What factors are important in recruiting individuals for high performing leadership teams?
The purpose of this discussion is to discuss and apply concepts from the assigned readings in Module 1: Week 1. Reflect upon this reading as well as additional current research on creating high-performance teams. Write a descriiption of this process to include information on the recruitment, selection and training of team members. Integrate scholarly sources, to include and expand upon the course materials. Include a reference list in current APA format.
While it may be a truism that what directly affects student outcomes is classroom practice, there is a growing body of research which shows that leadership in schools has an indirect, yet powerful effect on those outcomes (Hallinger and Heck 1998; Hallinger and Heck 1999; Leithwood and Jantzi 2000; Wallace 2002; Witziers, Bosker and Krüger 2003; Harris 2004; Robinson, Lloyd and Rowe 2008).
There is a rich literature about leadership teams, within education and in other fields, some of which is cited below (For literature reviews of leadership teams, see: Michan and Rodger 2000; Srivastava, Bartol and Locke 2006). Any examination of teams and their working must begin with a definition – what is a team? This section will examine the nature of teams, and the elements which support successful teams.
Katzenbach and Smith (1993: 111) provide a useful definition,
The essence of a team is shared commitment. Without it, groups perform as individuals; with it, they become a powerful unit of collective performance. The best teams invest a tremendous amount of time shaping a purpose that they can own. The best teams also translate their purpose into specific performance goals. And members of successful teams pitch in and become accountable with and to their teammates. The fundamental distinction between teams and other forms of working groups turns on performance. A working group relies on the individual contributions of its members for group performance. But a team strives for something greater than its members could achieve individually. In short, an effective team is always worth more than the sum of its parts.
This sums up what it is that separates teams from groups of people, and what it is about teams that makes them so valuable to schools: a team is more than the sum of its parts; a team can accomplish more, precisely as a team, than can the individual members on their own. This is borne out in research carried out by Leithwood and Mascall, which found that the effect of leadership in the schools studied explained a much higher proportion of variation in student achievement than is usually recorded for the effects of the leadership of individual head teachers (Leithwood and Mascall 2008; cited in Leithwood et al., 2010). Day et al. (2009) found that the quality of leadership at school level accounted for more direct success in meeting challenges than did policy innovations. This was the case due to the values, aspirations, qualities and decision making capabilities of leaders.
The teams being investigated in this project were leadership teams; within all of them, leadership was distributed among the members in various ways. The value of distributed leadership is well rehearsed in the literature, (Harris, 2002a, 2004, 2008; Pont et al., 2008; National College, 2009), although, as Spillane et al. (2004) point out, there is still little knowledge of the processes at work in leadership, and that an understanding of how groups go about leadership is essential. There is no one, agreed, definition of distributed leadership (Mayrowetz, 2008); it may be that the term is a new way of describing an older phenomenon, leadership which is shared, or collegial (Harris and Spillane, 2008). However, in a review of the literature surrounding distributed leadership, Bennett et al. (2003) summarized three elements which are to be found in the concept of distributed leadership: firstly, that it is an inherent property of a group of individuals acting together, producing more than they might just by concerted, individual action; second, that those involved have an open concept to the boundaries of leadership; and third, that expertise is widely shared among the group. An indepth discussion of distributed leadership is outside the remit of this article; for our purposes, we will adopt the definition that distributed leadership is about leadership practice, about interactions among individuals within an organization (Spillane, 2004; Harris and Spillane, 2008). This entails a view that ‘de-centres’ the central actor, and calls on researchers to take a wider view of leadership (Mayrowetz, 2008: 426); it focuses attention not on the leaders themselves, but rather on what they do, (and how it is done) (Spillane et al., 2004).
If the distribution of leadership is to be effective, the working relationships between team members, which are based on the ethos of the team, must be based on a shared foundation. Jackson and Madsen (2005) comment on the ‘unique social dimension’ of leadership which enhances the economic and administrative aspects of work. Wing (2005) also highlights the value of ‘shared philosophies’ among team members, while Mulford and Silins (2011) point out that leadership (specifically as vested in the head teacher or principal) is an ‘interactive, reciprocal and evolving process’, which involves many people, and is reciprocally influenced by the context in which it occurs.
