sealPurdue News

April 1995

Team concept makes things difficult for managers in the '90s

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Work teams are a growing business trend that may signal the end of age-old management methods, says a Purdue University expert.

Joan M. Chesterton, associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision at Purdue's North Central campus, says the traditional organization -- where managers think, supervisors push and workers work -- is counterproductive in today's business environment.

"Because of teams and empowerment, employees are learning to manage themselves," she says. "Traditional management skills from 1969 aren't going to cut it. Managers must develop new skills for supporting teams or they'll get left behind. Those skills include coaching, facilitating and conflict resolution."

Chesterton says more and more companies are putting employees into teams. The theory is that employees are more productive and will produce a higher quality product working as a team. Traditional managers, however, may find the team concept a challenge.

"Managers who will have the most difficult time in today's team environment come from supervisory backgrounds," Chesterton contends. "The skills they have been taught apply to managing or supervising individuals. Those are exactly the type of skills that can kill a team project."

Chesterton has 20 years of experience as a line manager and consultant for manufacturing and service organizations involved in re-engineering, employee empowerment and improving relationships between management and unions. She says advances in technology, training and education make today's employees more knowledgeable than employees in the past.

"Employees know more about the job they are doing and how it relates to a company's success," she says. "They are much more aware of the bottom line and the inner workings of the organization. Today's managers have to be more willing to listen to what employees are saying, and work with employees rather than over them."

She says if your management style includes any of the following tactics, you might want to update your skills -- if not your resume. As a manager, you're in trouble if you:

The road to success is smoother, Chesterton says, when managers understand that a willingness to change their approach from directive to facilitative will result in an explosion of productivity for their teams and a rewarding new life in management for them.

Source: Joan M. Chesterton, (219) 785-5297
Writer: Victor B. Herr, (765) 494-2077; Internet,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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