Residents reap the rewards when a neighbourhood team functions smoothly
There are two things in any type of team setting a true leader must consider, said Dr. Mark Eys during a presentation and the Schlegel Villages leadership retreat in Brampton: they must promote performance and also harmony.
John Brouwers, a neighbourhood coordinator at the Village of Tansley Woods in Burlington who co-facilitated the session on team dynamics, had another suggestion: sometimes a strong leader simply has to get out of the way of those they serve and allow team members to take ownership and control of decisions.
Schlegel Villages has invested much time and energy in the development of strong, self-directed teams at the neighbourhood level to better serve residents, and the leadership retreat was a time for leaders from across the organization to learn more about how they can continue to support this growth.
Mark, an associate professor of kinesiology, physical education and psychology at Wilfred Laurier University, has been helping Schlegel Villages assess the progress of the neighbourhood team development program since 2013. He shared his views on strong leadership from a more theoretical perspective while John offered practical examples his fellow Schlegel team members could relate to.
“As leaders, sometimes we need to get out of our own way,” John explained. “We want the team to develop and we want a really strong team dynamic happening in our neighbourhoods.” When the team is strong and engaged, the residents are the ultimate beneficiaries.
John shared the story of a team member he supports whose work routines needed readjustment as she progressed further along in her pregnancy. She approached John first, as the neighbourhood coordinator, and he naturally agreed to support her in every way possible. Instead of taking the lead, however, as would be typical of most “managers” in similar roles, he suggested she go directly to the team.
“ ‘Call an impromptu huddle and talk to them about what’s going on and what changes you need to see how they can support you as a team,’ ” John suggested, and she followed his advice.
When he asked her the next day how the discussion went, she told him: “It was liberating.”
The word “liberating” stuck in his mind.
He could have taken control and attempted to design a solution, but he knows he could never do as well as the team members themselves, for they understand best what the dynamics of the neighbourhood are. This is what harmony in a team setting can look like, John said, and when a leader promotes such harmony alongside the enhanced performance of individual team members, a more engaged team dynamic is nurtured and the residents feel the benefits each and every day.