Supporting Your Team
One great idea I have picked up to assist any leader or manager is to place a list of ‘Things I would be grateful for help with” on the unit noticeboard or somewhere prominent in the hall -or where you meet. Perhaps highlight those tasks you would be most grateful for help with. Include an invitation to anyone with the time or specific skills to speak to you about how they could help. Alternatively don’t be afraid to ask for help and encourage your leaders to do so or help! My old mum use to say, “What’s the worst they could say? No. In which case you are no worse off!”
Robinette Emonson, Chief Commissioner
Whether you are a Region Manager, District Manager or are in a specialist management role at State or national level, you are expected to be an effective manager of all the volunteers in your team (members and non-members). Your team could range from a small number of people to a considerable number with varying roles. The geographic span of your role might be a tight metropolitan area or a large rural or remote area, or if you are in a national role, Australia wide.
Choosing Team Members
You will probably inherit your team but over time you will be able to choose new team members. It’s always a good idea to have a talent plan in mind before you actually need it – that way you can be actively “warming” women to the possibility of a new opportunity.
When thinking about who will add value to your team think about their Guiding experience and also their passions, personalities and other commitments. You might want to consider:
- your own strengths and limitations
- options for dividing up your workload into discrete chunks
- your preferred style of working
- strengths and limitations of the other team members.
Encourage a culture where women feel able to express their interest in roles rather than wait for a tap on the shoulder. Any selection process you have should be simple and transparent, and relevant to the role you are recruiting for.
Although you might feel you need to go with the only person who has the time, it’s almost always better to wait. If you are not sure about an appointee and find yourself thinking about a short-term appointment to test the waters, you may be best thinking of another solution. Short-term appointments often lead to permanent ones even if the individual isn’t right and then trying to tell somebody they are not up to the role after they’ve done it for a while is immensely tricky.
If you are in a quandary about appointments, speak with your Manager.
Getting the Team Started
Once you’ve formed your team, the next stage is to get it working effectively. If your team is new and/or you’ve taken up a new position as the Manager try and find some time to meet socially. This is a good opportunity for you to get to know the team and for them to see what your style is going to be.
Even if you were part of the team before, moving into the management role might be the time to do things a bit differently from in the past. If you have previously been part of the team you might find that some of your team members subtly test out what kind of Manager you are going to be or assume because they are good friends with you, they’ll have a special relationship with you. You’ll have a new perspective too, e.g. not only on who is good at engaging and motivating their girls, but who is good at getting their paperwork done quickly or supporting you. Sometimes seeing your colleagues from a managerial perspective can be a bit of a shock. At this early stage of your appointment its worthwhile spending some time talking with the team about your expectations and preferred way of working – remember it’s an opportunity for your team members to share their ideas too.
Building A Cooperative and Vibrant Team
Whatever the make-up of your team, a positive spirit and sense of fun are important. Get to know your team; both what they do in Guiding and outside of Guiding. Effective teams aren’t just about getting things done. You will need to support them and encourage them to support each other and yourself. You will need to invest thought and energy in helping your members to contribute in a way that makes the best use of their talents and builds a co-operative and vibrant team.
- Appreciate your team members – use a range of approaches, don’t just rely on the formal awards system. Research found that recognition is the biggest area of dissatisfaction amongst Leaders and Managers; whilst Managers felt they spent a lot of time thanking their teams, no one in the teams felt it was enough! Start with thanking everyone informally, praise them, use cards, flowers, Ecards, and notelets. Some Managers have their own “thanks badges” made or mini certificates. Whilst recognition doesn’t need to be formal it should be timely.
- Get together – vary the format, day/time and maybe the location. Don’t limit your get togethers to formal meetings but include informal gatherings and meals (if possible). Be flexible – for some team members physically getting together can be a challenge because of distance, family obligations and other Guiding commitments. For some volunteers Guiding will be the most important part of their lives, but for others it will be just one of many commitments they are trying to balance.
- Communicate – regular communication improves relationships in the team and helps everyone to stay on top of what’s happening. Vary the communication methods to suit the team – email, SMS, social media, telephone conferences or Skype. Communication can be visual too – use social media to send photos, selfies, or upload videos of Guiding activities onto YouTube.
- Have fun – set aside time for social activities, for example a special gathering in summer, celebration of a birthday or special award. Social activities are easier in Districts than Regions; whatever you do, decide it together. Make sure you have a variety in the activities you choose and the time of them, so that everyone feels comfortable to attend at least occasionally – social activities shouldn’t just be for the ‘regulars’.
- Embrace differences – a good team is diverse and you are likely to have people with a wide range of personalities and strengths. Volunteers will vary on how outgoing they are, how much they want to take charge, how flexible or planned they are. Particularly in discussions, encourage everyone to express their opinions.
