Teamwork Part II: Establish a clear purpose for teamwork and specify its methods

Teacher isolation is so deeply ingrained in the traditional fabric of schools that leaders cannot simply invite teachers to create a collaborative culture. They must identify and implement specific, strategic interventions that help teachers work together rather than alone. —Richard DuFour (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

[T]eamwork comes down to mastering a set of behaviors that are at once theoretically uncomplicated, but extremely difficult to put into practice day after day.

—Patrick Lencioni

Teamwork is essential in schools that desire to continuously improve teaching and learning. High functioning teams requires that leaders design structures, and processes that support teamwork and promote professional learning that enables its effectiveness. Effective teamwork seldom occurs by chance, and, once teams are in place, success is unlikely to be sustained without conscious attention to its maintenance.

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni describes dysfunctions that are familiar to virtually anyone who has worked with other people in complex organizations, and he offers numerous suggestions about how they can be overcome. Lencioni’s “five dysfunctions” are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. I encourage interested readers to study Five Dysfunctions with their leadership teams and create plans for strengthening teamwork.

The dysfunctions Lencioni lists can be countered, in part, by leaders’ clarity as they initiate and guide the work of teams. Charles Mason, past president of the National Staff Development Council and a former superintendent, describes the type of guidance and support leaders can offer teams in a NSDC blog posting. Mason’s suggestions address the qualities of desired relationships among team members and the importance of collaboration, of clarity of purpose, and of focused, persistent efforts in achieving that purpose. The goal, Mason writes, is “a commitment to shared responsibility and leadership that sets the tone for productive meetings focused on a specific purpose that drives the work everyone is doing.”

Strengthen your leadership practice by . . .

• using Charles Mason’s essay to stimulate the development of your point of view regarding the guidance you will offer teams and the actions you will take to develop them.

1 Response to “Teamwork Part II: Establish a clear purpose for teamwork and specify its methods”

  1. 1 Karen March 19, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Lencioni’s five dysfunctions mirror my experience in working with teams. Absence of trust tops the list! Studying Bryk and Schneider’s research, Trust in Schools, illuminates its importance even more. What appears to be a clearly understood concept is a different matter when teams fail to intentionally focus on the development of trust as they accomplish their work outcomes.

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