Millions of TV viewers saw the emotional, glittering moment on their TV screens when Iker Casillas, the Spanish captain, held the Fifa 2010 World Cup above his head on that memorable Sunday night at Soccer City, Johannesburg. His team had become the soccer champions of the planet.
Behind the flashing cameras was a huge support team of coaches, dieticians, fitness trainers and many others.
Teamwork had turned a number of spectacularly skilled individuals into a world-winning unit.
Quality schools have teamwork at their core. Teamwork permeates the whole school ... learners, parents and staff.
JM Squelch (1994: 71-2) in her book, Eight Keys to Effective School Management, describes some of the benefits of teamwork: Cooperation: Team members work together because they want to achieve. When people work alone, competitiveness can occur, which might not be in the best interests of the team.
Sharing of information: The team shares information. There’s no need to keep it to oneself. New ideas and solutions flow.
Resources, special talents and strengths are shared: Nothing is hoarded. Best use is made of who and what is available.
Better quality decisions: Discussion precedes decisions, often resulting in better choices being made.
Morale: There’s often higher morale when people work in a group rather than in isolation.
Excellence: Everyone wants the team to look as good as possible and so they give of their best.
Unfortunately, a team can become a clique that serves its own selfish interests, forgetting the bigger picture. An example is when the teachers in a department try to frustrate and sabotage whole-school improvement plans being put together by the senior management team.
To ensure that each team works well and supports the overall aims of the school, there should be guidelines. The guidelines don’t curb creativity or initiative. Rather, they allow space for people to share ideas, to be creative but in a controlled environment.
Suggested guidelines are: Everyone knows his or her role in the team: Each team member has a unique contribution to make. Achieving teams have members who each know what part they have to play in achieving team goals.
Have clear goals: Clear goals help team members to focus. Make sure that everyone knows what the purpose or goal of the team is.
Make areas of accountability and authority clear: Each team member needs to know what he or she is responsible and accountable for. Let each member know where his or her authority stops. For example, not everyone has the authority to spend money on behalf of the team.
Give team members the basic resources: Teams need the basic tools to achieve their goals. Think of the team members of a natural sciences department in a school. The team wants to improve the learners’ results. It realises the importance of “hands-on” experience in a science lab. To achieve that, educators need to be given the equipment to teach more meaningfully.
Keep communication channels open: Make sure everyone gets all the necessary information in good time. Team members need advance notice of a meeting and the agenda and everyone should get a copy of the minutes of a meeting.
Hold regular meetings: Except for the possibility of refreshments, not many people enjoy meetings. Yet meetings are important. They keep the team focused and monitor progress. If chaired well, meetings can be enjoyable, stimulating and worthwhile.
Welcome input from everyone: Sadly, teams can be dominated by a few strong voices. Encourage everyone’s input. Those reluctant speakers sometimes prove to be the wisest voices in the room.
Motivate the team: Every team will experience times of disappointment. Members might moan that the team goals are too demanding. Team members need to encourage one another on the journey. Praise and express thanks when efforts are made. Don’t forget to celebrate when important milestones are reached.
These guidelines help to achieve teams. When your school uses teamwork well, you’re entitled to lift the trophy for Outstanding Quality.
Richard Hayward is a former school principal now attached to the South African Quality Institute, which conducts leadership and management programmes countrywide. Poor schools are sponsored. For more details, contact Vanessa du Toit on 012-349-5006 ([email protected]) or Richard Hayward on 011-888-3262