Examining the Foundation of Effective Teamwork (Guest Blog by Todd Shirley)

This week’s post comes from returning guest blogger, Todd Shirley. Todd is a talented writer with a wealth of knowledge to share. I hope you are inspired to leave a comment or engage in conversation after reading this post. To learn more about Todd, please visit his biography at the end.


Examining The Foundation of Effective Teamwork

I am convicted about my work. I show initiative. I am highly motivated to promote positive change for my student’s learning and home environments. I hope to empower educators and parents through consultation to effectively work with adolescents. I consider myself well read on counseling related materials and special populations. I often boast or complain about my 65 hour work week entrenched in counseling related work.

This does not mean I am a good team player.

Teamwork is hard for me.  It’s also a fact of life. Professionally, I stand with a foot in both education and human service;  EVERYTHING I do is through the vehicle of an education team or service team.

Ayn Rand was not cut out for either field.

Recently another hectic school year came to an end. I used my time off to reflect and ready myself to face another summer filled with teams.  What resulted is a new understanding of teamwork that I describe as the following:

1. Delegation Is An Opportunity To Encourage

Team projects can be difficult experiences for me as I tend to embody a “if it’s going to be done right, I have to do it” mindset.  Now I see teams and group projects as an opportunity to demonstrate trust and encouragement through delegation.  Delegating allows others to reach a goal.  Helping others reach goals was exhilarating this year.

2. It’s Valuable To Pay Attention To Resentment

I recently found myself talking to people about how I resented one of my school teams. This team deals with student concerns but looks to me with facial expressions that seem to say “isn’t it your job to care about these things?”  It goes without saying, I feel it’s the team’s job to care about student concerns.

Three helpful insights came from paying attention to my resentment:

1. My inability to let things go.

2. My inability to say “no” to things.

3. My inability to accept people for where they are and not be angry with them for where they should be.

The last insight was powerful because I try to nudge everyone I work with to reach a point of acceptance about others and life circumstances.

3. Teamwork Can Be The Kitchen That Makes Good Humble Pie

This school year’s end of year faculty meeting provided the inspiration for this post. Faculty meetings in my building often involve a lot of tangents and side chit-chat. This year, everyone fell notably silent as a co-worker (and team member of mine) shared information I had put together.

“10% of our students were referred to our student assistance team this year. Of those 10%, 25 students had to miss school due to illness or death of a parent.  14 were referred for non-suicidal self injurious behaviors etc…”

I was taken aback as I realized the information had to come from her for it to matter. If I had presented (which I enjoy doing), I would have been dismissed. As disheartening information related to our individual students came from a fellow teacher, people received it readily. Apparently, things can get done without me. Fork please!

Looking Ahead

I believe passion in my field can either prevent or cause burnout.  I hope to do this kind of work forever but if I am an ineffective team member, I don’t know if I can.

If I can approach teamwork as an opportunity to encourage others, establish trust, and embrace humility,  it’s only going to help students, families, and educators embody this approach too.


Todd Shirley works full time as a school counselor and carries a caseload of clients who are in the foster care system. When he is not working, he is reading, working out, cooking Paleo and discussing all that is arbitrary about life. Oh-and his favorite animal is the manatee. Todd is an incredible guest blogger with a wealth of knowledge to share. I hope you are inspired to leave a comment or engage in conversation having now read this post. You are always welcome to share your thoughts below!

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