I went through an experience a couple of years ago where I had rebuild just about every process, procedure and team at my site. The sheer quantity of transitions among staff opened up  a chance to pull together people in different arrangements who would 1) want to work together, 2) bring out the best in one another. I knew that strong connections would help to move strategies along and help my school get past some old habits that had made even simple task seem like pulling teeth. As I leaned into some protracted match-making, I came to see that what I wanted to foster was a natural fit where communication, mutual expectations, quality standards, and even tactical methods aligned in organic ways.

What a rare and wonderful thing that natural fit is!

Teaming as an end in itself has real potential to be yet another task added onto an already long list. Working with people to co-construct anything can, at times, be  painful.  Bad experiences with teaming might very well be the subtext that explains the rolling eyes at the announcement of a team meeting schedule or a collaboration “opportunity.” When I went through my school rebuilding experience, I had any number of teachers ask to be let off the hook. Can’t I just do this alone? they would ask. But what drove me to seek changes to the staff was the fact that most of what we needed to accomplish would require multiple people sticking it out through the frustration of working with other human beings. It would get better, I promised. I wanted staff to know how time can fly when you find that groove with the right people.

Around that time, I went to a league game to see some of my 5th grade boys play basketball against a 5th grade team from another school. As I observed the boys playing, I was reminded of some basics about teams and natural fits. One of our kids, a gifted athlete, wanted to assert himself as the hero. He went up and down the court in his sagging shorts and too-big shoes, running rings around the lumbering opponents. However, there were some performance problems that soon surfaced. For example, he kept missing the basket. He also ignored his teammates. The rest of our team watched him zip around. They hollered at him to pass the ball, and got frustrated at how he carried on. Then, our team coach yanked the boy wonder twenty minutes before the end of the second half, put in a shorter kid, and eased the circumstances that our team had been enduring.

We didn’t win that game. Not even close – even though we had exceptional individual talent. What the team needed was good passing and a set of intuitive connections that could open them up to the advantages of working with one another.

You can’t pretend to fit when you don’t. Essential chemistry has to be there from the get-go, however.  Forcing it (and not succeeding),  sets you back. But even on good days, you might have to reach deep to remain positive. A value for loyalty can help move your brave little band in the direction of the natural fit. Slow, elusive, and never perfect, I know that, while you can’t fake it, there is a right fit for everyone.

That’s the little bit of faith I’m taking into the school year ahead. Teaming, an acquired taste, might be just the thing to open us up a world of possibilities. We shall see how this round goes.


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