Friday, May 28, 2010


From the Apple
I could really relate to your post about teaming. While you have a team of 4 in a "pod," I led a team of 13 Kindergarten teachers. My team was much larger but the dynamics that you talk about were the same. For many reasons, this was the most difficult team I have led in many years. However, I have learned over the years that teams go through some predictable stages. When I sit back and think about my team this year, I realize that this is the way most new teams begin - forming! This stage is where we first meet. Most members are very polite and excited about the year ahead. For us this was a short lived stage (maybe one meeting!)

It's the next phase that is so difficult - storming. Teams go through a phase where they try to figure out how all the pieces fit and especially where their individual piece fits. I think that is really similar to your situation Courtney, where you came in as the new member and felt like the more experienced member's of the team, who had worked together before very successfully, did not always respect your voice. You certainly wanted to contribute and had a hard time figuring out how to do that. You were wise to sit back and watch and try to figure out where you fit. For my team this was a longer, more difficult stage. Some of our teachers had worked together very successfully in the past. In fact, they referred to themselves as "a well-oiled machine." Other teachers coming into this group new felt that they had no voice. In our case, matters got worse because those that were dissatisfied were vocal outside the team, rather than realizing that this is a natural step in teaming. Sometimes things are said that put up a roadblock for moving ahead. My advice to teachers as they join a more established group - Give it some time - observe. Volunteer where there are places, until the team figures out your strengths and how you can best contribute. Learn from their strengths. Be patient. This is a time in a large group that a leader can find out what different members want to do and who is good at what. On my team, for instance, I found out that Laura is a detail person and that was very useful information as I looked for tasks that needed to be done. I found our that Nina has real leadership ability and could hold her own with some of our more experienced teachers so I worked hard to make sure she had opportunities to lead. I depended on the most experienced teachers for many of the most complex tasks. I tried to find a place where everyone could use their talent. Unfortunately this storming phase sometimes felt like an emotional roller coaster.

Courtney, I think your team moved into the next phase of norming faster than my team. This is the phase where members begin to respect authority and others show leadership in specific areas. The team knows each other better and even begin some socializing. The members are able to ask each other for help and and provide constructive criticism. Of course, storming can always rear it's head and of course, for us, it did occasionally!

When the team reaches performing, hard word leads to progress and I think, we may have finally reached that point as the year has come to an end. At this stage things begin to feel easier.

The final stage is mourning when it feels difficult to close out a working relationship. I know that is the way you are feeling Courtney as you leave your team this year and I hope that is the way that my team is feeling. If I am honest, I am sure there may be a few who are just glad the year is over and are ready to move on! For me, my frustration this year was not being able to reach the performing stage sooner. It seemed like just as we were there, the year was over... but I learned a lot and that, after all, is my goal as a lifelong learner!

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