The curse of the working team leader

This was in the news a short while back:

Health trust’s £800,000 for care and jobs

A welcome piece of news of 40 new jobs being created with the intention of improving care for patients. Seems that the health trust have discovered that expecting their matrons to be both managers and deliverers is not a tenable model. This is something I have seen for many years, in fact I implemented such a flawed model myself many years ago (in the 80’s) when I was Area Manager for a training company. Rather than affording a local manager at each training centre I thought it would be easy to have ‘Senior Instructors’ who did both instruction and administration. What a mistake. I just piled more work on them, they prioritised my admin tasks above instruction and the quality of delivery fell. Seems like the curse of the working team leader has struck again but at least Durham Hospital Trust are reacting to it and putting it right.

This seems to be a bit of a trend; two companies I’ve worked with recently have reworked their expectations of their foremen and shift supervisors to good effect. They are now more of a coach and facilitator than a doer, their people are receiving more development and getting more competent as a result, and the business performance is improving. Now, too many “Chiefs and not enough Indians” can be a bad thing but putting the right level of developmental resources into an organisation can be quite liberating and successful for all concerned. The supervisors in the two organisations I refer to feel much more valued and their direct reports feel the same way, as they are allowed to do the work their supervisors were doing for them, i.e. acting at least one level beneath where they should be. This disempowerment can be quite debilitating for the individual and the organisation. Reviewing the activities of our people and finding out whether they are doing what we expect of them should be just as important as reviewing safety cases, procedures, etc., but isn’t always done.

Well done County Durham Hospital Trust. I hope other organisations follow your example.

Image credit: ABB

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About the author

Dave Dyer

Dave Dyer is a principal consultant within the Operations Improvement team in ABB Consulting. His speciality is in bringing sustainable change and operational benefits to an organisation through the engagement of its people. He hopes to share good ideas and good practice, to inform and to learn.
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