Basics in Ophthalmic Assisting Manual - Chapter 16

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Individual Developement


Planning means having a view of the future and deciding in advance where we would like to be, and what is to be done in order to reach there.

Planning starts with the definition of the objectives and the formulation of the specific goals or targets to be achieved. Goals are derived from the analysis of existing situations of an organisation and, once defined, provide a sense of direction to all the managerial activities. In order to achieve the goals, specific plans are drawn up. Objectives, goals or targets provide answers to the question, ' where is the organization heading.

The planning process can take anywhere from one day to a year depending upon

  • The size and complexity of the organisation.
  • The level of disagreement within the organization about the future.
  • The extent to which change in organisational strategy is necessary to adapt to changing environment.

Organising the planning process

The process of planning a programme can be difficult, but it can also bring a number of rewards. In addition to producing a well organized programme, the organisation as a whole can be strengthened by successfully confronting the challenges of the planning process.

Motivating staff: Reaching agreement on goals and on how to achieve them is called motivating because everyone involved ends up with a shared vision and with concrete ideas about how to surmount obstacles. In order to achieve the vision, motivation of staff is required.

Basic elements of planning

  1. Evaluation of present conditions: recognising the present conditions and inadequacies that require change. Once these undesirable conditions are identified, the question arises of what to do about them. It is the existence of alternative answers to this question that gives rise to planning.
  2. The time factor: The timing of events. Success of planning depends on the ability of the organisation to understand that short-range planning can be successful only if it is carried out in the context of adequate long-range planning.
  3. Collection and analysis of data: Effective planning depends on the quality and quantity of data available to the organisation. Consideration must be given to the relevant data from the present and the past and an assessment must be made of possible future events. It is the right establishment of assumptions or forecasts of the future that have a bearing on present actions.
  4. Hierarchy of plans: All the plans within the organisation are interdependent and mutually supportive.

Proper attention to these factors should result in plans that are objective, structured and yet flexible. The probable success depends on the extent to which plans are developed with these aspects in mind.

People react negatively to pressures. These negative reactions invariably create blocks in effectiveness. Many pressures can be avoided by good planning that provides orderliness.

Need for planning

  1. It attempts to minimise uncertainty by forecasting the future and also minimises the chances of mistakes
  2. It focuses on objectives or goals of the organisation and their accomplishment
  3. It leads to economy in operation
  4. It helps in effective decision making
  5. It helps in controlling activities
  6. It helps in coordinating the operations of an enterprise

Planning process

There are four steps involved in a planning process:

  • Perception of opportunities: It is very important to be aware of opportunities. To be effective, planning should anticipate and meet conditions as they develop. Hence planning requires a realistic diagnosis of opportunities.
  • Establishment of goals: The second step in planning is to establish the goals to be achieved for the whole enterprise and each of its sub units. Goals should be measurable so that the performances of the enterprise and its sub units can be evaluated.
  • Appraisal of planning premises: Premises are the factors in the environment that affect the achievement of goals. In fact planning in any organisation rests on several premises. The planning premises may be grouped as external or internal.
  • Exploring of action paths and selection of a course of action: The last step in the planning process is to explore and evaluate alternate plans of action and determine a specific action plan.

Once the goals have been established and the factors affecting plans taken care of, actual action plan in the form of programs and budgets are formulated.

How to improve your planning abilities

Planning is written about and talked about more than it is done. Here are some ideas that will encourage you to plan your activities in advance.

  • Force yourself to plan.
  • If you fail to plan, you are by default planning to fail.
  • Schedule uninterrupted time every day to do your planning.
  • Anticipate possible problems you could encounter in your project because of people, material, or mechanical failures. Purposely provide preventive actions and contingency plans in important high risk situations.
  • When planning a project, plan in thinking time.
  • Plan for tomorrow, tonight. Your subconscious will help organize while you sleep.
  • Each day anticipate the sequence of activities that you will do to attain the objectives you seek.
  • Think about your entire week. How will important projects be sequenced?
  • Do your planning on paper to capture all of your ideas and to be sure none of them get lost. We can only work mentally with about seven pieces of information without losing something. Write your thoughts down and you will be able to utilize everything you think of during your planning process.
  • When developing a specific plan, list the activity steps individually on small pieces of paper and then sequence the pieces of paper. Then write the whole plan out in sequential order.
  • If you must, leave your office and get away to do your planning in a quiet place where you can think.
  • Don't hurry the process. Something will get overlooked.
  • When things go wrong, it can generally be traced back to a poor job of planning or failing to follow an existing plan.
  • List key words that relate to a project. They will fit into and help you in planning. Keep records of how long it takes to do an activity. You can use this information for future scheduling.
  • Take the first few minutes of any time block and dedicate it to planning that block.
  • Whether you call it planning time, thinking time, quiet time or meditation, the payoff in increased productivity will be high.
  • Schedule one weekend away each quarter and make it a top priority. Mini-vacations are refreshing.
  • Encourage your staff to create their own plan and then to explain it in detail to you.
  • Sit quietly and mentally rehearse the steps in your plan. Use your imagination to visualise the steps being taken. You will sense where additional steps need to be added and will anticipate problems to prevent.
  • Consider settling for 90% completion of 90% of the projects. The final 10% may not be worth the cost to attain them.
  • When starting a new project or activity, take a moment to quietly review, mentally, the steps you will follow.
  • Set your own due dates for projects earlier than the actual deadline.
  • Put schedules in writing. Publish them and then follow up with them.
  • If you cannot identify the objectives and steps to take to get to a goal, it is unrealistic.
  • Mentally organize before proceeding.
  • Stick Post-It-Notes on paperwork to indicate or highlight scheduling and due dates.
  • Remember the 6 P's of planning: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
  • Schedule formal planning meetings with your staff regularly.


Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior " (Webster, 1983).Communication is classified into two types

  • Verbal
  • Non - verbal

Verbal communication

A great deal of our life is taken up with verbal communication. We are often unconsciously influenced by the things around us:

  • Newspapers
  • Television, radio, films
  • Magazines
  • Advertising boarding

The most effective communications are usually face to face and involve:

  • A sender / speaker
  • A receiver / listener
  • A purpose / the reason for the communication

Non - verbal communication

  • Eye contact
  • Gestures
  • Distance/Proximity
  • Facial expression
  • Posture
  • Written information
  • Touch
  • Dress/appearance
    • Cloth / uniform
    • Tidiness of appearance
    • Hair style
  • Personal space

Barriers to effective communication

  • Filtering
  • Selective perception
  • Emotions
  • Language
  • Lack of effective listening

What affects the reception of verbal messages?

  • Background noise
  • Language barriers
    • Different languages
    • Accents
    • Use of jargon
  • Fear/anxiety
    • Patient may not really be listening or want to hear.
  • Impaired understanding
    • Mental state
    • Age
  • Speed of speech
  • Tone of voice

Communications skills

  • Adapters
    • learning to control emotions, getting on with others.
  • Attitude
    • body movements indicate attitudes: friendly, or cold
  • Voice control
    • Tone, pitch, volume, rhythm, hesitation, pauses
  • Jargon / local phrases or expressions
  • Questioning
    • Open, closed, timing, content, level of disclosure.

While communicating

  • Speak slowly
  • Make eye contact
  • Use simple language
  • Ask one question at a time
  • Give one piece of information at a time
  • Use gestures
  • Exhibit affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions
  • Encourage the other person to speak
  • Avoid distractive, background noise, actions or gestures
  • Avoid interruptive the speaker
  • Don't over talk
  • Do not shout

Difficulties with communication

  • Too much information
  • Too little information
  • Interest
  • Previous knowledge
  • Assumptions
  • Incorrect information
  • Inability to express oneself
  • Status of persons involved
  • Communication skills
  • Questioning techniques: the use of closed or open questions, the type of knowledge required, level of disclosure
  • Gender
  • Culture / Background

Reasons for communication

  • To teach or learn something
  • To obtain/accomplish something
  • To express feelings
  • To solve problems
  • To stimulate interest
  • To socialise
  • To entertain
  • To provide support
  • To question or to answer
  • To organise
  • To justify
  • To discipline
  • To pass on information
  • To clarify

Twelve strategies for effective communication

Medical settings require members of healthcare teams to communicate, collaborate and solve conflicts in order to provide good patient care, yet often these skills are not taught.

Poor working relationships between inter- disciplinary team members (such as attending doctors, house staff, medical students, nurses, social workers, and support staff) may negatively affect patient care and the teaching environment. Conflict can arise from communication difficulties and differences in status, education, roles and goals.

In academic medical settings, healthcare team members share the same goal to provide optimal care for the patient and effective training for house staff and students. Giving team members the opportunity to improve their communication skills facilitates their work together. The following strategies, or early response skills can help healthcare team members communicate more effectively and resolve conflicts.

  • Be respectful and professional in your interactions.
  • Listen intently to the other person. By allowing the other person to present their story without interruption, you show that you will treat it thoughtfully and respectfully. You also learn what the other person's wants or needs. Active listening may uncover hidden agendas. By listening to and understanding the underlying needs you increase the likelihood of reaching a solution.
  • Try to understand the other person's viewpoint. To reach understanding and correct misunderstandings, repeat back or paraphrase what you hear. "It sounds like you are saying. .. is that what you mean?' Gather information and ask for clarification. The information you gain will help you to determine a responsible course of action.
  • Acknowledge the other person's thoughts and feelings. "You seem frustrated." "You seem upset." "That's another way to look at it." Acknowledgment does not mean agreement. You can validate feelings without agreeing with the content of what is being said. This strategy builds trust and promotes constructive problem solving.
  • Be cooperative. Assume good faith. To promote working together, use words such as "joint" and "mutual," rather than "either, or".
  • Look for shared concerns. It often helps to focus on smaller issues first, before moving to more difficult issues. Return to common interests if things begin to escalate.
  • State your feelings. Use words such as "I think" and "I feel," but rely on facts and information. Avoid judgments and accusations. Be consistent and predictable; avoid surprises as they can erode trust.
  • Don't take things personally. Don't respond in kind to threats or personal attacks. If needed, take a break. "I am angry. Can we talk about this later after I cool off?"
  • Learn to say, "I was wrong." Apologising when it is appropriate can be particularly effective.
  • Don't feel pressured to agree instantly. Try not to solve the problem prematurely. "Let's consider the next step and find a time to meet again."
  • Think about possible solutions before meeting. What do you really want? What might you give in order to get it? Is there a compromise you can live with? Offer and ask for solutions. A neutral third party might be useful. Plan to follow up as a way to monitor the resolution.
  • Think of conflict resolution as a helical process. Handling conflict is not a linear process, and conflicts are rarely resolved in one interaction. Rather, participants return to the spiral, readdress issues at a higher level, and sometimes regress before reaching a resolution. Real progress is gradual, often step by step.

Time management

Time management is about using time effectively to achieve tasks. It is about helping you to set out in life what you want to achieve. Time management isn't only for your working life, it also applies to your personal, social and family life. So it is worthwhile to learn how to manage your time.

Is time management necessary?