- Iron out problems – an inevitable result of differences can be disagreements, sometimes conflict. By getting together regularly, communicating frequently, having fun and valuing differences disagreements can be minimised. If there are disagreements, try to resolve them immediately – don’t wait to see what will happen or if it happens again. Always explore all the facts and talk to all the parties before you come to a conclusion. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, it’s important to demonstrate impartiality in how you approach it and also to show respect to all those involved. Sometimes a disagreement escalates into conflict – when this happens involve your own Manager for help and support.
Encouraging Cooperation Between Unit Leadership Teams
Encouraging cooperation between Unit leadership teams is one way of reducing the burden on the District Manager. This cooperation may happen naturally, particularly if the Leaders share the same meeting space (although that can cause conflict too!) You can foster co-operation by making it a norm for Unit leadership teams to work across the District in different Units to cover absences and crises. Having Resource Leaders or Outdoors Leaders appointed at District level can also provide the infrastructure which encourages inter-unit co-operation. Taking time to welcome new members and make sure they integrate really well into the existing team is critical.
Using Shared Leadership to Get Things Done
I have been a District Manager for nearly a year and have just chosen an Assistant. I cant believe the difference it has made. I wanted someone with different skills to myself so we would be a cohesive team to better service our leaders so I asked around and chatted to some likely ladies. I didn’t really know her very well but we have agreed to specific tasks and we communicate all the time. I really recommend thinking this through to share your load.
Elizabeth Adnams, Girl Guides Victoria
Encouraging co-operation between Unit leadership teams is an example of shared leadership. . (If you are new to Guiding the Leader’s Handbook has more information on using shared leadership with girls.) Just as Leaders and Patrol Leaders will share tasks in a Unit, a District is most effective when Leaders help each other out by providing expertise or an extra helping hand. This approach has the added bonus that Guides are familiar with all the Leaders in their District and more likely to be comfortable when progressing to another Unit or attending a District event.
The principle of shared leadership should apply to getting things done in the team. Utilise the skills and experiences of the team and give everyone the chance to be involved. Depending on the task and the developmental stages of your team you will need to vary the amount of support and direction you offer. Using shared leadership will help you to gain a better understanding of the perspectives, values and attitudes of your team. By listening to all and creating an environment for all to listen effectively, most things will be decided on a consensus basis. If there is disagreement make sure everyone has a chance to be heard. Encourage joint responsibility, but at the end of the day as Manager of the team you make the final decision. Once made, ensure everyone is clear on the decision and their responsibilities.
Supporting Region Team Members
As a Region Manager your main emphasis is ensuring the Region operates efficiently and effectively but you will still need to offer some direct support to your team. Initially, your emphasis should be prioritising the support you offer your team so you don’t become overwhelmed. Ways of supporting your team include:
- providing advice and information
- being clear on what the Region is trying to achieve so all are clear on how each individual contributes to the whole and work is coordinated
- contacting your direct team members on an occasional basis, just to see how they are going
- passing on information promptly to the District Managers and Region team members and in turn passing up information to State as required
- holding effective meetings
- being contactable and answering questions and queries from District Managers and others
- supporting District Managers who are dealing with challenging situations or managing conflict
- attending Support Group AGMs or meetings when invited
- speaking positively about Guiding
- sharing skills, knowledge, resources and networks
- keeping in touch with Guiding by helping at activities, camps, outings and events
- showing appreciation to Leaders and District Managers
- recognising the achievements of Guides, Leaders and District Managers and Region team members
- developing good relationships with support staff at State Office.
Supporting District Team Members
Make sure you contact new members of the District so you get to know each other. She needs to feel comfortable to ask you about local matters or approach you about a small problem. Ensure she has all contact details of useful local people and ensure someone brings her to her first district meeting- so much better than coming alone.
Elizabeth Adnams, Girl Guides Victoria
A District needs constant practical, moral and financial support from parents and interested community members. An important part of the role of the District Manager, and to a lesser extent the Region Manager is to foster an environment which makes people want to support the team. As District Manager your direct support for the District team might include:
- knowing and understanding Leaders’ outside commitments (family, employment, study, other voluntary work)
- assisting when things go wrong
- dealing with issues promptly
- listening to Leaders and acting on their concerns
- keeping Leaders informed
- checking whether Leaders need new uniforms
- ensuring Leaders have the resources they need
- organising transport, meals or child-minders for Leaders
- accepting Unit invitations to special ceremonies and events
- attending the Support Group meetings
- nominating or encouraging others to take up Support Group roles
- speaking positively about Guiding
- welcoming new families
- maintaining the meeting place
- expressing thanks to all those who help in some way
- helping at activities, camps, outings and events
- providing transport
- sharing skills, knowledge, resources and networks
- showing appreciation to Leaders
- recognising the achievements of Guides and Leaders
- keeping your Region Manager up to date and interested in your District.
Last Modified: 18/08/16 at 11:37 AM