Shared values among school team members are not a given, except at the most basic level; one can assume a general valuing of education, for example. Schools are highly complex places, which require leadership teams to function from the base of a sophisticated and shared value system; this value system may arise out of conflict (a subject to which we will return). Gu et al. (2008) demonstrate that such shared values have a positive effect on pupil attainment, that is, they help the school team to accomplish its goal of supporting students. Day et al. (2009: 194) found that while policy is important, what sustained positive change in schools was ‘the vision, values, qualities … indeed the moral purpose of individual leaders’; this was found to be the case, as well, in a study of schools facing challenging circumstances (Harris, 2002b). Cawelti (2000) found the same sharing of values among team members in turnaround schools in the USA, while Jenewien and Morhart (2008) report a similar finding for successful America’s Cup teams. In research on six secondary schools, Wallace (2002: 307) remarked that ‘integrity looms large as a necessary quality of successful management teams in schools’. Mulford and Silins (2011) found that success for head teachers was underpinned by the beliefs and values they held. Team members also need to be aware of what the others are doing, and will do (Cranston and Ehrich 2005; Wageman et al., 2008), highlighting the need for agreed structures within the team.
Shared values do not arise out of nothing, and Wallace (2002) emphasises the importance of interpersonal relationships within teams, including shared purpose and core values. Earley and Weindling (2004) add that the ability to trust and support each other is important and SLT members should have the opportunity to speak their minds, and to express contrary views, but still work well as a team.
The literature supports the idea that this shared team ethos and working rests on a foundation of shared training (Katzenbach and Smith 1993; Thomas and Collier 2002). Training tends to have a positive effect on performance, both directly (in the form of new skills) and indirectly in the form of outcomes such as empowerment, communication, and planning (Dvir et al., 2002; Thomas and Collier, 2002; Arthur et al., 2003; Aguinis and Kraiger, 2009). This training would support not only skills, but the development of the group ethos mentioned above. The ethos of the individual team members, supported by this training, combine to form the shared ethos of the team, which in turn supports the team’s success.
Finally, the concept of effective leadership is not without its own issues. There is no one way of being an effective leader; however, research has identified common elements of effective leadership, including sensitivity to local and national requirements, appropriately distributed leadership, and trustworthiness (Day et al., 2009). Measuring effective leadership is a difficult task, and depends on the paradigm within which that effectiveness is measured (Wallace, 2002), and what is being measured (Gorard, 2010). Raw student outcomes may be useful measures, but these are of course affected by the population from which the students arrive at the school; contextual information (such as contextual added value scores) can give a more nuanced picture, but, as Gorard (2010) argues, these are still open to error. No one, single measure can be said to lead to a true descriiption of effectiveness; for the purposes of the study reported here, the Ofsted grading of ‘Outstanding’ has been used to define the population from which the sample will be taken. Ofsted grades schools on a wide ranging assortment of standards, such as the educational standards achieved by students, the quality of leadership and management, the development of pupils in non-academic areas and the contribution the school makes to the wellbeing of students and the communities in which they live (Ofsted, 2009). No judgements were made by the research team in relation to this status of ‘outstanding’.
Taken together, the literature provides a picture of teams in which leadership is distributed to members who are able to rely on each other through a shared ethos, who are aware of the work done by others, who have grown into this form of team through training and who are led by someone who provides the links between them and holds the team together.
This article is based on research about establishing and developing high performing leadership teams, undertaken for the National College. The project related to high performing leadership teams in English primary, secondary and special schools. The research addressed the factors associated with high performance (defined through the Ofsted award of ‘outstanding’ in relation to leadership and management) in leadership teams. The literature review for the project was completed in the Autumn term, 2009, while all the field work was undertaken in the Spring term, 2010.
The research is underpinned by six research questions:
What factors are important in recruiting individuals for high performing leadership teams?
What factors facilitate the establishment and development of high performing leadership teams?
What factors are important in maintaining a high level of effectiveness in the performance of senior leadership teams?
What are the characteristics, strategies, and approaches which are critical to the effective leadership of high performing teams? What are the potential pitfalls to be avoided?
What are the implications of these characteristics, and so on for new head teachers?
What are the implications of these characteristics, and so on for professional development for teams?
This article will concentrate primarily on the bedrock of creating high performing leadership teams, and will therefore deal thematically with the answers to questions 1 and 2; further publications will deal with the other questions. Four themes will be explored: the creation of an ethos for the team, the need for clarity, the need for flexibility, and the value of continuity.
