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Fostering Teamwork: 3 Ways to Ensure School Teams Work Cohesively

I’ll spare you the “no ‘I’ in team,” “teamwork makes the dream” mumbo jumbo.

As educators, you know the importance of teamwork. Collaboration is what you teach, and your schools can’t succeed without it, not with all the work that needs doing on a given school day.

You extol the value of teamwork. But getting your teams to actually work together is harder than it seems.

Leading a team means leading different personalities with different attitudes and sensitivities. The best, most successful school leaders have a knack for engaging and uniting staff, despite differences of opinion.

In a recent blog post, veteran school principal and education leadership writer and speaker Eric Sheninger sums up the need for teamwork in schools:

We are not in competition with one another. It is important to always remember that even though we might disagree on a professional level, this should not lead to an erosion of personal relationships. Everyone is entitled to his or her view. As human beings we are also entitled to making mistakes.  It takes a secure person to not only admit his or her mistakes, but to also help others in a proactive fashion when they make their own. Treat others how you expect (and deserve) to be treated yourself both in face-to-face and online situations.

In a time of heightened political debate and heated look-at-me rhetoric, it can be easy to lose sight of the team approach. But we shouldn’t. Especially if we want to continue to serve as examples and role models for students.

Here’s a few ideas to help you promote unity and hard work across your teams:

Remember: It’s always about the students.

OK, so this is obvious. But when your team is having internal debates over the right course of action to deal with a crisis or the viability of a new initiative, keeping students’ best interests at heart is critical.

Do your research.

Someone on your staff might think they have a great solution for tackling reading comprehension, for example. What does the research say? If you can’t find the evidence to back up the idea, it’s best to pursue another approach. That doesn’t mean you should shun or discourage ideas. It simply means doing your homework before making that decision. Put students first, and staff will get behind that thinking every time.

Engage your staff.

You already have great systems in place for gathering feedback from students, parents, and your community.

But do you also have a system to create meaningful dialogue among your staff? Gathering feedback is easy. Using that feedback to create meaningful conversations is hard.

Whether through regular check-ins, one-on-one meetings, online tools, or some other resource, make sure your team has a clear, well-organized way of voicing concerns and opinions and having honest discussions about what works and what doesn’t in your schools.

Give every idea a chance.

Having your idea dismissed outright can be demoralizing and debilitating, especially if speaking out is not something you normally do.

As a school leader, it’s your job to take ideas and filter them into solutions that will work, or, if not, to put them aside. Give every idea your full consideration and due diligence.

This doesn’t mean that you have to green light every idea that comes across your desk. It does mean you should empower staff to propose creative ideas, however impractical they might seem.

By giving these ideas your full consideration, you’ll give your team the confidence to think strategically, and that will encourage more teamwork.

How do you promote teamwork and unity among teachers and staff in your schools? Tell us in the comments.

For more ideas about effective school leadership, bookmark the Leadership section of TrustED.