Just as instructional coaches need specific skills and mindsets to be an effective coach, teachers need specific skills and mindsets to gain from being coached. Similarly, team facilitators need important skills and mindsets, and team members need critical skills and mindsets of membership. Patrick Lencioni suggests that team members need to be hungry, humble, and smart. Gather insights and resources to reflect on your team and your team membership skills and mindsets.
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Steve: 00:34 Traits of effective teams and team members. I recently explored in a blog that while there are skills and mindsets that are needed to be a successful coach to teachers, there are also skills and mindsets that one needs in order to gain from being coached. We might call that a person’s coachability. In this podcast, I’ll explore a few necessary elements of an effective team as well as the skills and mindsets one might need in order to be an effective team member. A Harvard Business Review post titled, Assessment: How Well Does Your Team Function?,” provided an assessment instrument for judging your team’s effectiveness. It explores the areas of purpose, commitment, talent, norms, goals, morale, and rewards. I’ll explore a few of those and my thoughts on how it connects back to school teams and especially, PLCs. The assessment identified that purpose is described as the core reason that the team exists and it suggests that you ask these two questions:
Steve: 02:14 Does your team share a clear understanding of the common purpose? And does your team have the sense that their work they’re doing is important to the institution right now? And I wanna be clear, that’s the team’s work, which I’m afraid too often in schools people don’t see ownership in the work of the team, and that might be because they’re not seeing the value of the work that the team or PLC is producing. PLCs functioning as teams rather than as franchises require 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 all the colleagues on the team. That knowing is a key to real collaboration. I believe that too often we form teams of educators and give them tasks to complete rather than give them a purpose. We give them a job to get done rather than a goal of purpose to achieve.
Steve: 03:44 A starting point, to strengthen our teams might be exploring with the school’s team leaders or department heads, the real purpose of instructional leadership teams. What are the goals that they share? Two additional elements from the assessment are goals and accountability. Team members need a clear map of what the team is trying to accomplish. Accountability for those goals becomes everyone’s job. Team members share mutual responsibility for achievements, and members are not afraid to acknowledge missteps and explore how to get back on track. So members of the team should clearly understand the group’s performance expectations. What does that outcome look like? They should contribute equivalent amounts of high-quality work to achieving that desired goal or outcome. And each group member should acknowledge when they’ve 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.
Steve: 05:14 That early vulnerability starts the message to others that the team is a safe place to learn and develop. Simon Sinek, writing in the forward to the book, “Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead By Doing Almost Everything Wrong,” by Kristin Hadid, describes the importance of creating culture where people feel safe while being imperfect, while 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 knowing that in turn, you’ll be offered additional support and training. And 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.
Steve: 06:30 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’s what leadership is all about. He describes that leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in our charge and making people feel safe. Just the way leaders need to create that culture, team members need to create that culture for each other. One more area from the Harvard assessment that I’ll address here is the topic of morale. Quote from the assessment: “Team morale captures the enthusiasm, trust, and openness among members and their efforts. High morale can improve productivity, promote collaboration, and decrease turnover in absenteeism, allowing a team to perform at their very best. Here’s some signs or indicators of having high morale: Non-group members can quickly see and feel the high level of enthusiasm among our group.
Steve: 07:49 If you’ve got a great team at school, other teams in the school are recognizing it and talking about it. The team is generally positive and motivated even in difficult times. With high morale, the team has open constructive discussions about disagreements and problems. Lastly, the team is vulnerable with each other and people trust that the actions of their colleagues are from a good place, a good intent. Team morale is critical in order for the team to move from cooperation to collaboration. Cooperative teams make concessions or attempts in order to reach 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 when we are working with people who are different and thinking differently than we are. Just as I can learn to increase my coachability, how to request, how to use, how to reflect upon feedback, I could learn to increase my effectiveness as a member of a team.” In a YouTube clip, Patrick Lencioni, the author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” and the author of “The Ideal Team Player,” explores three critical traits of an ideal team member. They are humble, they are hungry, and they are smart. Listen in as he describes those three terms.
Patrick: 09:54 Well, the antidote to pride is humility. So it stands to reason that this would be the most important. And most of us know
what humility is, right? It’s not being ego-centered or arrogant or self-centered, but being about others, putting others ahead of ourselves. It’s such an attractive and powerful thing. But there’s another side of humility we have to understand too. It’s in the minority, but it’s still important to understand. See, some people will look at another person and say, she never talks about herself. She never demands that we listen to her. She never thinks she’s has the right answer. She’s really humble. And when somebody lacks confidence, it’s actually not humility. You see, when we have an idea or a talent, to deny our God-given talent is actually a violation of humility, just like it is to exaggerate them. C.S. Lewis said it best. He said, humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking about ourselves less.
Patrick: 10:49 But the most prominent kind of lack of humility we see in teams, in the workforce, and in life is arrogance in ego centeredness. So this is the first and most important attribute. The second one is equally simple, and it is you have to be hungry. You have to be hungry. People who have an innate hunger about getting work done are much more successful on teams and in life. And this is simply just having a strong work ethic. And this is probably the easiest one to understand, but I’ll say this to the young people out there. This is the one that you probably have to to develop earliest in life. When I work with people later in life who never developed an innate sense of hunger, it’s harder. And so I talk to kids in middle school and I say, do it now. Work hard at everything you do.
Patrick: 11:34 This is not about workaholism, though. Workaholics are people who get their entire identity from their work, and that’s not what I’m saying here. People who are hungry just want to go above and beyond, have a high standard for what they do and never do the minimum. They never do just the minimum. Now, the third attribute of an ideal team player is what I call being smart, but it’s not about intellectual smarts. This is about emotional intelligence, common sense around how we understand people and how we use our words and actions to bring out the best possible impact in others. This is so important in the world, and you can develop this in life. Being smart is one of those things that people can work on and get better at. So humble, hungry, smart. These are the three simple virtues.
Steve: 12:22 Lencioni’s elements for effective teams have a strong carryover and connectedness to coachability. Being humble – that’s what allows us to be vulnerable, to be open to coaching and to feedback from our teammates. Willingness to be excited when I discover that I was wrong, connects with humbleness. Perhaps being intellectually humble. Hungry – I think that connects to passion and goals. What do I wanna learn? What do I wanna make happen for my students? That those items will drive my work effort and my production. And being emotionally smart. When I understand that my words and my actions can be used to bring out the best possible impact in others, be those others that I team with or others that I coach. Lencioni identifies that we need all three. We each individually need all three to be effective team members – humble, hungry, and smart. Just as coaching and being coached can build my coachability, reflecting on myself and what I can learn from my teammates can increase my effectiveness as a team member. I often repeat the phrase that teaching is a team sport. Lencioni suggests that teaming skills are life skills. The links to everything that I mentioned here are in the podcast. Lead in consider taking those materials and reflecting both as an individual and perhaps as a team on ways that you can grow. Enjoy the exploration and thanks for listening.
Steve: 14:46 Thank you for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 14:47 You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @SteveBarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.