I am a communicator, first and foremost, and have had a diverse range of experiences. Originally trained as a classical singer at Trinity College of Music, London, I spent many years performing and working as a director and musical director. In addition to this, I worked as a teacher in private theatre schools; teaching music and drama to students aged 5 to 50!
Every different situation taught me new ways to communicate better, to be clear in my planning and in my delivery of instructions. In whatever area of work I found myself, there was always an end product, something to be achieved.
I formally trained as an educator, gaining a PGCE from the Institute of Education, where I explored diversity and differentiation strategies and then during continued professional development, I trained as a mediator (learning about conflict resolution), as a facilitator (learning the 80/20% rule; giving ownership of learning and development to the group) and then in management roles and training, I began to understand the theory behind much of what I was already doing in practise.
In order to be an effective leader it is important to understand how an effective team works it is useful to refer to John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership, which is a model for team leadership and management and the Belbin Team Inventory, also known as the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory or the Belbin Team Role Inventory, which is an assessment used to gain insight into an individual’s behavioural tendency in a team environment and which was developed by Dr Meredith Belbin after studying numerous teams at Henley Management College.
John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership
John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership work encompasses and endorses much of the previous thinking on human needs and motivation by Maslow, Herzberg and Fayol and his theory adds a simple additional organisational dimension to these earlier works. It is a model which offers a clear strategy for leadership and the management of any team, group or organization and is a simple leadership and management model, which makes it easy to recall, adapt and apply to any business scenario.
Good managers and leaders who have full command of the three main areas of the Action Centred Leadership model and who can use each of the elements according to the specific situation will keep the right balance, get results, build morale, improve quality, develop teams and productivity; and this is the mark of a successful manager and leader.
Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model is commonly represented by three overlapping circles (SEE ILLUSTRATION BELOW).
Adair’s three core management responsibilities: achieving the task, managing the team or group AND managing individuals
This task-team-individual model adapts incredibly well for the demands of modern business management and has a valuable place within an educational environment.
This model clarifies the role and responsibilities of the manager for achieving a given task. These responsibilities are to identify aims and vision for the group, purpose, and direction – define the activity (the task), identify resources, people, processes, systems and tools (inc. financials, communications, IT), create the plan to achieve the task – deliverables, measures, timescales, strategy and tactics, establish responsibilities, objectives, accountabilities and measures, by agreement and delegation, set standards, quality, time and reporting parameters, control and maintain activities against parameters, monitor and maintain overall performance against plan, report on progress towards the group’s aim, review, re-assess, adjust plan, methods and targets as necessary
This model clarifies the role and responsibilities of the manager for the group. These are to establish, agree and communicate standards of performance and behaviour, establish style, culture, approach of the group – soft skill elements, monitor and maintain discipline, ethics, integrity and focus on objectives, anticipate and resolve group conflict, struggles or disagreements, assess and change as necessary the balance and composition of the group, develop team-working, cooperation, morale and team-spirit, develop the collective maturity and capability of the group – progressively increase group freedom and authority, encourage the team towards objectives and aims – motivate the group and provide a collective sense of purpose, identify, develop and agree team- and project-leadership roles within group, enable, facilitate and ensure effective internal and external group communications, identify and meet group training needs, give feedback to the group on overall progress; consult with, and seek feedback and input from the group.
It also clarifies that the responsibilities of a manager for each individual is to understand the team members as individuals – personality, skills, strengths, needs, aims and fears, assist and support individuals – plans, problems, challenges, highs and lows, identify and agree appropriate individual responsibilities and objectives, give recognition and praise to individuals – acknowledge effort and good work, where appropriate reward individuals with extra responsibility, advancement and status, identify, develop and utilise each individual’s capabilities and strengths, train and develop individual team members and to develop individual freedom and authority.
Adair’s premise is that leadership is different to management and that all leaders are not necessarily great managers, but the best leaders will possess good management skills.
Definitions of the original word meanings may be useful to emphasise what Adair meant:
Leadership is an ancient ability about deciding direction, from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning the road or path ahead; knowing the next step and then taking others with you to it. Managing is a later concept, from Latin ‘manus’, meaning hand, and more associated with handling a system or machine of some kind. The original concept of managing began in the 19th century when engineers and accountants started to become entrepreneurs.
