Nothing worthwhile gets done alone.

– Daniel Goldman

Building Effective, Sustainable Teams in Education

Not all ideas have equal merit.

Building effective and sustainable teams in education today requires a leader with a vision. That leader needs to sell and create the vision collaboratively. A vision needs to be authentic and resonate; it needs to be bigger than the one problem, concern or even crisis. It needs to reflect what we want for our kids.

Why is this so hard to achieve? Why do teams fall apart or just stay in a holding pattern at best or create animosity at worst? Why is team work so exhausting rather than exhilarating? Teams that deal with school safety and security are usually effective, since the need is compelling and we recognize who has particular expertise. Even then, the leader needs to direct dialogue; keep everyone focused and often persuade team members to look at alternative solutions. Is the team leader credible? Does she or he have a good track record in working with diverse groups and bringing them to consensus?

There are a discreet set of skills that team leaders need. We used to think brainstorming and writing everything down on chart paper was enough. We used to think letting everyone have a say was enough. We used to think a tight agenda, snacks, someone taking minutes, a snappy power point were enough. The success of the team requires a team leader who can listen; get things done; manage diverse ideas; provide a forum to discuss why some ideas will work and others will not. These are the skills of social awareness; empathy, trust as well as using data appropriately and managing the balance of the group so all voices are heard but recognizing not all ideas have equal merit.

We will ask our team builders to think what are the “convincers” for constituents. Some folks like to look at the data; read the research; see what has been done elsewhere; take a pulse of the group as a whole. Others say show me and need to look at videos or go on visits. Some team leaders/members may need an individual coach or a group coach. The skills of emotional intelligence and David Rock’s ideas about getting team members to think about their thinking are but two critical pieces to advance effective team building. The leader must always bring the group back to the big ideas: How will this help children learn? How will our work ensure a better delivery of curriculum for all children? How will this further trust in what we are doing?

We piggyback on the foundation strategies of team building:

1. Is the charge to the team clear, focused and compelling?
2. Does the team feel the task is worthwhile and their input valued?
3. Do members of the team have specific expertise that will move the group toward the desired outcomes?
4. Are these outcomes based on SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound?

Whether you are building a new team of administrators, re-purposing a building, developing a long-range technology plan, reviewing your teacher evaluation process, or looking at ways to reduce cyber-bullying, team building is a pre-requisite to accomplishing your goals. We will ensure that your team leaders have the requisite skills to build A+ teams.

Tools for Teams


Recommended Read

Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances by J. Richard Hackman, Harvard Business Press, 2002
Hackman combines research, common sense as well as practical advice on the why and how of building great teams.