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Safe Place for Collaboration

Safe Place for Collaboration

Have you ever been part of a team where you felt inadequate? Where your thoughts and ideas didn’t seem good enough to share? That you didn’t have a voice? Klein’s Profile of a Leader guiding document states that we need to “skillfully communicate and gather feedback from every voice.” However, if staff members don’t feel safe sharing their ideas, we are missing valuable input as well as ownership of initiatives.  As a leader, I strive to seek out ideas from stakeholders daily. I want to make sure that my staff, students, and parents feel heard and have a voice. 

Liz City, the director of the Educational Leadership doctoral program at Harvard, spent a full day with us at Holdsworth this summer, and what she shared has had a profound impact on how I gather and encourage feedback. I learned different ways to get to the root of a problem; what we often think is the problem initially is actually a symptom of a deeper issue. She shared brainstorming strategies to get past the symptomatic problems until we can get to the core of what truly needs to be addressed. One strategy that created an “aha moment” for me was to have everyone brainstorm quietly and individually first, before sharing their ideas with others. This generates more ideas and prevents the group from fixating on one idea that is shared before others have had a chance to process their own thoughts. It never occurred to me that sharing immediately with the group could stifle the voices and ideas of so many others! 

To implement this strategy, all you need are post-its and pens for everyone. Start by introducing your problem. Give everyone time (you decide the amount of time) to think of different solutions to the problem silently. Every idea needs to go on a separate post-it note. Once time is up, you read ALL of the post-its. This encourages others to participate and feel that their ideas are valued and heard. 

One of the characteristics of a well-performing team is to have open, safe communication and real problem-solving skills. Practicing this effortless strategy will lead to so many more ideas being generated and honest collaboration towards solving the problem. I encourage you to take time to implement this strategy the next time a problem arises, and see the multitude of voices that will come about from the amazing leaders on your campus. 

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Safe Place for Collaboration

by Linda Galicia
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