One of the responsibilities of a child care worker, in addition to interacting with the kids, involves interacting with a group of co-workers who come together at a staff meeting , to make plans, discuss problems and even suggest improvements.
Many years ago the staff meeting would be run by a psychiatrist who would make most of the clinical decisions (and often administrative decisions as well) and communicate them in a top-down way to the staff. In the last decade or two a new more participative format has emerged in the Child and Youth Care field. The new format uses the term team to distinguish from the more traditionally used term group. What’s the difference?
A team is a work group with high performance standards made up of workers who are highly interdependent, that is, they work closely with one another to get their work done. Consisting usually of five to nine members, teams are of two types: those that are management-led and those that are self-directed in managing the team as a whole. Despite such differences they have many features in common, such as described below:
Other important features of teams include:
A “can do” attitude
Quality client service
Satisfaction with their jobs
A belief in constant improvement by everybody of everything
Everyone on the team knows and is committed to the goals of the team.
A climate of trust and openness prevails which facilitates creativity and risk taking
Members share a sense of belonging to and support from the team. And most importantly they receive support from senior management
Diversity is valued as an asset, not a problem. Diversity of problem-solving styles, culture, gender and ideas, rather than group thinking, is seen as important for finding solutions to problems
High performance teams have the ability and willingness to self-correct. The team is frequently involved in examining its own processes and practices to discover what is the best way to operate. They work hard to avoid problems worsening and festering
Members make use of and learn from one another's skills and knowledge
Members recognize their own skill and knowledge limitations and are willing to bring in outside resources to help when needed
Of course helping all these features work well is the important role of leadership. Whether there is a management-designated leader or the leadership rotates among the members, the leader casts a long shadow. He or she is a major force that keeps the team on track and operating at a high performance level.
Although the work team model has originated in the profit-making world it is possible to use many of its features in the Child and Youth Care world. The benefits can include better staff morale, continued staff learning, better management-staff relations, more interesting staff meetings and ultimately more effective service to youthful clients. Problems include sense of reduced control by management and the reality that some decisions may not be the best. Despite these limitations agencies implementing this model have found it useful.