The Toolbox

In any self-respecting tool box, there are tools for every occasion: hammers, nails, screws, pliers, screw drivers, files, saws etc.

At work

Think of your specific work situation, possibly your office. Consider those colleagues who make up your team.

What tools are present?

Which is the most significant tool?

What are you?

At home

Again, think of your home unit.

What tools are in your home box?

Which are the most significant tools?

Are you still the same tool?

I created this as an ice breaker for a number of the training events I deliver throughout the year to organisations of trained and qualified professionals working with children and young people. It is particularly useful when I am talking about teamwork and the importance of valuing each member of the team. I have used it several times and each time I am still delighted by the discussions it generates and the imagery that is sparked by using a pictorial representation.

Part of my work takes me to nurseries and care organisations where teamwork must be effective in order to maintain and promote the high standards of care and education that our children deserve. It is only in those places where the importance of each member of the team is acknowledged and respected that real progress and high quality care is achieved.

The family team

I include parents within the circle of professionals who support and educate our children and young people. The majority of us work hard to do the best we can and offer the best we have. There are very few parents and professionals who carry out their work in order not to succeed, and yet we do fail and we do let our children down. Where there is abject failure, you will find little evidence of team work. Families should be strong teams working to protect and encourage their next generations. Nurseries and schools should be strong teams working to do the same thing on a much broader base.

In small units such as families, who is the glue that binds the wood together? Who is the chisel that chips away the roughest edges and then leans on the plane to make a completely smooth finish? The toolbox that has had too many tools removed either by separation, breakage or by not keeping the lid closed so that the tools fall out, will offer very little stability and some tools will be used for jobs they were not designed for.

For example,

– the older child who must become a parent to their addict mother or father;

– the mother who discovers that the person she expected to be around to support and nurture her has decided this is not what he wants – he wishes to be free – they are ‘too young to be tied down’;

– the father whose partner dies due to an undiagnosed illness and who lives miles away from family and familiar support systems.

All of these examples indicate a broken team, not necessarily because it is someone else’s fault, but because life isn’t always kind and doesn’t always produce a happy ending.

The professional team

Once help is offered through a team approach, it must be consistent and thorough; it must reflect a philosophy of acceptance and inclusion. It must be realistic about its limitations and there must be honesty about what might have to happen next. Where a good, strong team has been built up, these tasks will be allocated to those who can best do the job and bring about the most satisfactory conclusion. Teamwork is partly reliant on clear communication but mostly it relies on recognition of each member’s strengths and skills. In the same way, a confident and visionary manager will facilitate further development of knowledge and skills within their workforce so that they can produce even better results and outcomes.

Back to team family

Family teamwork is similar. Parents encourage their children by praising, supporting reassuring them and enabling them. Where there are challenges, the insightful parent steps back to allow their offspring to try for themselves. They only step forward again when invited or where they can see that the problem is much bigger than they first thought. They are promoting the independence of their smaller tools so that, in time, they may leave the old familiar toolbox and seek out shiny new ones of their own.

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