TregoED Blog

Beyond Team Building: Developing High Performance Teams in Special Education

Special education departments, like many others, often start the year off with team building exercises –forging a strong foundation through personal relationships to move a group of people from individuals toward a cohesive working unit committed to a common purpose.  How can a department (or Child Study Team) build on this foundation to become what is considered a “high performance team” – a team that is highly collaborative and innovative, and empowered to handle most of the issues that arise?  To do this, teams must go beyond traditional quick team-building activities to include training in leadership and problem-solving skills.

Do you have a high-performance team? Does your team:

  1. Allow all team members to engage in leadership roles according to the needs of the team?
  2. Use a clear, rational, effective decision-making process?
  3. Use a common language, effective communication tools and channels?
  4. Value a diversity of viewpoints and ask for and consider stakeholder input?
  5. Trust each other individually and as a team?
  6. Manage conflict openly and transparently – not allowing grudges to build up?
  7. Have clear goals, commitment and engagement?
  8. Have defined roles and responsibilities?
  9. Support collaborative relationships – members coordinate their work to achieve efficiency and effectiveness?
  10. Support a positive culture- open, transparent, positive, future-focus and the ability to deliver success

Providing a pathway to high performance

According to the New Science of Building Great Teams by Alex Sandy Pentland  in Harvard Business Review, there are 3 main steps to empower teams to a high performance level:

Research shows that

  1. Energyengagement, and exploration in communication among team members was the most powerful indicator of high performance.  Face to face communication was most valuable – email and texting, least valuable.  Make sure that team members have the opportunity to work and talk to each other face to face.
  2. Training is essential to address the needs of teams to move from good to great. Providing team members with leadership skills, such as decision-making and problem-solving processes will improve trust, collaboration, transparency, and results.
  3. Fine tuning performance:  determine the needs of individual team members and support opportunities for individualized professional development.

What does high performance translate to the Special Education world?

  • Efficient, transparent and defensible decision making focused on what’s best for each child.
  • Effective collaboration and inclusion of stakeholder input to increase transparency and trust in the education community.
  • Supportive, collaborative relationships, empowered teams and innovation within the department.