Time is scarce! Once a minute is lost, it is lost forever. We should manage time as we would manage money. Time management is for everyone, rich and poor, man and woman, young and old, in work or not working or in any type of profession. By managing time effectively one can derive deep satisfaction from their occupation, become more productive and achieve greater rewards for their efforts.

Know yourself

Analyze your strong and weak points, understand certain characteristics in you which will enable you to overcome your shortcomings. Certain questions are worth answering.

1. When do you function better - in the morning or in the evening?

  • For You also learn what the other perso 'morning' people the hours before noon are most productive. They are lethargic in the afternoons and evenings. 'Evening' people are just the opposite. Know your productive hours, carry out your high priority projects during that time and reserve the less frenetic activities to the non-peak hours.

2. What type of a worker are you - intensive or extensive?

  • The intensive worker works with great concentration and he is fast, whereas the extensive worker takes longer to complete a task and he should learn to be faster.

3. Are you people oriented or are you task oriented?

  • People oriented types prefer personnel or sales jobs, while task oriented types are happy with analytical paper work.

4. Are you 'diffusion style' manager or a 'focused style' manager?

  • Diffusion style manager attends to several projects at once, while the 'focussed style' manager concentrates on only one project at a time.

5. Are you the compulsive type or the 'laid back' type?

  • While the compulsive type works too much, the laid back type is slow and easily diverted.

Personal time analysis

The first step in managing time is to establish just where it has gone. Unless you know what is going on at the moment, you can not take necessary steps to save time. The way to find out is to conduct a personal time analysis.

  • Take one day and analyse it in detail, describing in a time diary what you did at quarter - hour intervals.
  • About a week later analyse each day, detailing what you did at the same quarterly - hour intervals.
  • By the end of the week, categorise the tasks listed and examine the data. You may find that little time is devoted for high priority areas while coffee breaks and chitchats take up considerable time.
  • Now that you know your problems, cut down time spent on such useless activities.

Once you have prioritized your time, you will find your efficiency rising.

Organise yourself

Set goals for yourself, both short and long term. Have a weekly plan in different roles of your life ie., sister ,daughter, mother, wife, student, worker etc. Set aside time for recreation, exercise, spiritual activity, studies, etc,. Lay down particular activities to be carried out in different roles during the week. Such weekly planning enables the individual to handle minor crisis or unexpected events as well. Similarly plan your day, allotting your day's activities into must be done, should be done and might be done. Make sure your daily time budgeting is realistic. You will find the weekly and daily plans enjoyable and enriching. The implementation of daily and weekly plans will see you moving forward towards achieving your goals.

Timely tips for time management

Following are some ideas that may be helpful when you seek to manage your time effectively.

  1. Be time conscious. Be aware of the passage of time.
  2. Get an early start. Remember the early bird catches the worm.
  • Develop and defeat the deadline. A plan of action helps to achieve targets on time.
  • Avoid telephone trap. Don't make a number of calls to the same person for different reasons.
  • Know your prime time and handle your tough tasks then.
  • Avoid after meal rest being flexible about your eating time and also by eating light.
  • Acquire pencil and paper habit and note down things that you want to remember later.
  • Develop the art of listening and thus avoid misunderstandings.
  • Look for shortcuts in all your activities.
  • Prioritise your mail. Classify it into must do, need to do, like to do, and junk mail and place them in respective folders.
  • Streamline correspondence by designing your letters short and sweet and to the point.
  • Learn to say NO to unreasonable demands. Make others handle their responsibilities and don't take on sundry jobs.
  • Don't postpone unpleasant or difficult tasks, if they are important.
  • Keep an open mind in everything you do and it will help you get along with people better.
  • Work during work hours only. Analyse your daily schedule. Identify your time wasters and develop a positive time managementattitude.
  • Find a concentration hideaway when you can't handle interruptions. Or use 'Don't disturb' board.
  • Delegate your work so that you have more time and follow up to ensure the job is well done.
  • Be decisive. Even if a decision goes wrong, don't fret. You can rectify it.
  • You needn't be a perfect ten. Perfectionism delays completion of tasks on time.
  • Monitor your time management attitude and keep it positive. Do personal time analysis at least twice a year.
  • Keep fit and don't neglect your health. Keeping fit controls your tension and stress level. Exercise your body at least half an hour every day. Meditation can help you maintain a calm and healthy mind.

Time wasters

Beware of the following time wasters when you proceed to manage your time effectively. Eradicate them.

  • Telephone interruptions.
  • Drop in visitors.
  • Scheduled and unscheduled meetings.
  • Crisis situations without any plan to tackle them.
  • Lack of priorities and deadlines.
  • Attempting too much at a time.
  • Unrealistic time estimates.
  • Indecision and lack of delegation.
  • Inability to say NO.
  • Lack of clear communication.
  • Constantly working late or taking work home
    • Failure to complete one task before starting another
  • Trying to tackle the uncontrollable
  • Failure to listen carefully
  • Over commitment (Take on too many tasks at one time)
  • Poor delegation (or failure to delegate)

Stop procrastination

The most damaging amongst the time wasters is procrastination. It is frequently emotional in nature, which brings back memories of bad feelings or pain faced in the past. As a result people put off things indefinitely and consequently suffer from adverse effects like ulcer, heart attack, etc. Procrastination can be overcome by the following:

  • Identify and understand what you are putting off.
  • When a task seems too big, chop it down into smaller units and do one at a time.
  • Do a task right away and thus remove anxiety.
  • Set a time frame for the tasks.
  • Plan your task and work your plans.
  • Consult people when tasks involve them.
  • Avoid uncertain phrases like ' I wish', 'I hope'. Instead affirm that 'you will'.
  • Have a meeting with yourself every night to review your accomplishments.
  • Don't worry about perfection. The quality of efforts counts, not perfect results.
  • Visualize completion of task and realise how free you will be from anxiety.

