The visual alphabet I wrote about the other day remains an important and valuable piece of information for me as I continue to process my two days at the New Team Habits workshop put on by Education Elements. This was a powerful learning opportunity.
I like to think of myself as someone with a growth mindset, but while there, I realized that I actually have a fixed mindset when it comes to anything artistic. I used to think artsy was the same thing as being creative. I learned a few years ago that is not the case. I learned this week that I can be visually fluent as well. This is a big step for me, and I’m very grateful for that. My drawings are probably not going to ever be amazing, because I doubt I will ever have the desire to put the time and energy in to make them amazing. I’m ok with that.
What I can do, however, is write and add visual notes to the things that I do write. This can be a powerful practice.
Drawing, sketching, or doodling isn’t about being perfectly artistic, but it is about conveying ideas. That’s my wheelhouse, and if I can communicate with visuals more effectively, it will be much better.
So, what else did we do?
Well, in true Ed Elements fashion, we had an interactive and educational environment where we could learn how to work better as teams.
The topic was the team habits we need to have in place to be effective teams. There are a lot of reasons why things fail, and we never want to be one of them, right?
The habits part of this workshop is really important. You need to make these things habits, because if they are habits, they can make many things much better.
We read a great summary of goals vs habits from Farnham Street. Here are a couple things about habits:
- They are for life. You don’t just gain a habit and then move on. It’s a habit because you continue to do it.
- Habits are easy to complete. Running a marathon is not a habit. Running every day is a habit.
- Habits can be as small as necessary. In this training, the three habits are very small indeed. In fact, they are so small, you might wonder if they really are that important.
- Habits can compound. Duhigg calls habits that have a wider impact on our lives keystone habits.
A quick story from my own life. As I started reading scriptures every day, I was thinking about things in a spiritual nature. By reading scriptures daily, my mind was focused on learning spiritual truths. This helped implement those spiritual truths more effectively in my life. And so, I was more patient, more kind, more helpful, less selfish, more considerate. Not that I was making it a point to be any of those things, but that my keystone habit compounded others things that made my life more meaningful.
Team Habit 1: We talk about our mistakes
This section talked a lot about psychological safety. If you listened to my interview with Keara Mascarenaz released this week, this was the bulk of our conversations. Psychological safety is when people feel safe being vulnerable with each other and talking about mistakes without fear of reprimands or getting blamed for failures.
We talk about mistakes to model vulnerability so that our team learns and grows together
This habit can be especially hard in schools where we are very much people pleases and suffer from a culture of nice. This habit also seems to reinforce the culture of nice by not immediately punishing someone for their mistakes. But I don’t think that’s what it looks like. What it really looks like is holding people accountable for their mistakes without punishing them. This is how I deal with kids as a principal. If you make a mistake, we are going to talk about it, but we are going to use it as a learning opportunity. That’s the whole point. How do we learn as an organization? We talk about our mistakes. If we don’t talk about our mistakes, how can we ever expect to learn? It just won’t happen. We learn through mistakes.
Team Habit 2: Meetings—we lead check-ins.
This seems so small that it might not even be important. But it is! When we have check-ins, we talk about ourselves and not just about our work. Even in a couple short exercises, we learned things about people that we would want to follow up with them about and be able to share the things that we learned with them.
So, why do we have check-ins?
We lead check-ins to increase presence so that our team has more engagement and equal talk time in meetings.
And what are check-ins?
They are simple ways to start a meeting. I think most of us would say this is the SEL part of meetings for adults. When we check-in appropriately, we give people space to express what they are feeling and start the meeting appropriately.
There are a whole bunch of ways to do check-ins. You can ask a questions to get at how someone is feeling now. Or you could ask a question that goes deep and gets at inner conflicts and feelings people could be experiencing. Or you could do something fun which would invite people to enjoy the sharing.
A check-in for now could be something like: “What are you bringing with you to this meeting?”
A check-in for deep could be something like: “What brings you joy?”
A check-in for fun could be something like writing how you’re going to show up on your partner’s back. Yes, sounds weird, but was actually fun. Probably not fun for those who don’t like touching people. :)
Team Habit 3: Projects—we kick them off.
This habit is also very simplistic. They shared a hilarious video that was so true you could only laugh. Crying is the only other alternative. How many times have you been involved in a project launch where there was no purpose, no roles, no end date, no defined win? I’ve been in those launches so many times I can’t even call them launches, because we didn’t launch anything.
We kick off work to increase clarity on purpose, roles, and roadmap so that our team is more agile in adjusting our plans to meet our purpose
It’s important to note here, that not everything is a project. Projects have an end date. An early reading initiative that helps kids learn to read pretty much forever, is not a project. It’s part of our daily operations! Training everyone the first time we rollout a new curriculum for that early reading initiative is a project.
Kicking off projects simply means that we define everything that we can. Part of the problem with projects is that they can get behind schedule and instead of giving up on them, we keep going! Sometimes we need to throw in the towel!
I read a great book on this topic called Scope by Basecamp. They have a great process place for kicking off projects, and deciding what to work on.
At first I was skeptical about this habit, thinking that it would only apply to district level personnel, but I see how teachers involved in committees and in doing their own projects would really benefit from implementing this habit.
I’m committed to doing this work in my new role at work, and I hope you’ll take some time to think about it as well. You can get the book “The New Team Habits” on Amazon.
And, as a side note: This book is a workbook. The intention is that you write in it and make notes as you go through it with your team. I love writing in books, and it is even better when they are designed to be written in!