Ensemble Learning is still a relatively new organization, and we think it’s important to tell you what we’re all about. Ensemble Learning is extremely mission-driven. We focus all our work around the goal of increasing equity for English learners. To organize our work around the mission, we have five core values that dictate how we work. In this series, we will be reviewing and explaining each of these values. Check back for each week over the next five weeks to learn all about our five core values, and to see how you might take some of our ways of working back to your own school or organization.
One of our key values is collaboration. We define collaboration as, “solving problems together to serve students better.” Especially as a remote organization (with employees spanning 3 states and 8 different cities), articulating what collaboration looks like is extremely important, and being deliberate about activities that enhance our ability to collaborate is necessary.
For example, right now, we are sharing and exploring each others’ Myers-Briggs Type Identifiers (MBTI). Our colleague, Sherre Vernon, referenced her MBTI in her blog post last week as a means of better understanding your strengths and biases as a leader. However, MBTI can also help you understand how to work as a team. As we share our MBTI with each other, we have found it helpful to be explicit about how we work best with others and what we need from one another. For example, I am an ESFJ (extravert, sensing, feeling, judging), which means I feel a deep sense of commitment when I am working with others, but will get extremely stressed if I feel I’ve let anyone down. It really helps me to know that I have clear two-way communication with anyone I am collaborating with and that I can trust they will give me clear feedback if I’m not meeting an expectation they have. By sharing this with my team, it opens the door for them to provide me with direct feedback, and helps them understand why I might check-in more often with them to ensure our work is going smoothly from their perspective. This ongoing conversation has also enabled our team to be vulnerable and share our areas of growth and needs to enhance collaboration.
As our value states, we don’t just believe in collaboration for the sake of collaboration. We believe in working together in order to serve students better and help fulfill our mission. In practice, this means that we commit to getting feedback from one another before we facilitate any trainings or present at conferences. This often means that we meet via Google hangout for a colleague to run through a presentation and hear ideas to strengthen their work. Each employee at Ensemble comes to the team with different experience and strengths, and by consistently implementing feedback loops we gather the best of everyone’s expertise in our work. This tangible act of collaboration ensures we are doing the most in service of students.
Another way we live our value of collaboration is through our hiring practices. When we are expanding our team, at least three of our current employees are part of the interview process for candidates. This honors the various perspectives of our current team members, leads to a strong discussion about the best person for the role, and ensures that newly hired team members will balance the strengths and experiences of the team. When a new employee has joined the team, we already feel a few steps “ahead of the game” in terms of building a collaborative relationship because so many of us have had the opportunity to meet him/her and we have a strong existing idea of how they will work with the team.
Especially with our unique remote set-up, discussing collaboration, defining key behaviors and activities, and deliberately engaging in collaborative activities in service of students helps us ensure we are closer to our mission.