Stephen R. Covey, the celebrated author classified activities into:

Urgent and important - Category A
Urgent and not important - Category B
Not urgent and important - Category C
Not urgent and not important - Category D

Too many people focus only on 'A' and to get relief they turn to 'D', paying scant attention to 'B' and 'C'. People who stay off 'B' and 'D ' and cut down ' A ' to size by spending more time on 'C' are the ones who have mastered the key to effective time management.

God, in His wisdom has given us all a limited number of hours in a year to achieve our goals both material and spiritual. If they are wasted it is neither refundable nor repeatable. How much we accomplish in the time available depends entirely on how effectively this precious gift of God is utilised for achievement of success.

Time management principles

1. List your goals and set priorities

Goals are those things that you want to accomplish and that give you direction. Priorities help you sort out the important and high value activities from the low value activities.

2. Make a daily "TO DO" List

Before you start each day - spend 15 minutes listing those things that you want and need to accomplish. At the end of the day spend 15 minutes reviewing your 'TO DO' list to see how you did. Then start a "TO DO" list for the next day in advance.

3. Start with A's and C's

Begin working on high-value (pay-off) activities. Pick holes, pieces, small chunks and start working on it.

4. Ask, "What's the best use of my time now?"

When you get stuck and hung up trying to do something, pause and ask yourself this question. If the answer is something other than what you are doing, then do it.

5. Handle paper only once

Sit down and sort materials into three piles (A-B-C) at the beginning of each day. Start with the "A" pile and ask "What do I need to do with this?" Do not put it down until you have done something with it. (Remember that "A's" mean something of high value and only you can do - it cannot be delegated).

6. Do it now

If you ask, "What is the best use of my time now?" and the answer is something specific, then do it. Do not wait - DO IT NOW!

Decision making


Decision-making is the selecting of an alternative, from two or more, to determine an opinion or a course of action.

Types of decisions

  • Routine and strategic decisions
  • Personal and organisational decisions
  • Operational decisions
  • Structured and unstructured decisions
  • Initiative or forced decisions
  • Problem and opportunity decisions

Individual decisions

Decision made by an individual.

Group decisions

  • Important and strategic decisions which may result in some changes in the organization
  • Inter departmental decisions - by groups consisting of managers of the respective departments

Advantages of group decision

  • Consultative process
  • Broad based
  • Specialist expertise could be utilised
  • Group members gain a sense of belongingness
  • Tasks are well distributed
  • Coordination of tasks results in better performance

Disadvantages of group decision

  • Delay in making decisions. Quick decisions are not possible
  • Time consuming
  • Lengthy process
  • Implementation becomes difficult
    • Group can be dominated by one or two members
    • Too many people spoil the action
    • Individuals get lost in the group and loose their initiative

The decision - making process

  • Identification of problems
  • Deciding priorities among the problems
    • What is the real problem?
    • What are the causes and effects of the problem?
    • Is this problem very important?
  • Can they be solved by subordinates?
    • Which is the right and most important problem to be solved?
  • Developing alternative courses of action
  • Evaluating alternatives
    • Evaluate by using some criteria like time, cost, risk, results expected, deviations anticipated, resources available for implementation.
  • Selecting the best alterative
  • Effective implementation and follow-up action

How to make effective decisions

  • Timing of decisions
  • Complete information and effective communication
  • Top management support
  • Certainty of goals and premises
  • Principle of flexibility
  • The size of commitment and its impact on people

Difficulties in decision making

  • Incomplete information to the manager
  • Unsupporting environment, physical & organizational
  • Non-acceptance by subordinates, non-participation
  • Ineffective communication
    • Implementation becomes difficult
  • Incorrect timing
    • Right decision at the right time

Methods of decision making

Many types of decision-making models can be studied and used by teams. Understanding decision-making models allows teams to make intentional choices about which model might be most appropriate for the various decisions that they confront. Individuals benefit from understanding making models by becoming aware of how cognitive and affective biases can both positively and negatively impact how we work to influence our team on making a decision. Being aware of our biases can limit any negative impact of our biases. The models below describe how we work to affect and manipulate the team decision-making process, sometimes in productive ways and at times in detrimental ways. As a team, understanding decision-making models so that the team can make the best decision is valuable. The best decision is described as a decision that

  1. Would not have been thought of by an individual alone.
  2. Is a sound solution to the problem.
  3. Is a decision based upon input, as unbiased as possible, from each team member.
  4. Addresses the team's goal for the decision-making process.
Johnson and Johnson describe seven methods or processes that a team might use to make a decision. Each method, along with its strengths and weaknesses, is discussed below.

Method 1. decision made by authority without group discussion


The designated leader makes all decisions without consulting group members. Strengths / Weaknesses

  • Takes minimal time to make decision
  • Commonly used in organisations (so we are familiar with the method)
  • High on assertiveness scale
  • No group interaction
  • Team may not understand decision or be able to implement it
  • Low on cooperation scale

Appropriate times for method 1

  • Simple, routine, administrative decisions; little time available to make decision; team commitment required to implement the decision is low.

Method 2. decision by expert


Select the expert from group, let the expert consider the issues, and let the expert make decisions. Strengths / Weaknesses:

  • Useful when one person on the team has the overwhelming expertise
  • Unclear how to determine who the expert is (team members may have different opinions)
  • No group interaction
  • May become popularity issue or power issue

Appropriate times for method 2

  • Result is highly dependent on specific expertise, clear choice of expert. Team commitment required to implement decision is low.

