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In light of the forthcoming Cancer Research UK Boat Race @theboatraces how you can ensure every member of your team is rowing in the same direction?

In the world of education there are all sorts of reasons you can find yourself leading a team: from the newly qualified teacher who has to manage a number of support staff in the classroom; to the leader of a key stage; the subject leader or to the head teacher or principal leading their senior leadership team.

If you are experienced you can arm yourself with leadership strategies, such as, getting to know your team on a personal level and finding some common ground, thanking people for their contribution and ensuring everyone is clear of the expectations of their role.

You can find literature to familiarise yourself about the processes teams go through when working together. So, it’s okay if everyone is ‘storming’, they’ll be ‘performing’ soon enough.

Peter Hawkins, team coaching guru, says leadership coaching helps by improving an individual’s leadership skills, but this does not always translate to improving team performance.

So, how do you get your team to row in the same direction? A head teacher I once knew introduced the concept of “all rowing in the same direction to improve pupils’ outcomes” to the leadership team to engender team spirit. Unfortunately, most of the team felt that they were not only rowing in a different direction, they were rowing in a different boat! Individually they had good leadership skills, but they did not always use them to work effectively together and improve outcomes for pupils. So how to move forward?

High performing teams are able to reflect and talk about what helps them work together effectively and what hinders this process. Only then will the team’s collective performance be greater than the sum of its parts and raise its collective performance.

In the Oxford and Cambridge rowing boats the cox fulfills this function, ensuring everyone is rowing in the same direction, hoping that both their women’s and men’s teams will win.

This can be a challenging discussion for any team. It does become easier with a coach to drive the discussion. However, if the aim is to improve outcomes for pupils, this conversation could be the difference between everybody rowing well but in different directions or the team working effectively together and rowing in the same direction. So why would you not want a coach to help your team row in the same direction and improve outcomes for pupils?

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