What do good teams require? What kind of support energizes teamwork?
Discussing and Debating Critical, Challenging Issues
Yesterday a teacher's frustrated plea led to a new and positive routine. As I listened to the educator and then others discuss the issue at hand at a routine meeting, it was clear that we could do better with that issue and we created a new routine which I believe will work well--a simple routine, but one that will help all of us to better serve students.
It's essential that teams are willing to discuss the challenges that exist in honest, empathetic, and straightforward ways. This is how betterment happens, and when we discuss these issues, it's also important to go hard on the problem, not the people as the book, Getting to Yes, suggests.
How can we make debate and critical discussion a regular part of our team meetings, and how can we deal with difficult issues rather than burying or ignoring those issues. We have to deal with the challenging as well as celebrate the good.
So one essential factor of teamwork and good support is addressing critical issues in ways that "go hard on the problem, not the people."
Regular, Inclusive, Good Communication
Another essential component of good teamwork is regular, focused communication. I always tell the story of my husband's former boss and now governor of Massachusetts. Every week he penned a meaningful letter to the staff. The letter told what was happening and inspired future action too. The letter motivated the entire staff and kept everyone in the loop of system information and goals. This kind of honest, straightforward, informative, and inspiring communication is essential to good teamwork. When information is lacking, incomplete, or without transparency, teams wane.
I continually advocate for better communication for all teams that I work with. Fortunately at the grade level we regularly communicate in a number of ways including hosting an online document for upcoming issues and decisions, impromptu meetings, and several regular weekly meetings to keep our teamwork strong and fluid. As a team we also maintain a website that includes almost all information related to the grade-level expectations and information. We write a weekly newsletter for students, colleagues, and family members too and regularly reach out via email and phones calls to families and respond to their requests and questions too.
Strong teams depend on good communication, and if a team is weak, one reason may be a lack of good communication.
Priorities and Positive, Consistent Routines
Good teamwork relies on shared priorities and positive, consistent routines. When teams clearly outline their priorities, their collective work profits. Fortunately where I work, our priorities are clearly outlined. Then it's important to meet those priorities with positive, consistent routines. While we have a good schedule, there's ways that we can advocate for more consistency in routines and expectations in order to meet those priorities. Some of our routines may be too tight and too many--I think we should look at reducing expectations a bit to make more good time for responsive teaching and learning. Some of our routines lack consistency as well due to staffing issues. We need to look at the routines that rely on adequate staffing and we may need to alter those routines due to the fact that staffing for some teaching/learning events is not consistent due to multiple reasons.
If team members expect too much, there may be undue friction and struggle, yet if they expect too little, there may be apathy and lack of progress. Reasonable, just-right expectations matter and need to be continually gauged as we work together. We have to ask ourselves if expectations are reasonable or if we need to be more flexible in particular areas and issues--what should we expect? What is reasonable?
In the days ahead, I'll think about the constructs above that affect teamwork. I'll work to support critical conversation, questioning, and debate in ways that matter. I'll also work with colleagues to promote positive routines, reasonable expectations, and good communication to strengthen our teamwork with the focus on teaching all children well. Onward.