Today’s Leadership Requirement: Leading Teams That Solve Challenges
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Today’s Leadership Requirement: Leading Teams That Solve Challenges

I was asked to design a proposal for a client that would describe purpose and process for providing coaching to school and system leadership teams. I thought that the resources for describing purpose and some of the processes might be helpful in your support of school leaders.

Margaret Wheatley writes:

“In troubled, uncertain times, we don’t need more command and control; we need better means to engage everyone’s intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.

We do know how to create workplaces that are flexible, smart, and resilient. We have known for more than half a century that engaging people, and relying on self-managed teams, are far more productive than any other form of organizing. In fact, productivity gains in self-managed work environments are at minimum thirty-five percent higher than in traditionally managed organizations. And workers know this to be true when they insist that they can make smarter decisions than those delivered from on high.

With so much evidence supporting the benefits of participation, why isn’t every organization using self-managed teams to cope with turbulence? Instead, organizations increasingly are cluttered with control mechanisms that paralyze employees and leaders alike. Where have all these policies, procedures, protocols, laws, and regulations come from? And why do we keep creating more, even as we suffer from the terrible consequences of over-control?”

In a Fast Company article, 5 changes to expect in the workplace after COVID-19 by Diana Vienne, a senior partner with global change-leadership consultancy, Notion Consulting states, “Rather than waiting for reentry and being reactive, leaders need to prepare, setting expectations for the ways of working that will benefit the organization down the road.”

That is exactly what needs to be today’s focus for educational leaders. In times of great uncertainty, crisis, and opportunity are both present. In uncertainty, there can be a tendency for some to pull back, to isolate. They seek security in “hunkering down.” However, joining with others who are committed and focused around a common goal is what will generate more security and create the opportunities for a stronger, improved future than what was in place as the crisis emerged.

Teams should be built around the “Why” as presented by Simon Sinek, and then empowered to create the “what and how”. Those teams need the right environment to be effective. Sinek suggests, “If you get the environment right, everyone of us has the capability to do remarkable things… when people feel safe and protected the natural reaction is to trust and cooperate.”

Effective teams and leaders work from continuous reflection, feedback, and conscious practice. Michael Fullan states, “The whole world is in an implementation dip right now. Our belief is that coaching conversations are more important now than ever.” As new practices and behaviors are implemented, there is most often a drop in initial effectiveness creating a feeling of discomfort. That discomfort can drive one back to an old more effective and comfortable practice, preventing the opportunity of gaining the payoff from new practice. (Note: As the quarantine time extended, educators were prevented from returning to “past practice” and in many cases continued increasing their effectiveness in virtual teaching, learning, communicating, and leading.)Barkley Coaching Implementation Dip Graph

Below is an outline of a possible process to bring leadership and team coaching to school leadership teams:

  • A facilitated workshop for the leadership team that examines the importance of leading with teams and the components of effective teamwork and supporting teams. This should include members’ assessment of the leadership team’s current functioning and the role that teams play within the school organization. (90-120 minutes – likely two sessions)
  • Individual interviews with members of the leadership team focused on identifying common themes of the team’s current strengths and areas that should be addressed to increase effectiveness. (30-40 min each)
  • Facilitated team feedback and goal-setting session with leadership team to establish initial goals and plans for the leadership team and school implementation (90 min)
  • Monthly facilitated leadership team meetings designed for reflection and conscious practice. At times some of these sessions can include instructional components for skill development requested by the team. (8 meetings, 90 min each)
  • Three one-on-one coaching conference calls with each individual member of the leadership team. (45-60 min)
  • Supporting resources, aligned to focus areas, provided to the team and to individuals throughout the year. Continuous connections with coach through emails and calls should be available.

The pandemic crisis has brought complex problems and unique opportunities to educators and schools, parents, students, and communities around the world. Together, we can create the schools we all desire and deserve.

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One Response to “ Today’s Leadership Requirement: Leading Teams That Solve Challenges ”

  1. Tresa Murphy Says:

    I recently had a conversation about this with a coach I know. Among the consequences of over-control are talented, motivated team members “checking out” from within, investing their energy and ideas elsewhere and possibly even leaving the school. It’s so important for leaders and coaches to have these conversation about setting standards and examples of how to work together, but also trusting and leaving room for autonomy and initiative. Especially now, with so much room and need for innovative practices and problem solving in the field. A relevant and timely post!

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