I am one who tries to be the “odd one out”, or the “lone wolf” when it comes to the “norm” in education, or any aspect of life. Why would anyone want to learn to ride a unicycle, or learn to juggle, or learn to shoot a traditional recurve bow, or play soccer at 50? Me, because it’s different! All my life, I have tried to not fit in. That’s probably why I enjoy being a Raider football fan all my life. They say once a Raider, always a Raider! It’s a state of mind and Raider fans are different. What does this have to do with this statement? Everything! I’m probably the one that is “wrong” on a team, and for me, the answer to this question is a resounding FALSE.
Michael Fullan states “Moral purpose, good ideas, focusing on results, and obtaining the views of dissenters are essential, because they mean that the organization is focusing on the right things.” (2001) It would not be acceptable to have everyone on your team be “right”. That creates a singular vision, and “the absence of conflict can create decay” (Fullan, 2001). This is not even a nice visual! But it really captures what could possibly happen in a team full of “right” people. I’m not trying to say that we need to welcome the wrong people, but I think people that have dissenting opinions have value and can refocus a team’s vision and capabilities for growth.
One of the skills needed in good leadership is the ability to handle conflict. Many articles over the years have been written to help people deal with conflict in the workplace and in school. I came across an article written by Elena Aguilar that states that “conflict can be healthy”, and lists some benefits of it: (2016)
- We wrestle with ideas.
- We ask questions to probe for deeper understanding.
- We change our minds.
- We demonstrate curiosity.
- We hold student needs at the center of our work.
These are valid and powerful effects of healthy conflict. It would be my hope that people on teams can value conflict in this manner. We need to value diversity and work together in order to make positive change. In fact, Anne Grady states that in order to keep conflict healthy we need to follow these 7 steps. (2016)
- Being assertive is okay.
- Get to the point.
- Pay attention to behavior.
- Replace “you” language with “I” language.
- Focus on the issue, not the person.
- Seek understanding, not agreement.
Again, powerful tips to make sure we handle conflict in the correct way on our team.
Lastly, the best advice one can give to a leader to make sure your team works seamlessly is to make sure you have great relationships with your team. Jeremy Sutcilffe states that “team-building is all about getting relationships right and is a crucial first step to achieving their overall vision and ambitions for their schools” (2012) This article described ten tips to build a winning team in your school.
All these articles show that it is not right to get the wrong people off, but to make sure we keep them in to balance the team so they can work together and make a great collective.
Aguilar, Elena. (2016). Managing Conflict in School Leadership Teams. Edutopia. Retreived from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/managing-conflict-school-leadership-teams-elena-aguilar
Fullan, Michael. (2001) Leading in a Culture of Change. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Grady, Anne. (2016). 7 Steps for Keeping Conflict Healthy. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/272298
Sutcilffe, Jeremy. (2012). How to Build a Winning Team – 10 Top Tips from Outstanding School Leaders. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/oct/08/top-tips-outstanding-school-leaders