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Case Study: Outdoor Training for Team Leaders

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In late 2002, Knauf Insulation wanted a new approach to leadership development for its team leaders.

Traditionally, the company had tended to promote employees who had shown initiative and leadership potential into the team leader roles.

However, they had feedback that the team leaders were not clear about their roles and were not sure how to best manage and motivate their teams.

Knauf Insulation chose MaST International to provide leadership training for 20 team leaders.

Winston Sherman, consultant at MaST took the training. Together with Knauf Insulation plant manager, Jeff Norris, he identified areas in which the team leaders needed training, and set objectives for the course.

* To understand their roles and responsibilities and the principles of leadership and teamwork;
* To set effective goals for themselves and their teams;
* To understand the need to communicate effectively with their teams;
* To understand the needs and motivations of their teams;
* To have more confidence in handling conflict and performance issues;
* To understand the importance of building trust and relationships.

Winston said: "We decided to use outdoor training techniques because we felt it was necessary to get the team leaders outside of their usual environment to capture their attention and harness their enthusiasm.

"We also recognised that the team leaders needed to feel that they would benefit from the experience personally."

Ten team leaders attended each two-and-a-half day course.

At the start of the course, Winston held a session on concerns and issues of the team leaders, identifying any potential barriers to high performance.

Over the two days, there were a number of activities, including abseiling, rock climbing and canoeing.

The emphasis was on preparation and problem solving before each activity. Afterwards, each activity was reviewed with the key learning related back to their workplace situations.

At the end of the course, the delegates revisited the list of issues and concerns that they had brainstormed at the start.

They worked together to write a list of actions they could take back in the workplace to solve the problems.

Winston said: "The delegates compiled a list of 26 actions they could take to improve the performance of themselves and their teams.

"These have included getting more involved in key meetings such as production planning; arranging ongoing meetings between all the team leaders, to form a supportive peer group; promoting open communication between themselves and their teams."

Jeff Norris believes that the main benefit of the training has been clarifying the role and responsibilities of the team leaders.

He said: "Prior to the course, the team leaders were passing a lot of issues and problems to their line managers.

"Now, they are clear about their responsibilities and have the skills to tackle these issues themselves, enabling senior management to concentrate on strategic issues, rather than day-to-day trouble shooting."

He added: "In addition, the course has shown the team leaders that they can develop further in this area and in time apply to become a departmental manager.

"This has really helped to motivate and retain the team leaders now that they recognise the promotional possibilities for them.

"The teams have been impressed with the positive feedback from their team leaders, and the new skills they are displaying – and are now asking for similar development opportunities for themselves."


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