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SART Foundations: When You’re a New Coordinator

Whether you take on the task of team coordinator when the team is just forming or whether you are taking over from a previous coordinator, the work of directing the team isn’t an easy job. There are a ton of things to consider, and there is so much I wish I had known when I began coordinating my team. Reflecting on that experience as well as working with other new coordinators, I have two recommendations around major tasks to do as a team coordinator: learn and develop.

Learn: The very first thing a new coordinator must do is take the time to get their bearings and orient themselves to the job, the team, and the agencies. Figuring out the job is shaped by existing documents, previous tasks of a prior coordinator, or by understanding where you want the team to go. If your team doesn’t have a mission statement or vision, now would be a great time to make that happen! This complements learning about the team—individual members as well as the group dynamics. Learning about the individuals members can really help you determine how to use their strengths and interests to further team process. Finally, learning about the agencies that have signed onto the Sexual Assault Response Team give you the opportunity to understand prior history, challenges of all types, and who to call on.

Develop: the second stage in adjusting to your coordinator role is to begin to create guidelines and habits! Your team will need to know what to expect of you and what you expect of them in terms of communications, attitudes, and work products. The coordinator can really set the tone for the team on all of these items. Because what you do and how you do it shows the team how they should respond. Regardless of your personal skill set, it is necessary to recruit help and develop a system that demonstrates reliability and consistency with the whole team. Leverage the skills of your team and their respective agencies to strengthen and develop the team’s effectiveness. Developing habits with the team from the very beginning is important. Habits like agendas or ground rules for difficult conversations or holding folks to due dates or building positive relationships outside of the team’s regular meetings—these habits help craft sustainability in a team.

Coordinating a team is a tough and rewarding job. Most folks aren’t paid to do this full-time and have limited hours to dedicate to their SART. Orienting yourself to your job, team, and agencies as well as building a bank of habits that simplify your workload are key steps in becoming a new coordinator.

Have you got other ideas from when you began leading a team? Please, share in the comments below!