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I am a Team Leader in a manufacturing plant. I lead a total of 22 employees across all 3 shifts. I have weekly team meetings with each team. The meetings seem to go well. The problem is that the teams don't really come through on assignments from week to week. We discuss what needs to be done but assignments are rarely finished. Every week I hear the same things. Yes, this needs to be done but we haven't had time. The problem is not time. There is plenty of time but I still find myself going back each week and being the one to finish the team's work. I know I shouldn't be doing this but things have to be done. It's a rut that is tough to get out of. Every week after each meeting I give the plant manager a list of items that we are planning to work on over the next week. When the work isn't done I finish it up so I won't find myself in trouble with the plant manager. Any ideas on how I can turn this around? Thanks.

Anonymous Submission January, 2006 : Posted with consent

There are many things that need to change in your situation. I would say it's time for some serious team building. Obviously, I won't be able to remedy all of your concerns in one brief response, but hopefully I can help you pointed in the right direction. Remember however, if you need assistance feel free to contact us. We can visit your facility and provide a free needs assessment. From there you and your plant manager can decide if you want our help. For now though I will offer a bit of advice that may help.

First explain the situation to the plant manager. Tell him/her exactly what you have told me. Explain that team members have not been following through, that you have been taking up the slack, and that you plan to turn it around. Mention to the plant mgr that in order to accomplish this you will need to stop doing the team's work.

During the next team meetings break the news to the team members. Tell them that you are no longer going to allow them to avoid responsibilities and pass them on to you. This is a team effort, not a one-man effort. Therefore they will be working as a team from this point forward. As long as you continue to do their work they have no reason to put forth any effort. Of course the meetings go well. They are only required to generate ideas then watch you do the work.

Before your next meetings develop a document that will serve as a weekly work plan. During team meetings the team will generate a list of action items. From that list you will build a work plan. The work plan should outline what is to be done, who is responsible for each task, milestones, dates of completion, and quantity of work. Now, don't expect the team to take this seriously right away. Most likely, few of the tasks will be completed the first week after you implement the work plan. First of all, change is never completely welcomed without proper management and the team may also expect this to be nothing more than temporary change. So you will need to stick to your guns on this one. As soon as you implement the work plans check with team members periodically during the week to monitor progress. Also, avoid doing any of their work. Let them see immediately that you are not going to continue being the workhorse.

Start each meeting from there on out revisiting the previous week's work plan. Compare the work plan to what is actually done. Have each team member report progress to the entire team during the meetings. When team members do not complete their tasks put them on the spot. Make them explain to the team why they did not come through. You need to build a sense of accountability among all team members. This will take time, but without a sense of accountability a team is pointless anyway.

Stick to the work plans and make it clear that this is a permanent change, that it is not optional, and that performance will be measured based on completion of assigned tasks. Eventually it will be accepted. Actually, your team will also begin to respect you more as a leader as long as you stay committed to this effort. As such, you will see that the teams grow stronger and more focused on team efforts than individual goals.

If, by some chance, it becomes obvious that the teams are not taking this seriously I would recommend counseling them individually. If this does not remedy the situation ask the plant manager to attend a few team meetings to show his/her support.

This should help. Again, if you need assistance feel free to contact us. Formal team building training sessions would be beneficial.

Great question! Thank you.

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