization expects.

If you look at these five functions carefully – planning, organizing, staffing, motivating, and evaluation – you’ll see that they really operate as a continuous cycle that is never-ending. Goals are established and action plans are developed to achieve specific and desired results. In order to carry out the specific action plans, team members are selected, materials and machines to be used are identified, the amount of time to complete, and these types of things are organized. While the actual work is going on, you lead and organize as well as direct and motivate. As the work is progressing, you manage the results by measuring and evaluating. When the results are not satisfactory, you analyze the reasons, make plans to deal with the root cause, and then organize, staff, direct, and measure the effectiveness of the new plan which perpetuates the continuous cycle.

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