Susan was disheartened, distraught, and uncertain on how to move forward. As she drove home, both concern and worry occupied her thoughts and blurred her thinking. Her mind was plagued with how she put the team together and had high hopes for the group. They were smart, talented, and energetic, but the bottom line was that they weren’t gelling like she predicted, and the work products were less than accomplished because of it.
When she arrived home, she walked through her kitchen door, and she greeted her son who was watching basketball on television. And although Susan didn’t have an interest in basketball, the commentator was talking about high functioning teams, and as luck would have it, the commentator said something that struck her with the clarity she didn’t have during her reflection time on the drive home.
Commentator: “It’s like Pat Riley once said, ‘When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort—it is ready to climb…’ and that’s why this team wins and will continue to win.”
Three Ingredients for High Functioning Teams
Susan knows the ingredients needed for a high functioning team, and she knows that there are three areas that make all the difference:
- A Shared Vision
- A Collaborative Spirit
Susan immediately rushed to her table and wrote the Big Three at the top of her notepad. Then she rated her team’s strength in each area—one through four—one being ineffective and four being highly effective. Two meant that improvement was needed and three meant that it was effective but not what she really wanted.
As she wrestled with her team’s ability to work with one another and function at a high level, she started her evaluation process with what was going wrong. Susan rated shared vision as the highest with a three, which she even thought was generous. But the team knew what they needed to accomplish, and they were sharing ideas.
However, the ideas didn’t flow and develop because of teamwork. She knew that vision was far more than just processes and actions, but rather the soul of why the team was working together. Vision should inspire direction. Pat Riley’s words echoed in her head, “instinct with boldness.” Her team was not being instinctive and far from bold, which is why she rated collaboration with a two, thinking maybe it should be a one. Her team was operating within the status quo or what she liked to call the safety zone.
Although this was a high-powered assembly of individuals, they weren’t acting as one. Susan was confident in their methodology—design thinking. However, as she reflected on the latest team meeting and what it lacked, she knew the team needed inspiration, fueled by their purpose. They weren’t meeting just to review data, or simply to improve test scores, or even to get a good rating for accountability.
Although those things are all aspects of their professional world; their real purpose was to uncover every possible strategy to help students succeed. The teachers she assembled were dynamos, very good at unlocking ways for students to achieve, and she needed to unleash their creative thinking. This also made Susan’s next step critical.
She had one week until their next meeting, and she committed to creating a high functioning, purposeful, energized, and synergistic team. She knew that leadership wasn’t a title, it was a call to action! Her mentor’s familiar saying filled her thoughts: “great leaders lift their teams, average leaders pull their teams, and weak leaders push their teams.”
It was time for Susan to give her team a lift. The vision was there, but they needed to work together to create a plan that would be better than something that they each could have come up with on their own. Something was missing and only Susan could make things better as the leader of the team.
Let us know what you think Susan’s next steps should be with her team. Leave a comment.
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Joe & T.J.