Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course 5, Lesson 8
Team Leadership to Reduce Tardiness and Absenteeism
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
Poor attendance can be the result of a few factors. Poor attendance can be related to:
(1) Inadequate team purpose – the absent or continually-tardy members don’t think or feel they need what the team (job) offers. The job centered on the team purpose does not adequately meet any important personal needs.
(2) Absentee team members don’t feel wanted or desired on the team for a multitude of possible reasons.
(3) Some problem in the team itself makes the team scary or uncomfortable.
(4) A personal problem of the absentee member is taking priority over team attendance.
(1) Inadequate Team Purpose – the Absent Member Does Not Think He or She Needs What the Team Offers
Absenteeism can be related to team purpose. Many teams fail because the team has not adopted a critical purpose communicated in actual words. There may be a purpose critical to the church, but not one that incorporates any really important need of one or all of the church members on the team. In other words, there is not an adopted team purpose important enough to be a long-term priority to some or all team members.
Skillful team leadership makes sure that the team adopts a critical purpose right at the start of the team experience. Team members are asked whether the team purpose under discussion is important enough for them to commit to being a part of the team and participate consistently. Since the “right answer” is so obvious, the team leader needs to ask team members if they can think of any way to make the team purpose even more interesting to them.
After a critical team purpose has been established, one that melds the needs of the church and the team members, the costs of membership are discussed. These personal requirements stem from the team purpose. One of them will be consistent attendance. This should be discussed by the team in a meeting. Team members should be asked what will be the negative effect on the team if anyone takes attendance lightly.
It is easy to see why a team with no purpose might not compete with a lot of other things asking for a person’s time.
Therefore, for the sake of success, the team can take time out from its regular agenda to discuss what the team is all about and whether that is good enough to stimulate regular attendance. If not, it is better to modify the purpose and whole direction of the team to include enough for all team members while keeping what the church needs in the purpose statement.
Often the team leader states a team purpose but does not ask the team members to commit to it, hoping that the purpose is popular enough to keep people coming. When the team leader simply states a team purpose, the team is actually still without a purpose because the team itself has not adopted it. The team leader has adopted a purpose for the team, and this holds no power over team members. It is the organization’s purpose, not theirs. In their minds, they don’t really have to fully commit to it.
The team leadership skill that is so very important here is the ability to bring together the needs of the church and the needs of the church member and state such in the form of a team purpose.
Keep in mind that the team purpose should be an outcome, a benefit worth spending time and energy on, some outcome that every team member will want to place at top priority. Outcomes allow measurement of the team’s effectiveness. Outcomes allow the team leader and the team itself to avoid mere activity that leads to no valuable destination. People want to know that they are getting something valuable out of their expenditure of time and effort. There will always be a few dedicated followers who will work on a church committee or team no matter what. But the more discerning might not buy into activity for activity’s sake. They want to know that they are using their time for something they really believe in. They need a purpose that is personally valuable and can be measured.
If the purpose just doesn’t “scratch where the Christian really itches”, that church member will start to show problems, usually less interest in the team and what it is doing. At first that person might have thought that the team and its purpose would be very important. But, down the stretch a bit, he or she may come to think the purpose much less important, and this could be from a variety of reasons. Motivation for participation decreases. Since the team purpose, while it looked good at the start, no longer addresses a personally important need, his or her attendance grows less reliable and causes problems for the team.
A team leader wanting to start a team (or continue a team that is having trouble with attendance) should evaluate the team purpose to see if it is primarily for the church’s need or not so clearly important to the work of God. If so, the team is bound to face defeat. The answer is to change the purpose so that it is high priority in each team member’s mind because it includes something highly desirable to each team member. This will make the team effort more significant. It might take a lot of thinking and a lot of talking with team members, but a significant and critical purpose can usually be found. Perhaps the purpose was a fine one but unclear as to how it fit within the work of God.
