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Mercer University Leadership Ashley Wants to Boost Teamwork Case Study

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Leadership Case Problem A: Ashley Wants to Boost Teamwork

This case illustrates the challenges of converting a regular work group into a highly productive team. The team leader may need to intervene to improve teamwork, but which intervention to choose may not be clear.

  1. How can Ashley be a more effective team leader?
  2. What can Ashley do to get her team more interested in functioning as a team?
  3. Based on whatever information you have found in the case, what is your evaluation of Ashley’s charisma?

Ashley wants to Boost Teamwork

Ashley considered herself fortunate to be chosen as the team leader for one of the newly formed teams at the insurance company where she worked. The purpose of forming teams was to improve customer service. Each team now had the authority to issue policies and settle claims, within limits, for specific geographic regions. Before the shift into teams, separate departments existed for sales, underwriting, and claims. Although the company was profitable, it received too many criticisms about poor service, particularly in the time required to process a claim. Sales representatives within the company contended that the underwriting department took too long to approve and issue policies. 

One of Ashley’s first initiatives was to hold frequent in person meetings to discuss how service was going to be improved. She emphasized to the team that the company had adopted the popular team concept and that teams were empowered to look for ways to improve efficiency. Ashley also emphasized that each team member had more responsibility than under the department structure. Each team member would be doing some sales, underwriting, and claims. 

Team member George commented during one of the meetings, “Just think of it, three jobs in one and being paid just the same as before.” During the same meeting, team member Roz asked, “What’s so special about calling us a team? I had a nice job in the underwriting department before these teams were formed. I enjoyed that work. Now my job is more confusing.”

Ashley responded, “The company decided this was the way to go. Trust me, everything will work out fine. Just go along with the team idea for now.” Four months after the teams were formed, Ashley’s

boss, James, met with her to discuss progress. James said, “Your team isn’t making as much progress as I would like. Policies are not being issued any faster. Customer complaints about slow claims settlements are at the same level as before we converted into teams.

The other teams are making more progress. Does your team have a problem?” “We do have a problem,” said Ashley. “Everyone comes to work just as in the days before teams. They do most of the work alone, but they send e-mail messages to each other as needed. It just seems to be business as usual. So far, the idea of a high-producing team hasn’t caught on.” “Are you an effective team leader?” asked James. “I think I am,” said Ashley. “I do everything I’m sup-posed to. I hold meetings, I post messages. I answer all questions asked of me. I try to settle problems.” “I’ll be back to you in two months to discuss your team’s progress. I want to see some improved results in terms of better customer service.”


DuBrin, A. J. (2018). Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills. [VitalSource Bookshelf]. Retrieved from…

KEY TERMS used in chapter

team pg.226, teamwork 226, cooperation theory 230,

micromanagement 234, e-leadership 234

open-book management 238


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