What tools are available to assist teams in making decisions?

In addition to creating an environment for effective decision making and reaching consensus on methods for making decisions as a team, there are tools that can assist teams in formulating and reaching decisions. Many of these tools were developed in the 1990s as companies worked on improving quality and introducing self-managed teams into the workplace.

  • Brainstorming
  • Affinity grouping
  • Multivoting
  • Criteria matrix

Many other tools are available to facilitate creativity, planning and quality control.

Method 3. decision by averaging individuals' opinions


Separately ask each team member their opinion and average the results.

Strengths / weaknesses

  • Extreme opinions cancelled out error typically cancelled out
  • Group members consulted
  • Useful when it is difficult to get the team together to talk
  • Urgent decisions can be made
  • No group interaction, team members are not truly involved in the decision
  • Opinions of least and most knowledgeable members may cancel
  • Commitment to decision may not be strong
  • Unresolved conflict may exist or escalate
  • May damage future team effectiveness

Appropriate times for method 3

  • Time available for decision is limited; team participation is required, but lengthy interaction is undesirable; team commitment required to implement the decision is low.

Method 4. decision made by authority after group discussion


The team creates ideas and has discussions, but the designated leader makes the final decision. The designated leader calls a meeting, presents the issue, listens to discussion from the team, and announces their decision. Strengths / Weaknesses

  • Team is used more than in methods 1 - 3
  • Listening to the team increases the accuracy of the decision
  • Team is not part of decision
  • Team may compete for the leader's attention
  • Team members may tell leader what they want to hear
  • Still may not have commitment from the team to the decision

Appropriate times for method 4

Available time allows team interaction but not agreement; clear consensus on authority; team commitment required to implement decision is moderately low.

Method 5. decision by minority


A minority of the team, two or more members who constitute less than 50% of the team, make the team's decision. Strengths /Weaknesses

  • Method often used by executive committees
  • Method can be used by temporary committees
  • Useful for large number of decisions and limited time
  • Some team perspective and discussion
  • Can be railroading
  • May not have full team commitment to decision
  • May create an air of competition among team members
  • Still may not have commitment from team to decision

Appropriate times for method 5

  • Limited time prevents convening entire team; clear choice of minority group; team commitment required to implement the decision is moderately low.

Method 6. decision by majority vote


This is the most commonly used method in the United States (not synonymous with best method). Discuss the decision until 51% or more of the team members make the decision. Strengths/ Weaknesses

  • Useful when there is insufficient time to make decision by consensus
  • Useful when the complete team-member commitment is unnecessary for implementing a decision
  • Taken for granted as the natural, or only, way for teams to make a decision
  • Team is viewed as the winners and the losers; reduces the quality of decision
  • Minority opinion not discussed and may not be valued
  • May have unresolved and unaddressed conflict
  • Full group interaction is not obtained

Appropriate times for method 6

  • Time constraints require decision; group consensus supporting voting process; team commitment required to implement decision is moderately high.

Method 7. decision by consensus


Collective decision arrived at through an effective and fair communication process (all team members spoke and listened, and all were valued). Strengths / Weaknesses

  • Most effective method of team decision making
  • All team members express their thoughts and feelings
  • Team members feel understood
  • Active listening used
  • Takes more time than in methods 1 - 6
  • Takes psychological energy and high degree of team member skill (can be negative if individual team members not committed to the process)

Appropriate times for method 7

  • Time available allows a consensus to be reached; the team is sufficiently skilled to reach a consensus; the team commitment required to implement the decision is high.

Method 7. Takes well-practiced communication skills by all team members

Review prior section on environments for decision making and other minidocuments on effective communication and conflict management.

Problem solving

Problem: A problem may be defined as a discre- pancy or difference between an actual state of affairs and a desired or ideal state of affairs.

Problem solving: It is the process of resolving the unsettled matters or finding an answer to a difficulty. It is a process that results in a solution to a problem, and it involves changing the actual state of affairs until it is identical with the desired state of affairs.

Four concerns in solving a problem

  • Determining the actual or current state of affair.
  • Specifying the desired state of affairs.
  • Determining the best means of moving the group from the actual to the desired state of affairs.
  • Implementing the plan.

Basic steps in problem solving

  • Define the problem: Make sure you fully understand the current situation before attempting to solve the perceived problem.
  • Define your objective: Be clear on what the situation will be like after you have solved the problem. Start to consider how to cross the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Diagnose the size of the problem and what causes it.
  • Gather and interpret information: Collect and organize information on the what, who, where and when of the problem situation. Focus on facts and not on opinions. Once you have established these facts you can then start to focus on why something is happening. When investigating why something is happening, consider there may be multiple causes. Also be aware of your own views - watch that you are not fitting the facts to meet a subjective view.
  • Formulating alternative strategies or plans for solving it: Having gathered your information and fully understood the problem situation, now is the time to generate options for solving the problem and reaching your objective. Try to be creative with your options and don't evaluate your ideas as you go - this will inhibit creativity. Also, listen to your hunches, which you can evaluate in the next step.
  • Evaluate and choose a solution: Deciding on the best solution involves listing pros and cons, examining consequences, measuring against criteria, testing against your objective and selecting a workable solution. If you have previously identified multiple causes you may need a combination of solutions to deal with each cause. Expect to have some misgivings about even the best solution you have chosen. There is rarely a perfect solution to a problem so, provided you have followed the previous steps, don't wait for the perfect solution to come along.
  • Implement the solution: This involves planning, taking action, monitoring the action and reviewing progress in moving from the current problem situation towards your objective.
  • Evaluate the success of the strategy used.