(2) Absentee Team Members Don’t Feel Wanted or Desired on the Team for a Multitude of Possible Reasons
There is always the possibility that absentee team members do not feel welcome or liked.
There are many reasons people might not feel liked. (1) They may have been unpopular as children and just see themselves as not likeable. (2) They may have been liked as children, but because of other factors, they may have poor self-esteem and feel insecure and not liked. (3) They may have been rejected in overt or subtle ways by one or both parents as children and need strong, open approval and affection. (4) They may actually not be liked by the team.
The typical way taught to help people feel welcome is for the team leader to talk to the individual who is avoiding the team in some way or other through excessive absences or tardiness. However, the question of acceptance is rarely focused on the team leader. Instead, the concern is whether the team members, not the leader, want the reluctant member to be a part of the team.
Therefore, the superior way to address absenteeism or tardiness is to have the team and its members deal with the problem. It is the team’s job to make people feel welcome and wanted on the team. Only the team and its members can help a team member feel wanted, valuable and capable.
This solution will be adequate for most of the individuals who would be sporadic in attendance for the first three reasons listed above. Certainly, it is not a solution if the person is truly not liked by the team. But for the first three reasons, some individuals will need more overt help from the team, and the team might want to discuss this with or without the person present. Does the person seem to need more overt signs of acceptance? A largely introverted team might have to tell its members to extend themselves emotionally. A fun team might have to tell its members to not forget the compliments.
But what does a team do if the person is not really liked by the team? Weak teams don’t do anything because they are glad the person is not there. But strong teams will see that the team has a problem, the solving of which could strengthen each team member and the team itself.
A strong team, or a team with a skillful leader, would face this problem of an unpopular team member head-on. If not worked on before the person becomes habitually tardy or absent, the team will discuss their dislike of the person who is absent and admit that they should do something to help the person become more likeable. In the person’s absence, the team would examine itself and the hearts of the various team members and do whatever necessary to correct their own problems, whether that be disgust, judgmental attitudes, lack of compassion or other dysfunctional behaviors. After that was taken care of, the team would go on to effect a plan to help the absent team member become likeable, maybe for the first time in his or her life.
Can you imagine how good a team would feel about itself if it addressed such a problem head-on and helped someone turn their whole life around? Can you imagine how good everyone would feel when that person became a dependable member of the team and reported true happiness from finally being liked?
And, of course, the person would not have to be absent for the team to deal with such a problem. As soon as it is evident that the team and its members were having trouble liking and accepting an individual, and it would be evident from the body language signals, the skillful team leader can ask the team to deal with it. Most likely, that person has been disliked all his or her life, and for the team to deal with it face-to-face would be far less cruel than the way it had been handled by others at school and work for years and years. And a conscientious team under the guidance of a skillful leader, helped by the Holy Spirit and their knowledge of scriptural principles would deal with it gently.
(3) Some Problem in the Team Itself Makes Coming Scary or Quite Uncomfortable
Occasionally a team becomes dysfunctional and scares people away. A growing conflict between members or between members and the team leader will cause a team to be uncomfortable and some team members might begin to avoid the team through tardiness or absenteeism. In this case, the team must deal with whatever is occurring that is uncomfortable or dysfunctional. The skillful team leader usually sees these things coming and urges the team to deal with them before they get so very uncomfortable. But if such a problem escapes the attention of the team leader, he or she merely has the team deal with it when it is seen.
(4) A Personal Problem of the Absentee Member Is Taking Priority over Team Attendance
Most will recognize that this is sometimes a legitimate reason to be tardy or absent. But, sometimes the team and its members can be of help. Often it is the team leader who makes contact to see if a serious problem exists. But, it is even better for the team members do it instead. The absentee member will want to know that his or her problem is not an unwanted burden to the team. It will be expected that the team leader might want to be of help, so the team’s concern will be seen as more genuine.
Next: How to Help Teams Develop Closer Relationships
Copyright 2012 Dick Wulf, Colorado, USA