Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people,” said Steve Jobs. These words ring as true for school transportation as they do for any other profession.
In the article “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” published in the Harvard Business Review, authors Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen identified that today’s teams are different from the teams of the past: They’re far more diverse, dispersed, digital and dynamic with frequent changes. But while teams face new hurdles, their success still hinges on a core set of fundamentals for group collaboration.
It’s hard if not impossible for your team to reach a goal if you’ve never told them exactly what that goal is. As a leader, you are the one responsible for the overall vision and the best person to see how it’s coming together. The foundation of every great team is a direction that energizes, orients and engages your staff.
“It takes a village to make it all work in harmony, but managing people and personalities can be difficult,” said Greg Jackson, the executive director of transportation and fleet services at Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado and the 2019 STN Transportation Director of the Year. “The first step to building a strong, trusting team is to lead by example, modeling teamwork by working with your employees, not ruling over them. The next step to building a great team is to inspire them to work together and collaborate by sharing your vision for the team and the project and set expectations from the start.”
It all starts with hiring the right employees, organizing them into effective teams, and promoting teamwork. These should be top priorities for school transportation leaders. But this is no easy task, especially with all the staffing shortage challenges departments are facing.
Are you hiring drivers, mechanics or management level transportation professionals? Would your team recommend to applicants that they join your district or company? Would they say you’re a good leader? These are tough questions we all bear as leaders and organizations.
The team at STN is not simply a group of people who work together but a group of people who trust each other to deliver the best outcomes based on our roles. Having mutual respect, common and aligned goals, open communication, and patience are all key factors that make us a successful team, in my opinion.
According to The Trust Edge Leadership Institute, founded by this summer’s STN EXPO Reno keynote and Transportation Director Summit leader David Horsager, the No. 1 concern among organizational leaders is their people and culture.
Horsager added that focusing on constructing a high-trust culture leads to empowering capable, confident, consistent and compassionate employees, not to mention productive ones. The opposite, a low-trust culture, breeds employees who operate amid unclear expectations.
Last month at STN EXPO and Green Bus Summit in Reno, I got to see so many industry friends and col-leagues. Many school transportation teams came to the conference with a clear mission on what they wanted to accomplish. It was transparent to me that those leaders were getting value out of that investment for their teams
Also at STN EXPO, Antonio Civitella, president and CEO at Transfinder, announced a new Top Transportation Team Award. Transfinder is asking school transportation departments and staff to rank themselves based on engagement by leaders, staff retention, creativity in recruitment, overall resourcefulness, and investment in professional development for staff at state and national conferences.
School Transportation News will report more details in the coming month on how school districts can be nominated to participate and highlight the winning teams in early 2023. Visit toptransportationteams.com to learn more.“It’s more than just getting the job done. The winners of the Top Transportation Team of the Year will go above and beyond the safe transportation of students. These teams will be viewed as elite,” said Civitella.
Did you invest in your team this summer to attend state and/or national school transportation conferences like STN EXPO? Be mindful what people value as these could be key factors in employee retention. What does it cost you if you lose that valued team member? I recommend focusing on professional development, team building and networking at conferences as the true return on these investments. You get out of it what you put into it!
Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the August 2022 issue of School Transportation News.
Related: Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
Related: WATCH: STN EXPO Reno 2022
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Related: (STN Podcast E119) How Much Influence Do You Really Have? Impactful Leadership in Pupil Transportation