The Belbin Team Role Inventory
The Belbin Team Role Inventory is a behavioural tool which assesses how an individual behaves in a team environment. The assessment includes 360-degree feedback with the individual’s own evaluation of their behaviour and evaluation from observers; this contrasts how individuals see their behaviour with how their colleagues do. This system is unlike the Myers-Briggs model, which sorts individuals into one of 16 types by how clearly they express their preference for 4 distinct types of behaviour; the Belbin Inventory scores people on how strongly they demonstrate qualities from 9 different Team Roles.
These 9 Roles are: Plant, Resource Investigator, Coordinator, Shaper, Monitor Evaluator, Teamworker, Implementer, Completer Finisher AND Specialist
In more detail these can be described as follows:
Plants are creative, unorthodox individuals and are generators of ideas. Other common qualities are innovative and free-thinking; when a creative solution to a problem is required, a Plant is the best person to ask. Plants, however, may tend to ignore incidentals and detail.
The Resource Investigator is vigorous in pursuit of of opportunities and looks beyond or outwith the team for ideas and inspiration. A good Resource Investigator is an excellent networker and creator of possibilities.
Coordinators are confident, stable and mature team members who recognise abilities in others and are adept at delegating tasks to the right person for the job. The Coordinator clarifies decisions, helping everyone else focus on their tasks. They are often perceived to be manipulative, and may tend to delegate all work, leaving nothing but the delegating for them to do.
The shaper is task-focused, a leader who is high in motivation and is goal orientated. A shaper will often challenge, argue or disagree and will demonstrate aggression in the pursuit of goal achievement. When 2 or 3 shapers are present, according to Belbin, conflict, aggravation and in-fighting.can occur.
Monitor Evaluators demonstrate fairness and are logical observers and judges of what is going on. They can detach themselves from bias and are often the ones to see all available options with the greatest clarity. They are analytical and take everything into account; however they can become excessively cynical, even damping enthusiasm for anything without logical grounds.
A Teamworker is diplomatic, often a good listener and can demonstrate skill at resolving conflict.
The Implementer is efficient, motivated and self-disciplined, and can be relied on to deliver on time.
The Completer Finisher is a perfectionist, has a strong inward sense of the need for accuracy, rarely needing any encouragement from others because that individual’s own high standards are what he or she tries to live up to. The Completer Finisher may worry excessively about the quality of work and finds it hard to delegate.
Specialists have specific depth of knowledge, and enjoy imparting this, they are passionate about learning and developing (in their area of interest). Specialists bring a high level of focus, knowledge and skill in their area of expertise but may tend to be less interested in anything which lies outside of this.
Performing Arts Team: Effectiveness and Interaction with Key Customers and Other Stakeholders
At the time of writing, the Performing Arts Team is relatively small and consists of one fulltime member of staff (David Watters, Musical Theatre Coordinator) and 3 part time staff (MD, Musical Theatre & Singing, JB, Urban & Jazz Dance and MN, Acting)
The Belbin Model has proved a useful tool in assessing character traits of individuals within the team. The system clearly has some credibility but I would not base judgements entirely upon this. We are all more complex than this system suggests and although Belbin does state that individuals can cross over into a number of roles, I personally still find his 9 roles to be limiting.
The team functions well and this, I feel, is due to the shared backgrounds of each team member. To explain, all trained initially as performers before becoming teachers, all also continue to work as professional performers or in performance related fields such as choreography, musical direction or direction.
Coming from disciplined backgrounds and having qualified in our specialist areas at respected institutions, the team have an understanding of the required standards necessary for our students to progress into Higher Education.
We share a similar outlook on teaching strategies and, as performers, have good interpersonal skills. We have been trained to take criticism as a positive interaction and to continually seek self-improvement. Giving and receiving feedback presents no challenge and we all instill this in our students.
There is consistency in expectations across disciplines and this has a positive impact upon learners. Some students may initially find the intense demands of a disciplined life to be challenging but we all agree that this is a necessary aspect to our particular subject.
The current team interact well with each other, show respect and commitment to the goals of the department.
As a leader I see my role as one of support and supervision, of encouragement and empowerment. In many ways I feel that our team meet the needs of our customers (the learners) when I follow Adair’s guidlines of:
- Planning – seeking information, defining tasks, setting aims Initiating – briefing, task allocation, setting standards
- Controlling – maintaining standards, ensuring progress, ongoing decision-making
- Supporting – individuals’ contributions, encouraging, team spirit, reconciling, morale
- Informing – clarifying tasks and plans, updating, receiving feedback and interpreting and
- Evaluating – feasibility of ideas, performance, enabling self assessment