WHAT ARE THE COLLABORATIVE SKILLS LEADERS NEED?
As leaders in the classroom or in the school office, we recognize the need for the following collaborative skills: ▪ analyzing information and/or data to be used in decision making; ▪ articulating the problem of practice in a way that develops clarity; ▪ facilitating conversations regarding next steps for instruction; ▪ summarizing and communicating plans clearly as well as ▪ determining effective actions or next steps and ▪ monitoring progress. These are all important skills sets which help to move improvement processes forward. While the ability to employ these skills varies a little from person to person, these important leadership skills can be learned and honed over time. There is another level of collaborative skills that are just as important if not more as we model them on a daily basis in our classrooms, offices and schools for both staff and students. These skills include: ▪ listening to many voices; ▪ asking for help; ▪ giving and accepting advice; ▪ probing through questions; ▪ clarifying key points; ▪ expressing that the opinions of those who disagree with us are important; ▪ taking responsibility for difficulties in the collaborative process; ▪ letting others take the lead; ▪ listening intently and encouraging others to express themselves; ▪ responding calmly to frustration or anger if it erupts; ▪ redirecting when needed; ▪ finding ways to help groups reach consensus, ▪ moving from words expressing good intentions to purposeful action and ongoing reflection. For me, this second set represent a deeper level of collaborative skills which integrate important norms and key values. These skills underpin essential concepts about trust, safety and the importance of relationships in leading collaborative learning (Sharratt & Planche, 2016). Leaders must recognize that influencing others, be they students or staff to become engaged in collaborative work, begins with modelling the values that help to empower others through what is said and demonstrated in behavior and disposition. What do these skill sets mean to you? How do think we best help leaders in schools develop these skills? Do they represent an approach or better still – a philosophy of living and learning?