To be part of a successful team you need to be dedicated, focused and continuously improving your skills. Team members need to believe in themselves and trust their teammates. If you have the right attitude your student staff can become a cohesive team.
As in athletics, working hard does not guarantee a “win.” However, I truly believe that a team of students whether resident assistants, student government officers or members of a community will have a winning experience based on working with others. It is our responsibility as professionals to be the team captain among our student groups.
There are a few basic skills that I keep in mind when building and working with a team of students. These skills might seem “obvious” but paying attention to detail and consistency will lead you to foster and be part of a winning team.
1. Team Lingo
- Constantly use TEAM instead of Staff…..it will catch on to other groups too!
- Abuse the terms community and pride
- Incorporate the team into the community once they move on. For example, I live in a Hall called Phase 3A. Once team members leave 3A they become part of the “3A Alumni.” It sends a message that they were and still are an important part of the community
2. Clear Expectations for the Team
- Encourage “venting” to you, but expect team members to speak with one another
- Remain out of the team “drama” until after the school year concludes (you can appreciate everything that occurred, after they are no longer your responsibility)
- Establish goals and expectations of working together. Post these goals in the office, distribute a copy to each team member and revisit them often. These are agreements of success if everyone abides by them
3. Be a Team Player not merely the Captain
- Act as an advisor more than a supervisor (when appropriate)
- Foster an attitude that you are working WITH the team and they do not merely work FOR you
- Ask for feedback in decision making. This will provide an opportunity for the team to process and better understand the decision. The team might add a perspective that the professional staff neglected
- Delegate tasks to team members which will express your confidence in them
- Assist with team duties such as creating hall publicity, taking some check-in/out hours, share in the duty rotation once a month, do rounds with all team members frequently
- Trust the team by sharing appropriate, confidential information with them.
- Allow the team to teach one another through their own success and failures
- Implement a 24 hour rule…..if you are asked a question, get the answer or update them within 24 hours
4. Accept Team Members as Individuals
- Understand each team member has his/her own story. Learning a person’s learning style, values & goals will help in understanding a person’s behavior
- Accept that individuals will develop and perform at different levels. Finding their role on the team is important to have the entire group learn and benefit from one another
- Acknowledge that people join a team for different reasons: assistance with financial aid, earning a degree without living costs, wanting to make a difference, the need to belong to a group, building a resume, interest in politics and community issues
5. Expect Individuals to Contribute to the Team
- Each team member should have ownership over a task which benefits the entire team. This could be a responsibility of facilitating a team meeting or creating a hall wide resource board
- Treat team members as individuals, but tap into their skills. If one person has strong crisis management skills then utilize them for those incidents while another team member might become the team programmer
6. Provide Opportunities for Team Work
- Sponsor programs where team members assume responsibility for a task which contributes to the preparation of the program
- Form committees to accomplish tasks such as a bulletin board, newsletter, program shopping or a maintenance log
- Rotate duty partners. This is quite a philosophical issue, but an important one! Having consistent duty partners can provide a balance in style/skills between partners, be easier when creating a schedule and build a relationship between those two people. However, rotating duty partners is a way to bring the entire team together to work in cooperation, face challenges, confront one another on differences and form relationships in the community as a team
7. Support, but do not Force Staff Development
- Accept that a team can work and respect one another, but individual members do not need to develop life-long friendships
- Do activities which will bring their goals/fears/expectations full circle. For example, have team members write themselves a letter in Sept., collect the letters and send them the letter the following summer.
- Consciously acknowledge the efforts of your team with notes, e-mail messages or random acts of kindness. I plan in my schedule to spend 90 minutes every three weeks accomplishing this goal. I do it while I watch TV!
8. Team Tone In the Community
- Introduce and refer to your staff as a team to all community members whether in residential life, academic affairs or at conferences
- Encourage students to utilize their own RA, but understand they might be more comfortable with another team member. This proves that the team is working together to provide resources, support and opportunities for residents regardless of who accomplishes the task
- Encourage students to work in cooperation with the team to provide community opportunities. This can be accomplished through “jamming in the lounge,” having an international dinner or determining a floor policy as a community
9. Recognize the Team with an Individual Touch
- Reward “token” items to the team with a personal touch. For example, candles (not to be burned in the Hall!) could be given to all team members with personalized quotes on each candle. Plants with a team message of fostering a “growing garden (community)” could be given to each team member with how they contribute to the garden.
- Publicly acknowledge team members through a hall newsletter, web page or simply on a team agenda
- Recognize that people appreciate things differently. Some team members will hang all of your notes on their wall, while others will throw them away. Regardless, the message that you care and appreciated their efforts was received!
10. Constantly Reflect, Evaluate and Improve your Style
- Attend workshops and read articles on supervision, team building and advising.
Article previously published on reslife.net.