Friday, May 17, 2013

Guidelines for Effective Teams

Guidelines for Effective Teams

Dr. Jordan and I have been working this past year with boards helping them concentrate on establishing a vision while focusing on continuous improvement.  Many of our discussions evolved around communication, trust, and teamwork.  One of our dilemmas has been the assumption that everyone has experienced or been on a  high performing team at some point in their lives.  From our perspective being part of a team was easy and fun.

Author Peter Senge,  in his book, The Fifth Discipline stated:  When you ask people about what is is like being part of a great team, what is most striking is the meaningfulness of the experience.  People talk about something larger than them themselves, of being connected, of being generative.  It becomes quite clear that, for many, their experience as part of truly great teams stand out as singular periods of life lived to the fullest.  Some spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to recapture that spirit. (Senge 1990: 13)

Based on Senge’s insight and our assumption, we thought it would be good to share some the keys to working as a team.  The following ideas should help you and your board become a more effective team.  

  1. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute ideas and solutions.
  2. Recognize and respect differences in others, everyone is not going to agree on all issues.
  3. Value the ideas and contributions of others, which is how we learn and grow.
  4. Listen and share information, it does no good to ignore others and then wonder why they won’t listen to you.
  5. Ask questions and get clarification, to make good decisions boards need good data.  If you don’t understand the information it is important you keep asking questions until you do.
  6. Participate fully and keep your commitments, great teams can count on each other.
  7. Be flexible and respect the partnership created by a team -- strive for the "win-win".
  8. Have fun and care about the team and the outcomes, it is an honor to be elected to your board.  Enjoy the time you spend serving the students in your district.

As we mentioned earlier, communication and trust are critical ingredients for team building.  The power of reflection can help enhance the board's understanding of teamwork.  The following questions should help you and your board reflect on the current practices of the board.

Do we:
•  Conceal weaknesses and mistakes from each other?
•  Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback?
•  Jump to conclusions about the intention of others?
•  Fail to tap into one another's skills and experiences?
•  Waste time and energy managing their behaviors for effect?
•  Hold grudges?
•  Dread meetings and avoid spending time together?

If the answer is yes to this list of questions, it is an indicator that troubles are brewing.  When difficulties arise leaders address the issues.  The team is too important to the success of the district to ever “underperform”.  High performing teams understand that conflict is dealt with openly and is considered important to decision-making and personal growth. All members should feel their unique personalities are appreciated and well utilized and can benefit the success of the team.  Norms for working together have been developed and seen as standards for everyone to follow.

In conclusion, it is important that board members clearly understand when the team has met with success and all should share in this equally and proudly.  The impact of your role on the lives of the students in your district should never be underestimated.  You are all members of the most important team in any district.  The success of your team determines the success of the district.

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