Blocks that inhibits problem solving

  • Lack of clarity in stating a problem.
  • Inadequate information
  • Vertical thinking - beginning with a single definition and pursuing problem resolution without considering other possible definitions.
  • Poor communication.
  • Only one thinking language - Thinking about a problem only in words, for example, instead of visually, symbolically, emotionally, etc.
  • Past experience can cause stereotyping, considering present problems only as variations on problems faced in the past.
  • Separating figure and ground - not deleting irrelevant information and filling in needed information.
  • Premature testing of alternative strategies or premature choice.
  • A critical, evaluative and competitive climate.
  • Artificially constraining problems - defining the boundaries of problems too narrowly.
  • Not perceiving commonalties - Fearing to see relationships between disparate elements.
  • Lack of inquisitiveness - fearing to appear ignorant if questions are asked.
  • Bias against thinking.
  • Inadequate motivation.

For a problem that you have, the following questions can be useful in establishing the problem:

WHO - else has the problem?
  - needs to solve it more than you?
  - has already solved it?
WHAT - do you know about it?
  - can be changed about it?
  - assumptions are you making about it?
HOW - will you know that it has been solved?
  - will you set about solving it?
WHERE - does it fit into the big picture?
WHEN - will the problem get better?
WHY - is this a problem?
  - do you want to solve it?

Now think about the problem in the light of your answers.

  • Is the problem any clearer?
  • Are you closer to solving the problem?

Delegation of responsibilities

Meaning of delegation

Entrusting responsibility and authority to a deputy to enable them to accomplish the task assigned to them.
Ex: As the chosen leader of a team, you could assign tasks and decisions to different group members.

Meaning of directing

  • Assigning tasks and duties without power & authority.
  • It is a beginning of a process.
  • A superior continues to be responsible for the work delegated to sub-ordinates.
  • It is vital & essential to the management, process.


  • Assigning tasks with responsibility, power and authority.
  • It is an end result of delegation of authority at various levels.
  • A superior is relieved from his responsibility the work delegated.
  • It is optional.

Types of delegation

General delegation

Authority granted to any person to perform the functions in their department / division. Supervision plays a vital role to regulate the authority given to sub-ordinates.

Specific delegation

It is functional in character. Ex: Production manager be delegated authority for production.

Written delegation

By written orders, instructions etc.

Unwritten delegation

By custom or usage

Formal delegation

As per the organization structure.
Ex: sales manager is assigned responsibility and authority for promoting sales.

Informal delegation

Duties are not formally assigned but assigned on understanding the that a particular person can perform the task in a better way.

Downward delegation

From superior to sub-ordinate.

Upward delegation

From sub-ordinate to superior.

Sideward delegation

From one employee to another employee of the same rank.

When to delegate

  • When workload is more for delegator
  • When one wants to improve the skills of the subordinate
  • When the subordinate is idle
  • At the time of retirement
  • When one enhances their skill they should be given extra work by delegation

Points to consider before delegation

  • What work needs to be done ?
  • What the delegatee is expected to do ?
  • The targets or standards the delegates have to achieve.
  • The date by which the delegates are expected to do it.
  • The extent of authority given to the delegates.
  • The progress reports the delegatee must prepare and submit.
  • How the delegator proposes to guide and monitor the delegatee.
  • The resources to be allotted to the delegatee to carry out the work.

Steps for effective delegation

  • Select the right person.
  • Clearly specify your preferred goals / results.
  • Give information on what, why, when, who, where and how.
  • Delegate responsibility and authority.


Obligation of a subordinate towards superior.

Get feedback about progress

Through written report, weekly meeting,

  • Maintain open lines of communication.
  • Motivation
  • Training
  • Evaluate
  • Reward performance (any form)

Advantages of delegation

  • Higher efficiency
  • Sharing responsibilities
  • Increased motivation
  • Develops the skills of sub-ordinates
  • Better outcome of work
  • Shared workload

Barriers to delegation

  • Organisational barriers
  • Inadequate information and resources
  • Psychological barriers
  • Reluctance to delegate authority by managers
  • Reluctance to accept delegation by subordinates

Why managers are reluctant to delegate

  • Fear of loss of power
  • Lack of confidence in subordinates
  • Fear of being exposed
  • Difficulty in briefing
  • Risk avoidance

Why subordinates are reluctant to accept delegation

  • Risk avoidance
  • Fear of criticism for mistakes
  • Inadequacy of information & resources
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Inadequate incentives
  • Lack of interest
  • Excessive workload
  • Lack of knowledge regarding the work

Tips for effective delegation

  • Before delegating authority, make the nature and the scope of the task clear to the delegatee
  • Assign authority proportionate to the task
  • Make the subordinate clearly understand the limits of his authority
  • Give the subordinate some positive incentives for accepting the extra responsibility
  • Train the subordinate properly. Make sure you guide and monitor him
  • Create a climate of mutual trust and goodwill.
  • Do not make the subordinate accountable to more than one superior. There should be no overlaps or splits in delegation.

Team building

Team building is an effort in which a team studies its own process of working together and acts to create a climate that encourages and values the contributions of team members. Their energies are directed toward problem solving, task effectiveness, and maximizing the use of all members' resources to achieve the team's purpose. Sound team building recognises that it is not possible to fully separate one's performance from those of others.

A team is defined as a reasonably small group of people who bring to the table a set of complementary and appropriate skills, and who hold themselves mutually accountable for achieving a clear and identifiable set of goals.

Team building works best when the following conditions are met (Francis and Young 1979).

