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Working with Teams with Instructional Coaching Corner, Ep. 86 Buzzing with Ms. B: The Coaching Podcast

Two woman sitting at a table. One woman is talking.

Instructional coaches are asked to work with teacher teams but often don’t have the training, tools, or time to do it effectively.

Greg Deutmeyer from School Talk Podcast (formerly Instructional Coaching Corner Podcast) joins me to talk about working with teams of teachers. We talk about the importance of teams and how to make them stronger.

How to Establish Positive Relationships with Teams of Teachers

During our call, we talk about how to establish relationships within teams. Greg explains that the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni has been beneficial for his coaching work. The book is written for the business world, but the ideas can be applied to any industry. The five things talked about in the book can help us to develop a well-functioning team. 

Here are the five dysfunctions and some ideas to work through them.

1.      Absence of trust

Teams members often struggle to trust each other. Greg recommends that coaches show some vulnerability because being vulnerable leads to trust.

Coaches can do this by asking simple questions at the beginning of meetings and starting with a win. That simple positive sharing can help build trust and bring the team together.

2.      Fear of conflict

As coaches, relationships are everything. It’s natural to want to preserve the relationship we have with the people on our teams. This sometimes leads us to avoid conversations that are necessary but may be unpleasant. 

Although it’s not easy, Greg recommends having healthy conflicts with the team when necessary. Having disagreements often lead to changes in understanding and perspective. Even though these conflicts can be scary, there are a lot of benefits to facing that fear.

3.      Avoidance of accountability

Greg talks about why it’s important to hold teachers accountable if they say they are going to do something, but don’t. When people don’t keep their promises, coaches should talk about it with them. Of course, we want to do it in a way that is respectful of everyone’s feelings.

4.      Lack of commitment

We’ve all been to group meetings where one or two vocal team members make most of the decisions while others say nothing at all. That can make it hard for all the team members to commit to the plan. Greg discusses how team members will be more likely to commit to the objectives when everyone’s voice is heard. 

5.      Lack of focus

Focus gives a team a common objective and a way to identify when they are successful. When the focus is clear, it is easier to achieve success.

Greg explains that if we tackle these five things, we’re going to create more effective teams. 

Coaching Challenges When Facilitating Teacher Teams

Greg and I talk about common challenges when working with teams of teachers. We discuss how building relationships and trust is the bedrock of any successful team. Team dynamics play a big role in whether or not a team will achieve its mission. 

Teachers expect instructional coaches to be the expert. A lot of times they will wait for coaches to give them the directions or answers. This is a common problem and something I struggle with myself as a problem solver. 

Greg suggests that coaches don’t think of themselves as an expert in content, but rather experts in conversation or questioning. The coach facilitates the discussion, but the team makes the decision. When a team makes a decision, they win and lose together. This makes them more likely to work to achieve the goal.

Another challenge coaches face is accepting that things take time. We often want things to happen quickly because we have deadlines and other pressure hanging over us. While there are things that can be done to grow the team, you can’t rush it and it may take longer than expected. Be patient and you’ll develop a stronger team.

How to Support Collaboration Among Teachers

It may be challenging to support alignment when teachers don’t have a common language or vision. On this episode of The Coaching Podcast, we discuss ways to support collaborative planning with teachers.

Greg also shares how he helps create an environment where people are comfortable enough to ask questions and get clarification. He asks what he calls “dumb questions”. For example, he’ll ask a clarifying question when a veteran teacher throws out terminology that may be different from the word used by a new teacher. He says he has no problem being seen as the person asking a foolish question because it creates an environment where teachers feel secure enough to stop the conversation when something is not clear.

On this episode, we discuss all this plus, how to give data a purpose, characteristics of high-functioning teams, and how team members can hold each other accountable. Listen to the entire episode to get tips and ideas for how instructional coaches can support teaching teams.

Ready to listen? You can listen below with the media player, or search for Buzzing with MS. B: The Coaching Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts!

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Thank you for listening to Buzzing with Ms. B: the Coaching Podcast. Want more coaching ideas?

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Podcast produced by Fernie Ceniceros of Crowd & Town Creative

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