No need for a ruck

    Mabel Mowatt’s professional background is in social work
    and palliative care. Time as a manager of a palliative day care
    hospice increased her interest in management skills. She now
    combines freelance writing and teaching national courses for
    palliative day care leaders, with being a hospital-based senior
    social worker.

    Those trying to manage a team may be aware of how much time is
    spent sorting out petty squabbles that have no relevance to the
    team’s objectives. Unresolved difficulties cause stress and staff
    end up concentrating on them instead of working. Creating an
    effective team may take effort but it saves wasted energy.

    An effective team is made up of members with differing skills
    and experience. The role of the manager is to blend these together.
    This is never more vital – or more problematic – than with the
    proliferation of multi-disciplinary teams.(1) As tasks become more
    complex, organisations are dependent on co-operation between

    Anyone who has been involved in a merger of organisations will
    appreciate the potential difficulty of developing a common purpose
    and blending different management structures. It is important that
    individual managers keep the caring profession’s focus on the needs
    of the client and the common goal of the team, whatever their skill
    base. If staff come from different educational experiences,
    professionals should share core values aimed at providing a
    comprehensive assessment and appropriate resources.

    To create an effective team, managers need to ensure that staff
    are aware of the team goals. Participation facilitated by the
    manager creates a common purpose and individuals feel valued. This
    creates an atmosphere that encourages innovative ideas. Developing
    team goals, in line with the organisational goals, is a team
    process; a team will not be committed or effective if these are
    imposed from above.

    Do you as a manager encourage discussion at team meetings? Do
    you create an atmosphere in which pinions can be aired without hard
    feelings? Do you consider other people’s ideas as valid as your
    Team members need feedback and it should be given in the most
    positive manner possible, with the intention to improve not
    denigrate performance. As a manager feedback must focus on whether
    team goals are being achieved; it must never be solely about
    individuals’ personalities.

    A team that is encouraged to study their own performance will
    also take a part in problem-solving, but the manager needs to be
    proactive in involving all team members, not just the most voluble.
    Performance will improve in an atmosphere where conflict is managed
    and not allowed to become personal. The manager, as facilitator,
    needs to help the team identify its talents, skills and experience
    and make sure that they are acknowledged but also used

    Since talents and skills vary, leadership for different projects
    should move around team members. They need to know that their line
    manager supports them; if mistakes are used as a source of learning
    rather than punishment, creativity will be encouraged. Staff who
    are constantly watching their back are wasting energy and will not
    dare to be innovative.

    Failure to share knowledge and information can leave some
    feeling excluded and deskilled. Monopolising information may make
    the sole informant powerful, but it makes the team ineffective.
    Managers must lead by example and develop open communication about
    good or bad news. If a decision has been made that does not seem to
    take into account the staff discussions, then the manager needs to
    explain why.

    Unco-operative members who have their own agenda can sabotage
    the team. Negativity can be infectious and debilitating. Equally
    destructive is the silent member, who thinks by not being involved
    they can blame everyone else for failures. Their non-involvement
    may be the main reason for failure as others’ stress increases.

    The main managerial tool for creating an effective team is good
    communication. Each person needs to have a job description which
    the manager should use as a basis for supervision and appraisal.
    Regular supervision creates a climate of open communication and
    opportunities for self-reflection. Individual pieces of work along
    with the individual’s understanding of their role in the team and
    their effect on the team should all be included in these

    Informal contact is also important; social gatherings, even
    coffee breaks, play their role.

    An effective team is one that has a common clarity of purpose,
    an understanding of each other’s skills and knowledge, and a
    willingness to communicate and develop as individuals and as a
    team. A team that works and plays together not only achieves its
    goals but also creates a good place to work.


    This article looks at the role of a manager in encouraging a
    group of individual professionals to work as an effective team,
    blending skills and experiences. The importance of supervision and
    appraisal as tools of the trade are highlighted and comic examples
    are used to illustrate particular situations.


    1. J Stokes, “Problems in Multidisciplinary teams; the unconscious
      at work”, Journal of Social Work Practice, Vol 8 No 2, 1994

    Further Information

    • A J Bateman, Developing a Productive Team, University of
      Nebraska, 1990
    • P Lenconi, The five dysfunctions of a team, – a leadership
      fable, Josey-Bass, 2002

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