Supervisor or Team Leader?

The Office of Personnel Management, recognizing agencies' growing preference for team leaders over supervisors, has drafted a guide for classifying team leader jobs. These jobs are to be graded one level above the highest grade of nonsupervisory work done by the team members. Leading a base level of GS-11 work would result in a GS-12 for the team leader, for example.

How do you tell a supervisor from a team leader? According to the draft guide, a supervisor accomplishes work via technical and administrative direction of others. Supervisors are responsible for planning and scheduling work, assigning work, amending or rejecting completed work, assuring requirements are met, adjusting staffing levels, appraising performance and recommending performance standards and ratings, approving leave, and taking minor disciplinary actions.

Team leaders, by contrast, must perform the first 10 and at least four of the remaining duties listed below.

  • Ensure the strategic plan, mission vision and values are communicated to the team and are integrated in its goals, objectives and work.
  • Communicate to the team the assignment, project, problem to be solved, deadlines, and issues for review.
  • Coach the team in picking and applying problem-solving methods and techniques, and advise members on work methods.
  • Assist the team in setting, distributing, balancing and adjusting tasks and workload based on members' skills and professional specialties.
  • Train or arrange training for team members in team-building and teamwork, as well as in technical areas needed to accomplish team goals.
  • Monitor and report on the status of work.
  • Coach, facilitate and negotiate team activities and consensus-building.
  • Maintain reference materials, project files, and background documents; hand down policies, procedures and instructions from the supervisor; keep current on policies and directives to answer team members' questions.
  • Report on and keep records of accomplishments and personal administrative information for the supervisor.
  • Represent the team in dealing with the supervisor and managers to obtain resources, information and decisions.
  • Report to the supervisor on team and individual accomplishments.
  • Represent the team and convey its findings in dealings with other team leaders, program officials, the public and customers.
  • Estimate and report on the team's progress meeting deadlines and make sure all members participate in planning team goals and objectives.
  • Learn and apply qualitative and quantitative methods to measure team effectiveness and performance.
  • Assist in assessing team weaknesses and strengths.
  • Approve emergency leave up to three days or a few hours for medical appointments.
  • Resolve simple or informal complaints and refer formal grievances or appeals to appropriate officials.
  • Inform employees of benefits, services and work-related activities.
  • Intercede with the supervisor on behalf of the team in cases of performance problems, or the need for assignments, reassignments, promotions, duty changes, peer reviews and performance appraisals.
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