Executive Summary

Team-building is an important asset to case management in any organization or setting. Case managers can help people improve team-building skills.

  • When helping clients build a strong support team, it’s important to identify which people are positive influences in their lives.
  • Family, friends, community organization or faith leaders, and professional staff all can be on a patient’s support team.
  • Icebreaking exercises at the beginning of staff meetings can help improve team cohesiveness.

Patient care can be helped or hindered by what is going on in the client’s home and community. How much family support does a patient have? Do they receive support from friends, community clubs, faith-based organizations, and neighbors?

Case managers can help clients improve their health, as well as their activities of daily living, if they build strong staff teams and also guide clients to build teams of support, says Avis McGhee, DDiv, MS, director of Family House Norristown of Resources for Human Development in Norristown, PA. McGhee speaks at case management conferences about CM team-building skills.

“When we do case management, I try to make the information pertinent to what the [client] wants,” McGhee says. “If I can’t work with her where she is and with what she needs, then it will be a waste of time.”

In McGhee’s case, the clients are women with substance use and other problems.

McGhee suggests asking the following questions of new clients to determine their current level of social support:

  • Who is in your life that is a positive person?
  • Who would you go to if you needed extra support with the children?
  • Who would you go to if you needed someone to talk to?

Their answers can include family members, religious leaders, and others. “We help them formulate a list of people in their lives who are positive,” McGhee says.

For clients with substance use problems, there can be another list of people they cannot go to because it would likely lead to their relapsing into substance abuse, she adds.

“We don’t disregard those individuals,” McGhee explains. “We ask the women, ‘Do you think they’d be clean if I called them in for a case consultation?’”

If the women think those individuals can stay clean for 1.5 hours, someone will call the person and say that the client cannot be around him or her unless the person is sober, she adds.

But the chief team that CMs will help clients build involves family, friends, and others who can offer positive support. For people with substance use issues, these team members also can be sponsors, pastors, and mental health counselors.

The client’s support team is invited to consults involving the client and they’re encouraged to work together as a team to help the client meet health goals, McGhee says.

For clients’ support teams, it helps to have clients and professional team members communicate regularly via email or phone calls, McGhee says.

Case managers also can help improve team-building skills among the professionals working with clients, McGhee suggests.

“It helps to hire the right person from the beginning,” she notes. “But we also have team building sessions once a month.”

These include team-building exercises such as icebreakers where people can get to know one another and use their skill sets. “Throughout the year, we have different team-building events like Christmas parties with staff and celebrating birthdays,” McGhee says.

An example of a team-building exercise is a game in which each person tells two truths and one lie about themselves. The goal is for team members to figure out which statements are true and which is the lie, McGhee says.

People tend to open up about their lives while engaging in this exercise, so it helps people get to know one another fairly quickly, she adds.

“One time we did a team-building exercise with a penny,” McGhee says. “Whatever year was on the penny, the person had to tell what was going on with their life that year.”

Another exercise had slips of paper with questions such as, “What is your favorite movie? Who is your favorite musical artist?” Each person picked one slip of paper and gave an answer.

Or the slips of paper might instruct the person to do something silly: “Get up and start dancing and don’t stop until someone tells you to sit down,” McGhee says.

Team-building exercises can be done in 15-20 minutes at the beginning of staff meetings, used as an icebreaker, she adds.

Additional team-building strategies include having supervisors speak with team members both individually and as a group whenever there are personality conflicts, McGhee says.

“We might bring up examples [of conflicts] at staff meetings so people can discuss how to work through them,” she explains.

“If you have a good working team, it makes the work a lot easier,” she adds. “By working together as a team, that’s one less stress people have in a very stressful environment.”