1703 North Beauregard St.
Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
Tel: 1-800-933-ASCD (2723)
8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday
Local to the D.C. area: 1-703-578-9600
Toll-free from U.S. and Canada: 1-800-933-ASCD (2723)
All other countries: (International Access Code) + 1-703-578-9600
Tools for a New School Year
September 25, 2014 | Volume 10 | Issue 2
Table of Contents
Is Your Team Tanking?
A positive and supportive climate is a crucial component for any successful school. Even as a new principal, I knew I needed to immediately address interpersonal problems that arose between staff. I instinctively tried to increase morale through climate-boosting strategies, such as having teams leave encouraging notes for one another, giving positive recognition in our weekly newsletter, and using a range of team-building activities during staff meetings. Nothing seemed to work and I was at a loss about what to do next. Where were staff frustrations coming from?
It was after a successful team management training session that I realized why my previous attempts to raise morale had fallen flat. I was working under the assumption that, within the teams working in our school, everyone understood their goals, roles, team norms, and processes. Subsequent research on the GRPI framework (a model for team building that focuses on goals, roles, processes, and interpersonal relationships) painted an illustrative portrait of team failure: poor interpersonal relationships only account for 1 percent of team frustration and inefficiency. In other words, by trying to raise morale and pump up my staff, I was only addressing the tip of the iceberg. Eighty percent of team complications arise from unclear goals or a lack of commitment to goals; 16 percent of complications arise because of unclear team roles. Poor processes and norms account for the remaining 3 percent (Herrera, 2014). My titanic list of team-building strategies was no match for what was going on beneath the surface.
My staff's unclear goals led to unclear roles, our unclear roles led to unclear processes, and the combination led to poor interpersonal relationships. After facilitating team meetings to create a team charters that clearly articulated the goals, roles, processes, and interpersonal relationships that my staff could commit to, each team's frustration and inefficiency levels decreased substantially. We used the GRPI framework as our guide for implementing successful and efficient teamwork strategies. Now, our teams each write a charter for their work that focuses on aligning goals, roles, processes, and interpersonal relationships for team success. Consider these steps and questions as your teams write their own charters:
1. Establish Goals: Establish clear team goals that the whole group supports. Consider using the SMART goal process, which recommends establishing goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. This process can help team members embrace the goals, visualize success, remove mental blocks, and link to personal goals.
2. Clarify Roles: Create clear roles for each individual team member. Make sure that all members can answer the following questions for themselves and other members:
To help team members embrace their roles, have them consider these questions:
3. Define Processes: Establish processes for how the team will make decisions, problem solve, and share information.
4. Maximize Interpersonal Relationships: Team members should understand and agree on team norms that address punctuality, courtesy, work style, formality, and so on.
As we embrace a new school year, I encourage you to ensure that each team in your school develops, commits to, and posts a team charter that addresses the GRPI framework. It is a powerful tool that can help your school avoid the goal and role confusion—the real bulk of the iceberg—that can sink so many teams.
Herrera, R. (2014, January). Successful team management. From Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Symposium. Lecture conducted in Dallas, Texas.
Mark Estrada is the principal at Lockhart Junior High School in the Lockhart Independent School District in Texas and a 2014 ASCD emerging leader.
ASCD Express, Vol. 10, No. 2. Copyright 2014 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
Subscribe to ASCD Express, our free e-mail newsletter, to have practical, actionable strategies and information delivered to your e-mail inbox twice a month.
ASCD respects intellectual property rights and adheres to the laws governing them. Learn more about our permissions policy and submit your request online.