The phrase ‘team work’ often gets banded around in many environments but what does it actually mean? I think the concept of team runs much deeper than a group of people working together towards a common goal. Team work is complex, intricate and within the team, relationships, behaviours and individual strengths should be well balanced and complementary for maximum impact.
In this short blog post, I want to briefly examine self awareness, team, trust and how they link together.
I am really fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be part of many teams since being a youngster and throughout my life and career. Whether it was swimming, athletics or being part of a choir or orchestra, my understanding of team was not from reading about it but actually being a part of it, like many people in leadership positions.
To be part of an effective team, you have to be extremely self-aware. You must know your strengths, limitations and your impact on others. As a young person, I didn’t really think about the concept of team much – we just did it. As an adult, mum, leader and professional I have become increasingly interested in ‘team.’ Especially more recently. We all rely on teams, we are all part of at least one team! Team work has been cheesed-up quite a lot – I am not blogging about McTeam today. Team work and self-awareness should be taken really seriously.
“But these most visible leadership abilities build not just on empathy, but also on managing ourselves and sensing how what we do affects others.”
― Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence
Know yourself – know others.
In your team(s) is everyone open? If so, your team is probably really effective. Professional, respectful and mutual trust exists amongst the team members. They feel confident to ask questions, give opinions, solve issues and accomplish much together under a common vision or goal. When I first started exploring the concept of team seriously, I came across the Johari Window. Many of you will have used this, or discussed it in some form. It’s really useful in a team context.
It’s nothing new at all, in fact, it has been used extensively in educational leadership, but I thought it was a great model/tool to help develop trust and with the help of feedback from colleagues, learn loads about yourself and others and develop team functionality. The model was developed in 1955 by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (hence the name Johari).
The model (pictured above) is divided into four segments.
Segment 1 – The Open area – this is what is known to you and others about yourself
Segment 2 – The Blind area – represents what is unknown to you but known to others
Segment 3 – The Hidden area – this is what you know about yourself but is not known by others
Segment 4 – The Unknown area – not known by you and not know by others
The aim of any group should be to develop the open area of the team and all within the team. The open area is the space where good communication and co-operation occurs. The size of the open area can be maximised horizontally by pushing and extending into the blind space. This can be achieved by actively seeking, listening to and acting on feedback. This could be particularly useful when becoming a member of an existing and established team.
The open can also be extended downwards into the hidden area in a process of telling and disclosure. It is totally natural to keep some things private – common sense, but in the hidden area there may be relevant sensitivities, fears, insecurities, hidden agendas, manipulative intentions. Where it is work related – it is better out in the open. Reducing the size of the hidden area reduces potential for misunderstanding and poor communication.
The most exciting area to me is the unknown! These might be skills that have not been used or developed yet, behaviours, capabilities that can be beneficial. The unknown area is all about self and team discovery. The unknown may be really deep feelings or facets of personality that influence behaviour.
The Johari model represents and illustrates perfectly (IMHO) the need to share, listen and develop. I think this should be the crux of any team. People with large open areas generally are very ‘free,’ easy to talk to and communicate very well. The actual goal of the Johari model was to open the channels of communication to develop team trust.
The single most important aspect of ‘team’ is trust. The Johari model, or whatever model it is that a school uses to develop and build self and team awareness is utterly pointless without high trust.
‘Leaders should be trustworthy, and this worthiness is an important virtue. Without trust leaders lose credibility. This loss poses difficulties to leaders as they seek to call people to respond to their responsibilities. The painful alternative is to be punitive, seeking to control people through manipulation or coercion. But trust is a virtue in other ways too. The building of trust is an organisational quality…Once embedded in the culture of the school, trust works to liberate people to be their best, to give others their best, and to take risks.’ (Sergiovanni 2005 p90)
If a team knows the strengths of each of its members based on trust and thoughtful, sensitive, constructive feedback, leadership at all stages will flourish. Covey (2006 p19) believes that ‘when trust is high, the dividend you receive is like a performance multiplier…..high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation….’ I agree with Covey and love his concept of ‘performance multiplier.’ But it all starts with opening up. The first step to trust is to trust! The best indicator of trust in a school is whether leadership is devolved and shared across the school regardless of a persons’ age, status or role. A further indicator is the success of the teams within the organisation. Is the development of relationships on the same level as having impact with a task, and does the team regularly ask ‘How are we doing?’ and ‘How can we improve?’
A deeper understanding of ourselves through effective feedback, communication and sense of team will develop into a high trust environment. This will enhance leadership within yourself and others and contribute to securing effective teaching and learning.