In one school I where I was coaching, team members would leave meetings crying due to name calling, finger pointing, and intimidation by some faculty. Fortunately, they took time to set expectations for how they were going to work together.
Expectations are not just for students, but for adults as well. Climate and culture matter for everyone. Here are a few steps teams can take in advance to improve their overall functioning.
1. Define the mission of your team. You need to be clear on what you are and are not going to do. I really love this three minute overview of how to write mission statements that are not horrible (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJhG3HZ7b4o). For tiered supports in schools, your universal team’s mission might state, “The mission of the universal team is to increase the likelihood of social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes of our students.”
2. Be clear on your vision. What does this vision mean for your team if mission is true. For a universal support team in schools this might mean, “to work with students and their families to identify core climate supports to prevent health/behavioral/attendance/social/academic concerns.”
3. Be clear on how what we value as we work together. What makes Toyota so great is that when they build cars, anyone on the line can pull the cord to stop assembly to address problem (see http://www.toyotageorgetown.com/qualdex.asp). Everyone groups around to discuss the problem. Contrast this to the Korean Airlines flight, as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, where the co-pilot was so intimated to contradict his chief that he was willing to let the plane crash. A book by Dr. Henry Cloud is a great tool for addressing these kinds of issues (see Boundaries for Leaders http://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-Leaders-Results-Relationships-Ridiculously-ebook/dp/B0089LOO5Y). For tiered teams, these value statements might include, “we value full participation at our team meeting to address concerns around our climate.” Next, the team should be clear on what this means if we are going to live by these values. For example, the team might state, “anyone can bring up a concern if done respectfully, people have a right to be heard, and people have a right to be free to share without fear of retribution.”
4. Be clear on what you can and cannot control. People are likely to push back on innovations with concerns about things that are out of their control. For example, they might say we cannot improve academic outcomes for our kids because of their home lives. This thinking leads to hopelessness. According to Dr. Henry Cloud in the book I mentioned, one of the ways to address this is to take time to list out everything that is out of your control. Spend time grieving these things. For example, maybe you have lost funding, or you have been on academic watch for two years. Next, list out what you do have some control over. For example, you can choose how you spend your professional development time. This strategy is very effective in preventing depression for individuals and really bad meetings for groups.
In a season where educational interventions are being combined, I have found taking time to help teams will together more effectively can be very helpful. Much of the research on improving tiered supports recommends taking time to prepare you systems in advance before you begin your work. This would be a useful investment for your efforts.
What examples of creating effective team processes can you share?