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Who Is a Team Leader? Again? Repeat Please!

7/02/2011 11:19:00 AM Chai Chen 1 Comments

What is it to become a Team Leader? Or maybe, a better question is, who is a team leader?

We can come up with a lot of terms synonymous to this. Corporate entities normally call it as a "Team Leader" position. Other companies also call it in a similar fashion: Supervisor, Team Manager, Team Manager, Unit Lead, Officer-in-Charge, Team Support, Team Specialist, etc ... Regardless of the term, what's more important is the quality of the person holding that position. When I say "quality," I believe I'm already alluding it to the characteristics, personality, and the overall composition.

Unfortunately, while the title is overly attractive, not all people are qualified for the post. Moreover, the role. There's a difference between the duties & responsibilities vs. the position title; and not everybody understands that.

In the corporate setting where I am in, I am no longer surprised that this is also very evident. I am not exposed to business practices outside the BPO industry. I only get information about them (i.e. Food, Apparel, Manufacturing, etc.) from the web and magazines. Little did I know, it could be much worse ... the BPO industry's flock of Sups are even better! No offense intended to the sups in other industry though. Or maybe, I'm just using the corporate-setting standard. Nevertheless, I guess regardless of the industry where we belong, the core values of a "TL" (dubbed abbreviation of Team Leader) never changes. And yet, they aren't present in what I observed.

I've observed in a number of restaurants, fast food chains, and similar industries that so-called SUPERVISORS nag at their crew. Not that I'm generalizing all of them; I'm just simply stating that this is what I've observed. My most recent encounter was yesterday; and it ain't any better.


I was in a well-known chicken-branded fast food store where there's probably an "audit" going on. In any company I presume, there are routine checks done by internal audit departments or supervisors; or external / third-party vendors. I just concluded it's an audit since:
  • All crew members were too-delighted to welcome each customer upon entering the store, which they don't normally do.
  • Team Sups who have ID tags are wearing baseball caps labeled as "Team Leader" - which they don't wear daily.
  • Several folks in formal suits carry clipboards and templated forms with them, and pens for writing. They do not frequent the store (I do not see them often).
  • It was rather noisy in the kitchen area - as they announce which food has been done in a matter of minutes.
  • Supervisors run around with their crew when delivering orders per table.
  • Supervisors shout to the top of their lungs, to call out pending orders.
  • Supervisors shout at their crew for doing a poor job.
  • Supervisors shout at their crew when they do things wrong.
I ordered a rather light meal, which could've been prepared in a few minutes. My order took longer than expected. I am not a fan of waiting in queue but I kept my patience. The girl server / cashier was rather new. I didn't want her to be scolded; much more embarrassed during an audit. However, the thing I feared the most happened. The supervisor just came yanking at her like crazy! Her poor face nearly teary-eyed. The "TEAM LEADER" was rather rude and gave her instructions in condescending tone. I just simply intruded and advised it's ok. There are many customers and it's quite understandable. He reasoned out that he only wants what's best for their customers in a standard, esp. in terms of serving time, that their store has. The poor girl looked demotivated.

I doubt that it was his real intention. I suspected that he's either new to the post (since it's quite common to newly emerging leaders to be bossy than to lead, and this pitfall is known to most leaders in their prime already - after experiencing it when they were only starting); or simply trying to catch the attention of the auditor, discreetly shouting "Hey! I'm doing my job!" ... or maybe he wanted my attention. LOL. Whatever his reason was, I've surely tagged him as a "Nagger Boss" in my unnamed contact list.

I simply thanked the girl and assured her that she did a good job in serving me, despite being new. She know what she had to do anyway; it just took longer because of the food preparation side at their kitchen. Her "TL" simply shrugged on the side after I left.

I just think that sometimes, people need to have a crash course in management prior to really immersing in the role. The essentials of leading people is different; such as there's a difference between a boss and a leader. If TLs do boss around, sooner or later they will lose their staff. A huge percentage of staff, especially in corporate setting I suppose, stay in a company or a team / group because of their loyalty to their supervisor or immediate head. And this is not blind loyalty that I refer to. The trust that team members have for their leaders is quite amazing! And more and more sups lose their people because they are not respected. Don't get me wrong ... I mean, well, respect is earned and your people follow you because they respect you. There's a difference between having people who follow you out of fear vs. out of respect.

This TL I just observed ... well, it's probably just a drama for their audit. He doesn't seem to be like that often. But he still didn't have to do that to his staff. There's such a thing as "learning curve."

Chai

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