School starts tomorrow for many International Schools. Other schools will start in the weeks to follow. Several Department Heads and Teacher Leaders have already had the opportunity to meet their team members. Many of these teams will have new members and in some cases new team leaders. One thing most, if not all, members of the team will have is some baggage they are carrying from the previous school year.
Your first team meeting should be an opportunity to connect and begin building trust, so that in subsequent meetings the proverbial elephants in the room become much easier to discuss. In order to develop this trust, we should be prepared to help members unpack the baggage from the previous year and develop group norms that mitigate future conflict. Additionally, the first meeting should be an opportunity to clarify the Mission for the team and give team members an opportunity to clarify their preferred role on the team. There is of course a lot of pressure to begin common planning and go through all the standard beginning of school year motions. But, if we jump straight into planning, without sewing the seeds of trust and building consensus for how we will work as a team, we will ultimately limit the team’s potential.
A Forbes article, 3 Types Of Meetings That Will Engage Your Team And Increase Team Performance, is a thought provoker to help team leaders understand how to clarify the purpose of each meeting and ensure that the agenda of each meeting doesn’t have overlapping objectives. I like this article, as it clearly defines 3 specific purposes that meetings have: Why, What and How. If more than one of these purposes is on your agenda, the odds of generating conflict by not attending to the specific needs of some members or diminishing the role of others increases significantly. When this occurs generative discussions are limited and issues affecting the team, both internally and externally, are left unattended. These unattended issues become ‘elephants’ and by the end of the school year the issues become baggage that teachers pack up and take with them.