Scaffolding: a leadership method to support your team
Implement scaffolding on your team
On many teams, change happens regularly. If you are leading or managing a team (of any kind) for a short period of time, you are likely the only constant element in the team’s make-up. Over time and through trial and error, you’ve probably developed team systems but you should beware of the one size fits all approach. In order for teams to perform, engage and work together, they need a system in place to support them. Scaffolding is a temporary leadership approach that can be adjusted to compliment different team dynamics, personalities, values and needs – it considers all of the factors that impact your team and evolves to support it.
What is scaffolding?
Scaffolding is a way for a leadership group to buoy a team that is in transition. Features of a scaffolding technique include flexible group guidelines, time frames and communication structures that are designed to meet the unique make-up of the team. On a varsity soccer team or a high school volleyball team scaffolding can be developed by the coach, team captain and athletic director. In an office doing committee work it can be reinforced by the committee chair and management team.
Here’s an example:
Last week I was running a week-long workshop and used my usual systems: 15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon, group guidelines that included no personal devices and feedback on “post-it’s” at the end of each day.
It all went sideways. People took their own breaks every hour – just got up and left, I couldn’t believe it. They were on their phones almost constantly and at best I got 4 pieces of feedback at the end of each day.
What the heck was up?
I had established my usual tried-and-true systems for our week together but the problem was my systems didn’t work for this group. After a couple of frustrating days, I asked the group for an explanation to try to understand what wasn’t working. They told me they needed movement more often than every 2 hours. They explained because of the time of year they needed to put out various fires going on back at home or at work and needed to be on their phones throughout the day. Finally, giving feedback at the end of the day when they were tired and hadn’t had a chance to reflect just didn’t work for them.
The systems that had worked with so many other teams just didn’t work for this group. I realised, as a leader, that I still needed to provide structure that supported our short term work, however, if I wanted engagement, I needed to be more flexible. I needed to consider my team’s systems as scaffolding--a temporary structure that can be adjusted to fit the different personalities, values and needs of my team within a more mailable frame.
How can scaffolding help your team?
· Recognizes values, needs and culture specific to your team’s membership.
· Ensures transparency around expectations.
· Reduces conflict due to rules not developed to meet your team’s unique needs.
· Provides opportunity for creativity resulting in greater collaboration.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and some examples of how you’ve used scaffolding to build a strong team!