Recognising the fact that everyone's voice matters.
Collaboration as a life skill: Learning to work in teams is an essential life skill across occupations. Considering this need, opportunities for team work are provided in many instances in the education system for projects. These opportunities typically end with a presentation. Typically what happens here is the bold speakers take the centre stage, leaving the other(s) no choice but to participate on mute. There is a high likelihood that you would have witnessed this while attending group presentations in your child's school. Inevitably there would be some children who stand awkwardly not having anything to say. Enabling the bold speakers to gain recognition of the fact that one's team mates have not been given a chance to express themselves has a two fold benefit. Not only does this help the quieter children feel encouraged to find their voices, the bold speakers learn empathy. Together, they play to their strengths, resulting in a fine project or presentation as the case may be.
Enabling the bold speakers to gain recognition of the fact that one's team mates have not been given a chance to express themselves has a two fold benefit. Not only does this help the quieter children feel encouraged to find their voices, the bold speakers learn empathy.
The dual benefit
Kara Pranikoff in her book, Teaching Talk, refers to the bold speakers as frequent talkers and says that they could use their ability to express themselves in a more impactful manner by making time to assimilate their thoughts to make crisp and powerful contributions. This also allows them to listen to others, make meaningful connections by contributing relevant points when the time is right thus making the discussion more engaging and productive. When they begin to listen, they tend to notice that some are not speaking. Learning to show empathy towards these speakers who are not contributing, goes a long way in forging strong bonds and hence building strong teams. A true leader not only represents the team but also is aware of everyone in their team.
This helps the quieter participants too. Looking at the situation from their perspective one would realise that these children hold back most likely because they worry about being wrong, ridiculed among other reasons. Being called by a teacher vs asked by a peer if they have anything to say - clearly the former can be nerve wrecking especially if there is a previous negative association with teachers in general. However, being seen by a bold speaker is a source of encouragement and is likely to make the quiet participant feel motivated to give it a try.
Acknowledging others' contributions.
Just as being encouraged by a peer to contribute is likely to be a lot more motivating than the teacher being the sole source of encouragement, making use of opportunities that emerge to acknowledge others' contributions to an activity goes a long way in forcing strong connections between team mates.
The Borechester Activity
This activity was designed to give a chance to every single voice in the group to own their contributions. Borechester is a fictional town in which each one of us in the group owns a store. An unprecedented mice infestation creates havoc, leading to the Mayor choosing to step down, after accepting responsibility for the the problem on account of her unconventional policies. Elections are set to happen currently in the activity.
As preparations for elections have begun the tweens and teens at the Young Executives Club were given three choices to choose from for writing speeches. Two chose to write election campaign speeches, while the others chose to either play the role of a reporter/journalist covering the elections.
After much discussion about who must speak first, the two candidates presented their speeches. The two speeches were very different from one another. While one of them chose to simply highlight the problems and his plans to solve them, the other made it a point to connect with the audience first by talking about their role in making the town a wonderful place to grow up in, before listing the problems that they continue to face. She chose to end her speech asking for support from the people to work with her in solving those problems. The audience was evidently pleased that their contributions were recognised and were more than willing to offer their support.
Being a small group, many were very vocal about their preferences and criticised the election speech that did not mention the people. When the tendency was to boo one particular candidate, the other stood up for him and pointed out that he had highlighted problems that needed attention and that she had missed those. This move changed the attitude in the audience and when the voting began, the race was close.
Assuming a leadership position after winning a race is something to be proud of. However, once all the excitement settles and the candidate gets to work, nothing is possible without collaboration. People need to be inspired by a leader, they need to feel like their voices matter. Only then would they support a leader on a mission. Self centred leaders are less likely to garner support from their team members without showing empathy.