The Importance of Team Preparation

While at the Santa Fe Leadership Center institute, I noticed the the theme of team preparation through personal sharing repeatedly receive emphasis. Invest time and energy into the personal histories and goals of team members, and the team will perform at a higher level and accomplish more.

Tomi Nagai-Roethe shared the Drexler/Sibbet team performance model with us. The model provides a detailed framework for understanding team functions and dysfunctions. Built around the metaphor of a bouncing ball, the model emphasizes the importance of personalized team preparation to the later performance level of the team. Early phases of teamwork include individuals sharing who they are and why there are on the team. This precedes articulation of the work to be done or the methods to be used. The floor represents organizational support. With strong support, the ball bounces faster and higher. The vertical axis represents different behavioral dimensions — intuition, feeling, thinking, and sensing. Exploring personal histories and purposes require intuition and feeling skills. The more work a team does to explore the background and motivation of each team member and their reasons for being on the team, the more momentum the team builds to accomplish great work.

Carla Silver put this theory into action through a wallet building exercise. The ultimate objective of the activity was to build the perfect wallet, but before we were even given our task, we were told to show and explain each of our wallets. This individual sharing of the wallets we had chosen for ourselves gave each person the opportunity to speak, make their preferences known, and show their chosen wallets before group work began. As a result, the group was more trusting and collaborative throughout the entire process.

Debbie Freed explored systems causes for conflict and crises in schools. Similarly to the other speakers, she explained how issues framed around personality conflicts are really about the assumptions that people bring to their jobs as a result of their personal and institutional histories.

IDEO had us practice design thinking to design a better recess for kids. They emphasized personal history through “user-centered design,” asking interview subjects open-ended questions and conducting observations to identify user needs and brainstorm possible solutions.

The idea of personal experience in teamwork seems readily applicable in our work in schools.

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