As Speech Language Pathologists, we have valuable insight and information to share with our teams, but sometimes it can feel like we are overlooked. No one forgets to tell the classroom teacher about an IEP meeting-but I know I’ve gotten a last minute invite or too. Sure, I’d love to spend my night writing up an IEP for tomorrow, who needs to watch the Bachelor anyhow?
I see it in social media. There are posts from some people about how they hate when they are called teacher, posts that lament the term “speechie” and posts that bemoan the fact that others in the school do not value our schooling and knowledge. We hear about ethics violations in schools, private practice and long term care. I often see new professionals in our field trying to figure out when they need to “draw their line” in the sand-to advocate for their professional opinion.
I have some advice: To be a valuable team player, you’re going to have to get over yourself.
If you want to work effectively within a group environment, you have to commit to being a team player. No one wants to work with the player who:
- Constantly corrects people about their job title
- Separates themselves from the team by pointing out their differences in schooling
- Uses the “Because I said so”argument for implementing program ideas.
Am I saying that we are not overworked and under appreciated? H. E. double hockey stick no. You can come over to my house and I’ll make some coffee or more likely open up a bottle of wine. Venting can be healthy. One of the amazing things about social media is how it allows me to connect with so many other SLPs-who get the struggles that we face every day.
As we go into a new school year, I thought it would be helpful to share 5 ideas for building influence at your work site-that I’ve taken from business blogs. I know your awesome. Isn’t about time everyone else did too?
Working with Teams: Listen more than you talk:
Aaack! This one is really tricky for me-I like to talk and provide solutions more than listen. It’s why I’m a speech language pathologist and not a listening pathologist. I’m working on it-and my listening skills are getting better. Take time to listen to what the classroom teacher or your student or client’s parent is saying. Listen to understand and take note of any themes or problems they might have. Active listening encourages you to repeat what they are saying-to make sure you are really understanding what they are saying. Once you understand the “communication pain point” your student is experiencing, the easier it is for you to design solutions or provide ideas that will fit within the classroom or the child’s home environment.
Wait a minute-isn’t the idea to meet the students needs? Of course, but over the years I’ve found that you need buy in from the people who will be helping you implement the program or carryover what the student has learned to the classroom.
Working with Teams: Use names
I’ll confess-I don’t know my neighbor’s name. I’ve lived in my home for 15 years-and now my only option is to commit a felony and steal his mail to figure out his name. We are more likely to respond positively to people who use our names when they are talking to us. Luckily, we have the yearbook and mailboxes to help us out. But remembering parents names at conference time might be more tricky. Check out these tips for remembering names.
Working with Teams: Be Reliable and Consistent
We trust people who are dependable and show up. This one seems pretty self explanatory. Come to work on time, if you have an IEP to write up-try to get it to the teacher early. Show up when you say will be in the classroom. I feel like this is in our SLP DNA.
Working with Teams: Share your knowledge freely
You’ve actively listened-and now that you know the teacher’s problems or difficulties with the student, find opportunities to share ideas or solutions. Read a relevant article? Print and share with the teacher with a quick note-“this reminded me of our conversations about _____.”
Working with Teams: Explain Why
I’m good at giving ideas but I’m not always great at explaining why they are important. I could ask a teacher to listen for Johnny’s /s/ sound during counting tasks and give him a subtle cue to correct it. He or she might be open to that. But if I explain why I need their help-I may get better follow through.
Example: Johnny has learned the placement for /s/-now he needs to be able to produce it without thinking about it. Some students need to say it over 100,00o times before they say it without thinking about it. Could you listen when he is counting to 100 and touch your ear if you see his tongue slip out?
Bonus Tip: Ask for a Favor:
People are more likely to respond favorably and complete the request if you ask them to do it as a favor. Weird, right? Try it on your kids or husband-you’ll be surprised. It’s really hard to resist a request for a favor.
Example, “Hey, can you do me a favor? Johnny is practicing his /s/ sound and he’s getting close to being done. But he still needs to work on remembering to use it when he’s reading. Could you take 5 minutes at the beginning of his reading to listen and given him this cue if you see his tongue peek out between his teeth?”
Using these tips helps me build relationships where people trust me-and over time value my advice. I could stand in front of them and tell them that I have important information that they need to listen to-but they wouldn’t believe me. I need to show them what I can do.
To Do: What strategies do you use to gain influence at your school or workplace? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.