  1. There is a high level of interdependence among team members. The team is working on important tasks in which each team member has a commitment and teamwork is critical for achieving the desired results.
  2. The team leader has good people skills, is committed to developing a team approach, and allocates time to team-building activities. Team management is seen as a shared function, and team members are given the opportunity to exercise leadership when their experiences and skills are appropriate to the needs of the team.
  3. Each team member is capable and willing to contribute information, skills, and experiences that provide an appropriate mix for achieving the team's purpose.
  4. The team develops a climate in which people feel relaxed and are able to be direct and open in their communications.
  5. Team members develop a mutual trust for each other and believe that other team members have skills and capabilities to contribute to the team.
  6. Both the team and individual members are prepared to take risks and are allowed to develop their abilities and skills.
  7. The team is clear about its important goals and establishes performance targets that cause stretching but are achievable.
  8. Team member roles are defined, and effective ways to solve problems and communicate are developed and supported by all team members.
  9. Team members know how to examine team and individual errors and weaknesses without making personal attacks, which enables the group to learn from its experiences.
  10. Team efforts are devoted to the achievement of results, and team performance is frequently evaluated to see where improvements can be made.
  11. The team has the capacity to create new ideas through group interaction and the influence of outside people. Good ideas are followed up, and people are rewarded for innovative risk taking.
  12. Each member of the team knows that they can influence the team agenda. There is a feeling of trust and equal influence among team members that facilitates open and honest communication.

Characteristics of good team building

  • High level of interdependence among team members
  • Team leader has good people skills and is committed to team approach
  • Each team member is willing to contribute
  • Team develops a relaxed climate for communication
  • Team members develop a mutual trust
  • Team and individuals are prepared to take risks
  • Team is clear about goals and establishes targets
  • Team member roles are defined
  • Team members know how to examine team and individual errors without personal attacks
  • Team has capacity to create new ideas
  • Each team member knows he can influence the team agenda

Team building will occur more easily when all team members work jointly on a task of mutual importance. This allows each member to provide their technical knowledge and skills in helping to solve the problem, complete the project, and develop new programs. During this process, team building can be facilitated as members evaluate their working relationship as a team and then develop and articulate guidelines that will lead to increased productivity and team member cooperation.

As part of this process, team members need to learn how to manage conflict, evaluate performance of the group, and provide feedback and support that will encourage each member to meet their commitment to the team and the organization.

Team performance can best be evaluated if the team develops a model of excellence against which to measure its performance.

Team effectiveness

When evaluating how well team members are working together, the following statements can be used as a guide:

Team goals are developed through a group process of team interaction and agreement in which each team member is willing to work toward achieving these goals.

Participation is actively shown by all team members and roles are shared to facilitate the accomplishment of tasks and feelings of group togetherness.

Feedback is asked for by members and freely given as a way of evaluating the team's performance and clarifying both feelings and interests of the team members. When feedback is given it is done with a desire to help the other person.

Team decision making involves a process that encourages active participation by all members.

Leadership is distributed and shared among team members and individuals willingly contribute their resources as needed.

Problem solving, discussing team issues, and critiquing team effectiveness are encouraged by all team members.

Conflict is not suppressed. Team members are allowed to express negative feelings and confrontation within the team which is managed and dealt with by team members. Dealing with and managing conflict is seen as a way to improve team performance.

Team member resources, talents, skills, knowledge and experiences are fully identified, recognized and used whenever appropriate. Risk taking and creativity are encouraged. When mistakes are made, they are treated as a source of learning rather than reasons for punishment. After evaluating team performance against the above guidelines, determine those areas in which the team members need to improve and develop a strategy for doing so. The team leader should be the liaison between the team and upper management. The team leader needs to know and work with upper management to obtain a full commitment from them in support of the team's program.

However, when this happens, team members must realize that they have a major responsibility to make maximum use of the resources and support provided.

  • The team leader can encourage team member growth, and should be willing to take some risk by having members whose resources are relevant to the immediate task provide the leadership.
  • The team leader should be fair, supportive, and recognised by team members as one who can make final judgments, work with upper management, and give direction to the team as needed.
  • As team members build committment, trust, and support for one another, it will allow them to develop and accomplish desired results. This commitment, trust, and self-determination by each team member is critical in achieving a sustained high level of performance. Team members will learn to appreciate and enjoy one another for who they are and will help keep one another on track. The team will have developed its working methods so that they become an informal set of guidelines.

A focused team

When the team resources are focused and members are all working to accomplish the same purpose, teamwork can be very rewarding and productive. This is best accomplished when team members use a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach to accomplish their purpose (Adams, 1987).

The proactive approach manifests such characteristics as:

  • The team members take a positive approach in jointly determining the way they are going to work together as a team and what they want to have happen. When individuals and the entire team choose to operate this way and are willing to set petty differences aside, unbelievable results become possible. When individuals adopt this attitude and commit to use their resources, knowledge, and skills to contribute to the goals of the team, alignment with the team's overall purpose comes about. This will not happen unless both the team leader and team members choose to do so.
  • Having a well-defined purpose or vision of what the team will accomplish is a very powerful force for the team leader and members. Goals are aligned with the team purpose, and team members are empowered to accomplish the goals. This process leads to a high level of team productivity.
  • Team members have a positive attitude toward change and are willing to accept and allow change to occur as needed in order to accomplish desired results.
  • Team members understand that patience is required, and that for some goals, a long-term commitment is needed to accomplish the desired results.
  • Interests of both the team leader and team members are focused on desired results rather than on short-term problem- solving activities. If people learn to focus simultaneously on both the current situation and the desired results, problems that arise will be solved as part of the total process of achieving the desired results.
  • The sixth characteristic of a well-functioning team is that the members have a strong feeling of control within the team. They are able to establish priorities and then commit time and resources for accomplishing these tasks.
  • The seventh characteristic of a well functioning team is team members verbally and publicly support each other. They recognise that negative comments about others tear the team a part.
  • Team leaders and members that make a conscious, sustained effort to make these seven characteristics a part of their mind set will find that both creativity and accomplishment of desired results will be much higher than it would be otherwise.

