Kazakhstan and lessons in Team Development

Finding voice in a foreign language

I recently returned from a voyage to Kazakhstan where I delivered a keynote to hundreds of School Leaders and Teachers while the snow built up outside – it was a little surreal. I’ve been fortunate to visit the city of Astana before and the experience is always jam-packed with fascinating cultural moments of learning.

But if you’re anything like me, most of the small experiences of a trip like this are added to a collective understanding rather than as specific memories. Only a few special moments are afforded ‘top of mind’status and impact your forthcoming conversations.

One such moment for me was delivering a workshop on the Saturday morning before I left to 70 Teachers. The topic was School Culture and not one of my audience spoke a word of English – not one! For a speaker, this was a challenge and a half. I needed to speak each sentence clearly and then wait for my translator to do her thing. The lesson I learned – that sometimes we don’t weigh our words heavily enough. We talk and talk … and talk, while our message becomes lost in our voice.

Are your team hearing your message or your voice?

There’s teams and then there’s functioning teams

Another moment of high learning for me was the close of the conference. A group of students played a great piece on the Dombra – the traditional two stringed guitar of Kazakhstan.  I settled in to watch a performance of high quality. But it wasn’t the singular skill of the young artists that amazed me – it was their ability to play together.

Watch the Kazakh student Dombra performance by clicking here.

The performance prompted me to think about teams in our schools. Are your teams full of individual players who play well or are they trademarked by their ability to play, to produce, to create and to achieve together? I think this might be what the true meaning of harmony is.

I’d love to know what you think.

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