How Well Does Your Team Function? | Steve Barkley

How Well Does Your Team Function?

A post from Harvard Business Review, Assessment: How Well Does Your Team Function? identifies teams as a critical but often unsuccessful part of today’s workforce. The authors list some of the reasons for failure as problems with coordination, motivation, and competition – as well as waiting too long to address these issues. They provide an assessment that helps a team become more aware of how it functions by assessing a series of factors known to influence a team’s success – such as team purpose, commitment, talent, norms, goals, morale, and rewards.

I’ve pulled a few of their assessment questions and added some of my thoughts. The elements are scored on a one-to-ten scale; from not at all to almost all the time.

PURPOSE: “Purpose is the core reason the team exists.

a) Our group shares a clearly understood common purpose.
b) Our group has the sense that our work is important to the institution right now.”

PLC’s functioning as teams rather than franchises, requires conversations built around student work. With shared goals for student success, teachers collaborate to strategize. Sharing student goals and student work makes students known to colleagues. That “knowing” is key to real collaboration. I believe that too often we form “teams” of educators and perhaps give them a task to complete rather than a purpose; job to get done rather than a goal of purpose to achieve. A starting point might be exploring with a school’s team leaders or department heads the purpose of their instructional leadership team. What are the goals they share?

GOALS AND ACCOUNTABILITY: “Team members need a clear map of what the team is trying to accomplish. Accountability for those goals is everyone’s job — team members share mutual responsibility for achievements, and members are not afraid to acknowledge missteps and get back on track.

a) Each group member clearly understands the group’s performance expectations.
b) Each group member contributes equivalent amounts of high-quality work.
c) Each group member acknowledges when they have made a mistake.”

Vulnerability is a key requirement for effective teamwork and success. I often describe that being a teacher leader means making yourself vulnerable before trust has been built. That early vulnerability starts the message to others that this team is a safe place to learn and develop.

Simon Sinek, writing the forward to Permission to Screw-up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong by Kristen Hadeed, describes the importance of creating a culture where people feel safe while being imperfect: being vulnerable. He describes vulnerability as

  • Feeling safe enough to raise your hand and say, “I don’t feel qualified to do the job I’ve been asked to do. I need help.”
  • Feeling you can admit weakness and insecurity without fear of humiliation and the company can, in turn, offer additional training.
  • Feeling you can walk into the boss’s office and say “I screwed up” without fear of putting your job, advancement, or reputation on the line.

Sinek acknowledges that creating a culture in which people feel safe to make mistakes, to reveal their weaknesses and imperfections, isn’t easy, but it is what leadership is all about. Leadership is not about being in charge: it’s about taking care of those in our charge and making people feel safe.

MORALE: “Team morale captures the enthusiasm, trust, and openness among members and their efforts. High morale can improve productivity, promote collaboration, and decrease turnover and absenteeism, allowing a team to perform at their very best.”

a) Non-group members can quickly see and feel the high level of enthusiasm among our group.
b) Our group is generally positive and motivated, even in difficult times.
c) Our group has open, constructive discussions about disagreements or problems.
d) Our group is vulnerable with one another and trusts that actions are from a place of good intent.

Team morale is critical for a team to move from cooperation to collaboration.

Cooperative teams make concessions or attempt to reach quick compromises to resolve conflict and keep the work moving.
Collaborative teams value conflict; differences fuel the team’s collaborative efforts. Solving complex problems requires learning, and we stand to learn the most from those who are different than us.

I only reviewed three of nine areas in the authors’ team assessment. Consider taking some time at an upcoming team session to collate your teams’ responses to the assessment and identify areas for conscious practices to enhance your team’s effectiveness.

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