How does successful team communication and planning contribute to the continuous improvement of teaching and learning?
As we reflect on the last school year and look forward to and plan for the upcoming one, now is the time to improve systems and processes to create more effective team meetings. Time is precious, and team meetings are most effective when team members stay focused, engage in results-oriented discussion, and learn from past results. In our efforts to improve results for our students and school communities, it’s important that we:
- focus on establishing a clear purpose and shared goals
- coordinate or align our efforts
- hold each other accountable at a personal and group level
- commit to a purpose and goals
- focus on results
An effective team also understands the importance of collaboration, or as defined in Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, working jointly with others in an intellectual endeavor. How does your team define collaboration?
In order to create a positive environment, we have to understand some of the challenges we face that often get in the way of collaboration:
Time – we know this is a factor in every school. Given mandates, budgets, and changing expectations, where do we find the time to collaborate? How do we make that time meaningful for everyone involved? How can we be creative and flexible with our time? How do we remove time as a roadblock to collaboration and effective team meetings?
Communication –this can include how information is shared before, during, and after any collaborative meeting. Conference calls, webinars, email, and even wikis are ways we can connect and share. How do we form strong lines of communication that meet the needs of the team?
Motivation – this addresses the age-old question: what’s in it for me? Given all of the demands on our time, we must see the benefits and often the immediate benefits in order to allot any time for the endeavor. How do we as leaders motivate others?
Trust – we all recognize the importance of creating trust, relationships, and rapport. What are ways we can create trust in each other and the process?
In addition to the challenges above, author Patrick Lencioni outlines five root causes of politics and dysfunction of working on teams along with some ideas to overcome them in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. These five dysfunctions—and ways to overcome them—are:
- Absence of trust: In order to build trust, leaders must create safe learning environments based on shared experiences over time while demonstrating vulnerability.
- Inattention to results: To create attention to results, leaders need to be selfless, objective, and publicly committed to achieving specific results.
- Avoidance of accountability: To help teams overcome their avoidance of accountability, we need to define accountability in the context of teamwork. This means a shared team responsibility for holding each other accountable for behaviors or performance that could damage the team. Several ways to create a culture of accountability include publishing standards and goals, creating team rewards, and process reviews in which the team shares how they are tracking against their goals.
- Lack of commitment: Leaders create commitment through consensus and certainty, which comes from clarity of purpose among the team members along with buy-in for both the process and the results. Leaders need to create a culture of purpose and action instead of indecision.
- Fear of conflict: As leaders, overcoming the fear of conflict means giving our teams permission to engage in productive conflict that leads to resolution as a team. Many people avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable, but it is an important part of change that leads to clarity and commitment.
Like many of you, my days are full of meetings related to the important work we do with students, teachers, and leaders. To that end, it is important that I do my part to make these meetings productive and results-driven. As a leader, it is my responsibility to ensure each meeting starts with our objectives, includes an agenda, and clearly outlines the outcomes we hope to achieve. True collaboration comes from creating an environment of trust, high expectations for each other, and a focus on getting the work done.