This reflection paper is based on a project management position I held that exposed me to challenges of managing teams. The position taught me invaluable lessons that I will use in my new role as a manager for a domiciliary agency.
One of my initial tasks was to interview 24 applicants and then form four teams of six in preparation for the job training. After conducting the interviews, I had a general idea of how each team should be composed to achieve balance and the right mix of personalities. On the day of induction, I passed out a personality test that further helped in allocation of the applicants to a group. The more information I gathered about the members, the easier it became to form the groups. Belbin (2010) had found that members of teams play particular roles based on their personality and interpersonal strengths, i.e. action oriented, people oriented, and thought oriented roles. I chose to focus on the characteristics of each applicant to ensure that each team had a mix of personalities in each group that included doers, thinkers and problem solvers.
Henri Fayol (1841-1925), considered management functions to be Forecasting, Planning, Organizing, Commanding, Coordinating and Controlling (Cook 2010). In performing the planning function, I developed a training plan to ensure the group gained all the requisite skills. The plan included training each team separately to have more effective training and manageable groups. The fewer the members of the group, the easier it was to make sure that all their questions were answered and that they were thoroughly prepared for the tasks ahead.
After establishing the teams, Tuckman’s (1965) sequence of team development came into play. The teams first was formed i.e. members oriented themselves through testing boundaries of behaviour and tasks. They then were stormed i.e. members showed resistance to group influence by polarizing around interpersonal issues. Afterward, they were normed i.e. they got more relaxed around each other leading to cohesiveness and in-group feeling. This was then followed by performing where the teams’ energy was directed at meeting the team task while the structure of the team helped in the achievement of the task.
However, I found that teams often lost direction when some of the more action oriented people domineered the discussion leaving out the thought oriented people. I had to step in at this point in playing my role as a leader to keep the project on track. Additionally, having recognised that each team member played an important role in achievement of the team’s task, I encouraged the team to consider everyone’s views. This increased motivation within the team as each member saw him/herself as a valuable player.
At the beginning of my task, I was not confident about choosing members for each team. However, when I made the plan to first understand the applicants’ characteristics from the interviews to the personality tests, the task seemed achievable. This gave me the confidence to pursue the plan despite my concerns, and the end results were evidence of good planning.
My fear of failure forced me to create a strategy that would ensure I would not fail. My past experiences with proper planning had shown me that failing to plan was planning to fail. Additionally, the challenge forced me to evaluate previous similar situations. I thought about my feelings when I had failed in the past, analysed the past situations and found that in such instances my failure was due to lack of proper planning.
I realised that even the best laid plans sometimes fail as teams several times got distracted by side issues and lost sight of the goal. As part of performing the control function of management, I opted to provide leadership to the teams despite my confidence that they were designed for success.
Proper planning led to the success for all the teams, and the guidance provided was also a key aspect in keeping the teams motivated and focused on the goal. I think that my plan worked well simply because I was there to correct the teams when they deviated from the course. Allowing some of the team members to run the show at the expense of teamwork would have led to failure.
From this experience I will ensure that I approach all tasks by thinking through them strategically i.e. how best to achieve the goal before I begin, and also create solutions to problems beforehand by anticipating scenarios where the plan could fail. For the domiciliary agency, I will start by creating a plan on how to organise the teams. Additionally, the plan will include ways of motivating staff by involving them in deciding how to achieve their goals. Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) is quoted as having stated that “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it”.
Moreover, planning for the service users will be a very important aspect. The staff will be regularly rotated and given a chance to work with all staff to develop cohesiveness in the agency and enable each to give the service user the best service. This will also help the service users to develop confidence in the service since they are served by staff that consistently provides high quality service.