Team leader

There are several ways in which the team leader can contribute to creating a positive climate within the team. One of the most powerful forces is to put forward, in cooperation with team members, an exciting vision/purpose of what the team is to achieve. Once the vision is developed, it needs to be kept in front of the team members as a reminder of what they wish to accomplish.

The team leader where possible should help select or influence the composition of team members. Selection should be based on the willingness of people to work in a team setting and the resources, both people skills and technical components, they are able to bring to the team.

The team leader can provide the leadership for helping the team develop an understood and accepted set of principles that will contribute to their success. Included in this set of principles should be norms for operating within the group, criteria for evaluating success, standards for determining quality of performance, and an identified reward system to recognise the team's successes.


Learning to be an effective leader is one of the most demanding tasks you will face. Some of the responsibilities and roles you will need to play are listed below.

Leader responsibilities

  • Safety
  • Honesty
  • Establish trust
  • Teach skills
  • Be vulnerable
  • Role model
  • Provide balance
  • Adapt to situation(s)
  • Make decisions
  • Provide motivation
  • Facilitate group interaction
  • Move group from A to B
  • Be sensitive to needs of group
  • Deal with expectations of others

Leader roles

  • Listener
  • Confidant
  • Initiator
  • Decision-maker
  • Mediator
  • Observer
  • Authority
  • Advisor
  • Communicator
  • Friend
  • Advocate

Functions of a leader

This model of leadership is based on the premise that in working with a group there are two basic functions which need to be attended to. One is working to accomplish the tasks the group has set out to do. The other is ongoing maintenance and development of relationships within the group. Thus there are two basic types of roles or behaviors for leaders to engage in-Task Roles and Relationship Roles. Examples of these roles are identified below.

Task roles/functions/behaviors

  • Information and opinion giver : Offers facts, opinions, ideas, suggestions, and relevant information to help group discussion.
  • Information and opinion seeker : Asks for facts, information, opinions, ideas, and feelings from other members to help group discussion.
  • Starter : Proposes goals and tasks to initiate action within the group.
  • Direction Giver : Develops plans on how to proceed and focuses attention on the task to be done.
  • Summarizer : Pulls together related ideas or suggestions and restates and summarizes major points discussed.
  • Coordinator : Shows relationships among various ideas by pulling them together and harmonizes activities of various subgroups and members.
  • Diagnoser : Identifies sources of difficulties the group has in working effectively and the blocks to progress in accomplishing the group's goals.
  • Energiser : Stimulates a higher quality of work from the group.
  • Reality tester : Examines the practicality and workability of ideas, evaluates alternative solutions, and applies them to real situations to see how they will work.
  • Evaluator : Compares group decisions and accomplishments with group standards and goals.

Relationship roles/functions/behaviors

  • Encourager of Participation: Warmly encourages everyone to participate giving recognition for contributions, demonstrating acceptance and openness to ideas of others, is friendly and responsive to group members
  • Harmoniser and Compromiser: Persuades members to analyze constructively their differences in opinions, searches for common elements in conflicts and tries to reconcile disagreements.
  • Tension Reliever: Eases tensions and increases the enjoyment of the group members by joking, suggesting breaks, and proposing fun approaches to group work.
  • Communication Helper : Shows good communications skills and makes sure that each group member understands what the other members are saying.
  • Evaluator of Emotional Climate : Asks members how they feel about the way in which the group is working and about each other, and shares their own feelings about both.
  • Process Observer : Watches the process by which the group is working and uses the observations to help examine group effectiveness.
  • Standard Setter : Expresses group standards and goals to make members aware of the direction of the work and the progress being made toward the goal and to get open acceptance of group norms and procedures.
  • Active Listener : Listens and serves as an interested audience for other members, is receptive to others' ideas, goes along with the group when not in disagreement.
  • Trust Builder : Accepts and supports openness of other group members, reinforcing risk taking and encouraging individuality.
  • Interpersonal Problem Solver : Promotes open discussion of conflicts between group members in order to resolve conflicts and increase group togetherness.

Principles of leadership

Know yourself and seek self-improvement

In order to know yourself, you have to understand your be, know, and do, attributes. Seeking self-improvement means continually strengthening your attributes. This can be accomplished through reading, self-study, classes, etc.

Be technically proficient

As a leader, you must know your job and have a solid familiarity with your employees' jobs.

Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions

Search for ways to guide your organization to new heights. When things go wrong, as they will sooner or later, do not blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and move on to the next challenge.

Make sound and timely decisions

Use good problem solving, decision making, and planning tools.

Set the example

Be a good role model for you employees. They must not only hear what they are expected to do, but also see.

Know your people and look out for their well -being

Know human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for your workers.

Keep your people informed

Know how to communicate with your people, seniors and other key people within the organisation.

Develop a sense of responsibility in your people

Develop good character traits within your people that will help them carry out their professional responsibilities.

Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished

Communication is the key to this responsibility.

Train your people as a team

Although many so called leaders call their organisation, department, section, etc. a team; they are not really teams they are just a group of people doing their jobs.

Use the full capabilities of your organisation

By developing a team spirit, you will be able to employ your organisation, department, section, etc. to its fullest capabilities.