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Lead before managing - the team concept approach.

"Traditional" versus "self-directed" managerial approach is an issue credit professionals must address as we move forward into the '90s and beyond. We can either stagnate with our traditional managerial style or we can change with the wave of the future to leadership management through the self-directed team concept. We must be leaders as well as managers.

The traditional management approach relates to a specific style, while the self-directed team approach combines both leadership and management, which is the avenue we must be following in the future.

Leadership could be defined as an art, yet it is learned over time and experience. We, as managers, must abandon ourselves to the strength of others (team concept). As leaders, we must supply the vision or ideas which can become realities. These realities then become measurable, or goals, for our followers. Ask this question: Are our followers reaching their full potential? Are they continually learning? Are they achieving the required managed results? We must be clear about our ideas and goals, yet convey self-confidence in the management of our team in order to encourage them to express their ideas and opinions - whether agreeable or contrary.

Further, as managers, there must be accountability for our actions. We must show dignity and respect while we impart value and cooperation. Leaders instill the idea that work is a privilege which can be rewarding, meaningful, enriching, and fulfilling.

Analyze Your Corporate Environment

Before implementing a self-directed team management concept approach within your organization, you need to do an analysis of your corporate environment to determine if the conditions and circumstances are right. Analyze your company's culture and history. How long has it been in business? What are trends in the industry? Is it a leader or follower within the industry?

Does your company believe in "participative management" (cutting workers in on financial gain for ideas)? Is there a commitment to training, a willingness on the part of upper management to share information? Is there inherent trust within your organization? What is your company vision?


To ensure success when implementing a self-directed work team for your credit or collection department, the following three elements should be in place:

1. Top level commitment. Full support of top-level hierarchy is necessary to see that needed resources are available - especially through the early stages of transition.

2. Management-employee trust. Front-line managers/supervisors must fully participate so that trust in the management-employee relationship can be developed, risks taken, and opinions thrive.

3. Steering committee. This group of people is charged with the readiness of the organization to pursue the team concept. They should have a clearly defined mission, make any necessary site visits, and gather data.

As you prepare to assess the feasibility of the team approach in your department, consider the following:

* Examine the various processes (manual, electronic, intellectual, interpersonal, etc.) by which you produce your goods and services. Can any of your department functions be enhanced through increased initiative, flexibility, and cooperation by those who are performing current functions?

* Will your employees accept and take ownership? Do they have the intellect and physical capacity to perform the necessary tasks? Do they have the mental toughness, problem-solving skills, and internal cooperativeness to get them through the initial stages?

* Do you, as a credit professional, have the ability to apply the hands-off leadership style?

* Will your market support increased productivity?

* Will your company's policies and culture support the transition to teams?

* Will your community support the transition to teams in the form of training and classes at local community and technical schools?

Finally, chart your course of action with five critical steps which will help show where to focus, what is important now, and what can wait.

1. Clarify the mission and parameters.

2. Select the initial work-team site (i.e. your department).

3. Establish and prepare the design team.

4. Adopt a framework for planning the steps and/or decision making authority.

5. Draft a preliminary plan regarding the selection process, responsibilities, training systems, schedules, etc.

The transfer of decision-making authority will not be without some upheaval. In the first stage, the distribution of authority will change only slightly from a conventional company. As the team and manager struggle for the right degree of autonomy, teams will develop strong peer leadership and managers will learn to delegate authority. Finally, the fully self-directed team assumes total responsibility for work standards and the manager has assumed the role of facilitator and coach.

Self-directed teams are not unmanaged teams, they are differently managed teams. You, as the facilitator, must be completely supportive of the concept. Your group of followers will only go as far as your newly developed leaders. It is up to you as to how far they can go.

RELATED ARTICLE: Traditional Managerial Approach

* Takes direction

* Reacts to change

* Seeks individual rewards

* Competes

* Stops at preset goals

* Demands more resources

* Reacts to emergencies

* Spends money to improve

* Inflexible

* Has employees

* Seeks vertical management style

* Bargains

* Prefers discipline

* Set/rigid/status quo

* Has accounts

* Makes due with present technology

Self-Directed Approach

* Takes initiative

* Creates change

* Focuses on team

* Cooperates

* Continually improves

* Works with what they have to improve

* Takes steps to anticipate

* Saves money by stressing quality

* Flexible with times/circumstances

* Has followers

* Seeks horizontal management style

* Negotiates

* Coaches/mentors

* Takes risks/has fans/empowers

* Has customers

* Seeks new technology

Larry Van Meter is the area credit manager for Harmon Glass, Minneapolis.
COPYRIGHT 1995 National Association of Credit Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Meter, Larry Van
Publication:Business Credit
Date:Jun 1, 1995
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