Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Teaming for Success

OK, I'll admit it. When I take my car to the shop I have a brief conversation (what's wrong?), leave the keys and head home. And when I go to pick it up I ask almost no questions, nod a lot at whatever they tell me, pay and leave.

I know very little about cars, expect the professionals just to 'do their job,' and I'm out of there!

My husband, on the other hand, has made it his business to know a lot about cars. He chats with the mechanics before, during and after any work. He discusses products and possibilities and knows exactly how the decisions made in the shop should play out on the road.

He listens, he learns and fits all the advice and information he gets from the car mechanics to figure out what to do for which car, and when to do it as well as which cars to keep and which to replace. He incorporates all of what he learns into an overarching transportation plan that he has in mind.

And who do you think gets better service from the mechanics?

Me with the 'dump and run?'

Or my husband who makes every mechanic part of his car care team?

My husband. Hands down.

Because I throw money at car problems where he builds a relationship and a team...

Teaming up with various professionals and experts is an incredibly useful skill for parents of kids with disabilities and people with disabilities to learn. It's an approach that allows people to make full use of the expertise and skills of others within their own plan and vision for their life.

Teaming makes the professionals you work with more effective as well.

For example, your child's OT will be much more successful if they hear from you that her hand movements are attempted signs, not "random, bilateral waving movements, possibly for stimulation." (Yeah, she was signing 'milk.' She was thirsty.)

And, your physician will be able to do more for you if you DISCUSS the medications you don't intend to take with him. Rather than just not taking them. (Yes, I am talking to YOU!)

Teaming, done well, is a good approach whether you are working on health, educational, transportation, legal, community participation, employment or some other issues.

Tips for successful teamwork:

* Engage and stay engaged. You are the team leader and you "hold the vision," do not let go of this. Set the tone of teamwork from the beginning. Give input, strategize with people and participate in carrying out the plan. Do not disengage, and do not sabotage the plan. When things aren't working, tell the team first to allow for revision.

* Communicate openly. Add your meaning to discussions, give more or new information, keep people oriented on your overall vision, disagree--respectfully and without anger.

* Recognize and set boundaries. Everyone working with you is a team member, but not every team member needs to attend formal meetings--in fact, many can't or won't. This is fine. People's association with you can be enough to create teaming. Respect people's time and understand that some associations are time-limited or situation-limited. (For example, the car mechanic is only 'on the team' when the car needs service--and only my husband will talk to him/her... ever!)

* Respect each person's expertise. Let them do their job WHILE contributing your own info. Respect your own expertise as well. Expect to contribute.

* Diversify your team. New ideas, possibilities and perspective come from NEW people. (Read Never Eat Alone by networking guru Keith Ferrazzi to learn more about this! Chapter 11) Diversifying should be a thoughtful process, but it is necessary. You already know and have access to the resources of your closest friends and family. Grow to grow.

What other tips do you know?

Picture from here.


thecatsmeow said...

I don't know as I can offer any "tips" per se, but I have plenty of experience that speaks to the value in knowing the right people in the system. The funny thing is that because I have a relatively uncommon constellation of issues, I was actually the one teaching them how to help someone with my variety of problems at times. But it did all work out in the end, mostly thanks to some people with a ton of experience and a lot of community connections such that they knew who had the resources (and the right attitude) to hire someone with a disability. Perhaps more blog fodder someday.

Terena said...

show your appreciation for their hard work. Queen Teen and I send cards to all of our team at Christmas just to say thanks and everyone really appreciates it. And when our nurse at the regional center helped me unravel a problem with paperwork and got the tests we needed approved, I sent her flowers. I'm not trying to bribe them (okay, maybe a little), I'm trying to show that their efforts are appreciated. It's amazing how a little recognition of hard work can turn a total sour-puss into a smiling, happy team player.

Terri said...

thecatsmeow: thank you. It is true, when you team with folks each of the folks on the team will often only have their own piece of the information--but if we team well they can still be valuable because the other folks (like us) hold the other pieces.

terena: thank you. You are so right! Appreciation is a wonderful fertilizer--and so great to include medical and other folks in this.