Team Health

OVERVIEW

It’s time to move beyond the notion of heroic educational leadership. Improvement is a team sport, and leaders need to purposefully team the teams they are in. In this episode, Simon shares his concept of Team Health. He explains what it is, why it matters, and how we can all play a role in deliberately enhancing group dynamics and processes.

TRANSCRIPT

You know, I think too often we’re still stuck in a paradigm of heroic educational leadership. We’re still quite under-conceptualised and under-researched in how teams can really form the backbone of most of the improvement work that we do. One of the things I’ve been really focusing on in my recent work is the need to build effective and healthy teams. I feel as though if we can actually focus on team health, we can not only get greater levels of alignment and coherence, we can enhance efficiency and reduce duplication. It can boost our problem-solving effort and expand our creativity by getting diverse individuals to work together on the work. I also think it’s going to change how we feel. Look at the joy of collective progress, that feeling of satisfaction and contribution, the ability to reduce levels of burnout, enhance sustainability, and just sustain our own motivation and engagement in the work.

I find almost every educational context I’m in speaks regularly about how they want to help their learners become more collaborative and work as teams. Very often we’ve had a conversation about how we can help teachers work as teams and things like professional learning communities and teacher learning communities. But as far as leadership, we really haven’t had a sophisticated discussion about what it looks like to build and to be a member of healthy empowered leadership teams. And in this area of my research and work, I think it’s worthwhile noting just how unique educational teams are. They’re often quite multi-generational. You might have someone in their mid-twenties who’s a pretty new graduate’s, done a few years and is now already a member of the executive as a team leader or an instructional coach, all the way through to someone who’s been in this work for 30 plus years.

We’re often working on a large number of different projects at the same time, having to manage a constant inflow of urgent demands. And whilst we might see each other a lot throughout the day, it’s often in just small pockets where we don’t have sustained time to think, review, and plan together. And when we do, it’s almost always interrupted. So I want to begin this conversation. I’m sure we’re going to explore multiple episodes over the coming weeks about team health, about how we actually team the teams. We’ve got some teams in education are just duos, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re teams of two. Others might have a trio, and yet others in large secondary contexts might have a senior leadership team or an executive team, if not just four or 5, 12, 15. But independent of the size of team and the composition of teams, I think all of us face challenges around how do we get aligned?

How do we reduce communication friction? How do we enhance our trust and build more effective coordination? So I think actually raising teamwork to the fore as a conversation is going to be a crucial part of any leader’s work. Your job is to team the team you are in, and I think we all need to play a deliberate role and take some responsibility for improving the dynamics of the teams that we’re in and actively trying to improve those team dynamics as we engage in the work that we do each week and each term. I want to say that from my work, I’ve learned that teamwork isn’t magic. And then indeed, enhancing teamwork takes work. We need to be deliberate, we need to be intentional, and we need to set up some regular rhythms for how we talk about our teamwork, how we choose small elements of our teamwork to work on, and how we take those micro-actions together such that in one term from now or in six months from now, we might say not only are we progressing meaningful work, but we’re enhancing the way that we work together.

Team health is increasingly becoming one of the key parts of my coaching and teaching engagements. As we come out of the back of the pandemic and we stare down the sheer lack of sustainability in individualised models of leadership. I think developing a more sophisticated and shared understanding of what good teamwork looks like and feel like, and have a process to actually intentionally develop it, it’s one of the most high-leverage things we can be working on together. So I wonder how you’d rate the health and effectiveness of your current leadership team. What’s some small steps you could take to begin to team the team you’re in?

 

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