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:
- Allow all team members to engage in leadership roles according to the needs of the team?
- Use a clear, rational, effective decision-making process?
- Use a common language, effective communication tools and channels?
- Value a diversity of viewpoints and ask for and consider stakeholder input?
- Trust each other individually and as a team?
- Manage conflict openly and transparently – not allowing grudges to build up?
- Have clear goals, commitment and engagement?
- Have defined roles and responsibilities?
- Support collaborative relationships – members coordinate their work to achieve efficiency and effectiveness?
- 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
- Energy, engagement, 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.
- 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.
- 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.