Team Meetings are at the heart of most meaningful work in human service environments. The problems that we routinely encounter are so complex that no one mind can grasp all of the details and implications in order to create a workable plan to help. As we say in Sanctuary, “no one of us is as smart as all of us” and our emphasis on the importance of Team Meetings exemplify this. The terrible irony about team meetings is that they are the first thing to go when demands for productivity increase. And yet, they are the most powerful tool we have.
Preventing mental health and other social service workers from collaborating with each other – particularly in residential settings, or in situations where caregiving is distributed among a number of different providers – makes as much sense as telling a radiologist that they cannot use special machinery or that a surgeon can have no scalpels. From our observations, the decrease in Team Meetings – or at least of meaningful Team Meetings has almost paralyzed our systems of care and has made providing integrated care virtually impossible
WHAT IS IT?
A Team Meeting is an active, focused meeting where every member feelings comfortable talking and listening, is engaged and contributes, shares insights and generates new ideas. Unlike S.E.L.F. treatment planning it may be about the program, conflicts that have arisen among staff, the opportunity to process loss or a collective disturbance or for many other reasons.
WHAT'S THE PURPOSE
There are many purposes for Team Meetings. It is the opportunity for all members of a team to see and affirm that they are in fact, members of a team and to recognize that to be a team their work together must be coordinated. It is the time to address client issues, gather ideas for working with individual clients or with the entire community, discuss new initiatives to improve the activities or events on the horizon. It is an open forum for addressing staff concerns. It provides the time for the critical work of integration which is what is missing in so many service environments. Everyone individually may be doing a great job but if we do not take the time to integrate what we are doing with what everyone else is doing the result can be chaos, not effective intervention.
The Sanctuary Toolkit, S.E.L.F. and the Sanctuary Commitments play an important role in team meetings. First, we encourage all teams to begin their meetings with a Community Meeting. It is crucial for staff to be aware of their emotions and the powerful force they can play in team planning and decision making. Leaders and members must remain cognizant of S.E.L.F. and be willing to address issues that compromise Safety, be comfortable with the expression of Emotion, grapple with both tangible and intangible Loss and keep an eye on the overall goal of their work together – what they want the Future outcome to be. At the same time team members need to willing to acknowledge co-workers efforts to honor the Sanctuary Commitments and address times when they have pulled up short and let their team down. It is crucial that team meetings consistently reinforce the shared Sanctuary concepts and language.
Team Meetings should have a clear agenda, preferably one that is available to everyone in advance, have a predictable time and place that they are held. Everyone on the staff should have the opportunity to put items on the agenda. Each organization will need to define what it means by a “team” so that the group is neither too little to have diversity of opinion, nor so large that nothing can effectively be accomplished if everyone is to have input. There should be a designated facilitator for the meeting, who raises important topics, encourages meaningful input from everyone, ensure that all members of the meeting feel safe and respected and who can summary key points and decisions. Minutes should be kept, particularly of the key points and outcomes of discussions so that the group does not lose the threat of continuity over time. Follow-up on the outcomes of the previous meetings should occur at every subsequent meeting.