Do industry leaders understand their teams?

Nov. 4, 2021
Tom Moriarty says the 2021 Leadership Survey shows the types of gaps in perspective that exist between leaders and teams.

The 2021 Alidade MER/Plant Services Magazine Leadership Survey included a sub-survey on team effectiveness. Team effectiveness surveys are helpful for a leader to check their own beliefs about their team’s beliefs. Leaders need to understand the perspective of their team so they can identify the gaps. When you understand the gaps, you can develop a plan to close those gaps.

This survey is simple. There are a series of statements related to five areas. The areas include team objectives, achieving objectices, team member empowerment, open and honest communication, and team roles and norms. They are scored on a 1 to 5 scale; 1 meaning strongly disagree to 5 meaning strongly agree.

Figure 1 provides a heat map of the survey results. Note that the highest overall average scores were the senior managers (far right column). Supervisors recorded the lowest overall scores.

It’s also interesting to look at the average scores for team effectiveness survey categories (bottom row). These data show that the lowest average scores were found in achieving objectives. Supervisors in particular scored this low. This could indicate that people are feeling that productivity is suffering due to the pandemic: reduced demand, reduced budgets, short-handed work crews, or remote decision-makers delaying approvals.

The highest category is open and honest communication. Team members had the lowest score within this category and the senior leaders had the highest. This isn’t unusual. The lower a person is in an organization, the higher probability they will feel that there are issues with open and honest communication. Managers in the 2021 survey seemed to buck the trend a bit. Perhaps more were working remotely during the survey period. As a result maybe they are feeling that they don’t get the full picture.

One of the important aspects of the team effectiveness survey is to note the differences between adjacent position levels. Figure 2 shows an example. Team effectiveness survey statements with the largest differences between team members and supervisors are shown.

I also want to be clear that the 2021 survey had less than 100 respondents. The supervisor level had only a few respondents. Therefore we have to view the supervisor responses cautiously. One person’s responses in the survey could disproportionately affect the results. It is presented for the purpose of showing the value of having data to assess leader and direct report responses.

Element 1 (bottom row) shows supervisors believe they understand how they fit into the larger organization pretty well (4.10 out of 5.00). Team members, on the other hand, were much less aggreeable that they understood how the team fit into to the larger organization (3.50 out of 5.00).

A similar situation occurs with the second and third largest gaps, elements 3 and 5. Team members don’t believe as strongly that they should decide how to do their work, rather than having the team leader give step by step instructions. This was surprising, but could indicate that guidance (policies, plans, processes, procedures and measures) may be inadequate; or, that the leadership team is not consistent, attentive, or assertive in holding people accountable.

About the Author: Tom Moriarty

Element 5, team members clearly understand the team’s unwritten rules of how to treat others in the group, may indicate that there is internal strife or discontent. Some people may be getting treated differently than others.

What’s acceptable in the workplace has changed drastically over the past 50 years; I would argue for the better. I suspect that much of this gap in perspective arises from the stresses resulting from the pandemic. There may be aggrivation because of new workplace requirements for an added level of PPE.

Perhaps there is resentment related to policies on remote work. We know there has been difficulty attracting and retaining workforce personnel. It may be that legacy employees feel new hires are afforded more latitude or better compensation than has been allowed in the past.

This was simply an example at one leader/direct report level. The same sort of analysis can be done between managers and supervisors, or senior managers to managers. 

To gain specific insight, this survey is best done within an organization. If you want to get a full understanding of the demographics, team effectiveness and motivation portions of the survey, you can check out Appendix C, Team Effectiveness and Motivation Survey in my book, The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability.

Go forth and do great things.

This story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

Human Capital

This article is part of our monthly Human Capital column. Read more from Tom Moriarty.

About the Author

Tom Moriarty | P.E., CMRP, President of Alidade MER, Inc.

Tom Moriarty, P.E., CMRP is president of Alidade MER, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in asset management, reliability engineering, and leadership improvement. He is a member of SMRP (Florida Chapter Board Member and CED Director), a past Chair of ASME’s Canaveral Florida Section, and author of the book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability”. He has a BSME, an MBA (organizational development), is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Florida, and a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Contact him at [email protected], (321) 773-3356, or via LinkedIn at

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