Working productively in teaching teams can be so rewarding yet so frustrating. When we all get on the same page, we can begin to really enjoy what we do and we can believe that we are progressing in a way that has a high impact on student learning. Subsequently, when a member of the team is a little different to what we would ideally like for a colleague, tension, frustration and anxiety may arise in the team.
It becomes even more complex, if the many of the team members have differing points of view and priorities, which are further exacerbated by contrasting backgrounds and experiences. Meetings can become difficult, gaining consensus challenging and it may become a struggle to move forward as the team members pull in different directions, probably with the best of intentions to support student learning.
Let’s look at the team that thinks it is on the same page. Is that really the case? How do you know? Patrick Lencioni talks about the notion of artificial harmony, where what occurs in the group / team situation may not necessarily reflect the true beliefs of those assembled together. Further complicating matters, when agreement on how a team must act to solve a problem, for example, what happens when the team members leave the meeting? Does everyone take action in the manner that everyone supposedly agreed? Beyond that teams that may think they are on the same page are dominated by louder and more assertive voices that may represent the majority but there’s a minority who we may think are involved but, in truth, they are not real and meaningful participants in the team. So, unless we put checking measures in place, we may not actually be on the same page after all.
The more diverse team, for all of its frustrations, should be viewed as an opportunity to discuss difference and learn from one another. A McKinsey report suggests that diverse teams matter in terms of productivity. If we value the members of a diverse team the extent of our learning increases, as we explore why we think differently. Our team may take a little longer to arrive at a particular decision, but perhaps we explored all the options before jumping in, which so often happens with homogenous teams that lean towards ‘groupthink’ or those teams that engage in too much ‘Happy Talk’. Furthermore, we expect our students to develop skills of empathy, be opened minded and tolerant of different points of view to the extent that people with the differences may also be right. Surely, we must do the same?