Before I start, there's a housekeeping item I wanted to get out of the way. "Poor spelling" has been cited a few times by more detail oriented readers and I feel it's important to address this. I was raised to use British spelling for certain words (favour, behaviour, colour, etc). So if you're used to seeing the American spelling it might look odd, but these are valid alternative spellings.
So you've gone through all the gut-wrenching process of arming yourself with a diagnosis; the life impacting decision process of going with an ABA program; getting funding for the ABA program; interviewing and selecting a suitable BCBA; and unless that BCBA provides a team for you, interviewing, hiring and training the interventionists.
Now you've got your "team" in place and they're ready to go! Right? Go Team!
It turns out that tossing a collection of people together, calling them a "team" and mandating them to go forth and instantly start producing outstanding results for your child is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. (And yes, I've been waiting for just the right moment to use that expression in a blog post.) We've all seen high performing teams in action - professional sports has many examples to choose from - but what is less obvious is what exactly goes "under the hood" that turns a collection of people into a "team", much less a highly effective team.
So what does it mean to be a "team", and how do we get there? What is the secret sauce???
In addition to co-managing my son's ABA team, I've spent most of the past 10 years of my professional career building and developing high-performing teams of engineers; and I've coached youth soccer and hockey teams for more years than I can actually recall (12 maybe?). When I was first asked to volunteer to coach my son's soccer team, I discovered that when it comes to building that sense of team, those 7-year-old boys had a lot in common with the technical professionals I was accustomed to working with, or the revolving door of interventionists on our ABA team.
What I've learned from a decade of coaching professionals, ABA teams, and youth sports and recreation programs, is that there are a few key elements that go into a highly effective team:
- Shared goals
- Clear expectations
- Open communication
The best teams have all of these, whereas the teams that struggle to get results are always lacking in one or more of those. Without shared goals or sense of purpose, individual agendas take over and people start working at cross-purposes. Of course it's not enough to just have shared goals - each team member needs to know what is expected of them. And because nothing ever goes precisely according to plan, maintaining frequent and open communication is critical so that rapid course corrections can be made with minimal surprises. Finally, none of it holds together if team members lack trust in each other's commitment and ability to do their part. Tools (like ABAKiS) can support teamwork, but building a strong team takes purposeful intent and hard work.
Whether you are running an ABA team or a member of one or more teams, how strong is your sense of "Team"?