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Five Ways to Develop an Effective Interdisciplinary Team

Interdisciplinary teams (IDTs) are a great asset to any sports organisation, but they reguire good leadership to maximise their potential. In the fifth in a series, Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason Tee considers the leader’s role in developing an interdisciplinary team

The following five tips highlight key actions that a leader of an interdisciplinary team (IDT) can take to optimise team performance.

  1. Get the right people on the bus.

As an IDT leader, you will have the opportunity to identify, select and recruit people for your team. Diversity is desirable, and you want to collect as many different perspectives and skillsets as you can, but in doing so consider how these personalities will interact and work together.

You need individuals who will offer alternative views and ways of working and are also willing to consider perspectives that differ from their own. It’s also important to not allow personalities that dominate and derail discussions.

The strength of IDT is the ability to hear and consider all of the alternatives before progressing as a collective. Take the time to consider your team.

  • Where is the ‘empty chair’?
  • Is it in an area of expertise?
  • Or an approach that the team takes?
  • Do you need a personality that will challenge the status quo?
  1. Create time and space for communication.

If you want your IDT to be effective, set aside time to meet and discuss problems.

As the leader, you must create the culture and environment to enable this to happen. One of the first steps to getting the most out of your IDT is creating a regular meeting for all members to come together, table views and discuss challenges.

An effective approach is the use of case review type meetings where all IDT members are given the opportunity to feed in on a particular problem. 

  1. Organise to facilitate the flow of information.

Siloed and hierarchical organisational structures don’t support an IDT approach. As an example, your team doctor is not really a member of your IDT if you only contact them when someone has suffered an injury or has a medical condition. The doctor can help reduce injury and illness, but only if the doctor is included in day-to-day operations; they can contribute to wider thinking and consider medical impact and implications on wider areas.

Plan for and create a ‘flat’ organisational structure where all IDT members have regular access to other members of the team. As the team evolves, the interdisciplinary interactions will become more frequent and informal, and the culture and habits will emerge.

As a leader, you will be asked many questions or your view; consider suggesting they speak to other members of the team first. Encourage your team to speak to each other and bounce ideas.

  1. Maintain psychological safety.

Psychological safety is the belief that you won't be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. In a team, it is a shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish you for speaking up and sharing your views and opinions.

As the leader, you can facilitate the creation of a psychologically safe environment by setting clear parameters for engagement where all team members are supported, and blame culture is avoided.

  1. Provide clear roles and responsibilities.

The strength of IDT lies in the leadership. Ensure that all voices are heard, and the provision of multiple perspectives is applied to the same problem. You may also want to consider the view that ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’.

Ultimately, each member of the team is the expert in their own area and should be clearly empowered to have final decision-making responsibility in their space. Those decisions may well be informed by the perspectives of other IDT members but are not made by other IDT members for them to follow through on.

More on Interdisciplinary Thinking

This is the fifth part of a series on interdisciplinary thinking with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason Tee


Related Resources

  • How to Build a Better Team Culture

  • How to Establish an Interdisciplinary Team

  • A Process for Clear Communication: Getting Your Message Across


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