This project comprises two interlinked phases. The first was a comprehensive literature review, the main findings of which are interspersed here as required. The second phase, on which this article primarily rests, was qualitative, and involved a small research team working with a sample of nine schools. The research takes place within the framework of grounded theory, which seeks to find theory from examination of the real life experiences of respondents; originally a rejection of the ‘extreme positivism’ of much social science research, grounded theory was proposed by Glaser and Strauss in the late 1960s (Suddaby 2006: 633). Grounded theory is concerned with interpretation; theory arises from, and is situated within, the data collected, in a continual interplay between them (Urquhart et al., 2010; Raduescu and Vessey, 2011).
This framework is particularly suited to complex issues, such as those which occur between members of teams. This framework necessitates the use of qualitative tools of data analysis, and also of theoretical sampling (Glaser, 1999; Holloway and Todres, 2003; Lingard et al., 2008).
The sample schools were selected in conjunction with the National College. The population for the research was deemed to be all schools who had received overall Ofsted judgements of ‘outstanding’ in the academic year 2008/9, working from the basis that staff within such schools would demonstrate, and be able to articulate, the elements which contributed to their success. From that population, a large sample was selected, of all those schools who had received outstanding judgements for leadership and management. From this, the research team, in conjunction with the National College, chose a smaller sample of nine schools: two special schools, three primary schools and four secondary schools, to cover all phases of compulsory schooling. Schools were chosen to provide a wide range of contexts in terms of socio-economic status (SES) of the school community, types of school and, to some extent, geographic distribution. The team also sought to avoid schools which had already been highly researched. The case study schools will be identified by letters throughout. Research with each school was conducted as a separate case study.
Case Study Schools
School R is a special school for students with complex needs and moderate learning difficulties, with 136 students from 11 to 19 years of age; the school has both a senior leadership team and a senior management team. The leadership team consists of six members who operate on a strategic level, while the management team has only four members and has an operational focus. School G is a federation of two schools, for pupils with severe learning difficulties; there are 100 pupils. The school has an executive head and two heads of school; its leadership team is composed of longstanding members, who have been with the federation through a period of change. The leadership team considered here is that of the federation, overall.
The primary schools are School L, which is in a soft federation with another primary school, and has 236 pupils. The head of School L is also the executive head of the federation; the school has both a senior leadership team and a senior management team; the teams considered here are those of School L, not the federation overall. As with School R, the management team consists of four staff and has an operational remit, while the leadership team of three has a strategic outlook. School M is a small Church of England infant school, with 72 pupils. The school’s leadership team does not have regular meetings; it meets on average once a month. School N is a large primary school with 389 pupils; again, the leadership team does not meet regularly; it meets ‘as and when necessary’ (head, School N).
Hi, I’m Jeff Kline, Executive Director of the McNulty leadership program at Wharton. I’m here today to talk with Mario Musa, author of committed teams. Three steps to Inspiring Passion and performance. Welcome to knowledge at Wharton. Mario, great to be here. So Mario, I’ve known you for some time and your interests range from influence to negotiation to organizational performance. This is a book about teams, specifically committed teams. What led you to write this book now? Um, well, for the past three years, my coauthors and I had been involved with EDP, the executive development program. And as you know, three times a year, EDP brings in executives from around the world, about 60 executives. And they come here. They take, they take courses, they take sessions about leadership and finance and marketing and so on. And then there’s a very intense immersive simulation. And then the third part of the program is teamwork. They form into teams and they compete with each other for two weeks within the simulation, within the simulation. And the environment is very realistic, so tensions run high. There’s euphoria, lots of competition, lots of collaboration, the ups and downs. Ups and that team, yeah, right, exactly. So EDP really is a a living laboratory in which we’ve had the opportunity to observe, as we’d like to say, a 100 teams forming and competing with each other over a 100 simulated years. So we like to think of this living laboratory as an opportunity to do a lot of field work. So over that time, we’ve gathered lots and lots of data. And all that data now is captured in our book in a framework. We call the three by three. If I’m not mistaken, Mario, your two co-authors, Derek Newberry and Madeline Boyer both come at this work from anthro anthropological training. Yeah. Yeah, so it must have been heaven for them to watch a 100 teams forming an evolving over time. You got it? Yeah, that’s exactly it. So Derek Maddie retrained as anthropologists, cultural anthropologists, or business anthropologists really. And then we work with a number of other observers. We call this whole team the HPT high performing team team about observers. And most of them are train social scientists and most of them are anthropologists. So what they excel in is observing. We love to quote the great philosopher Yogi Berra. You can observe a lot just by watching. So most of the time we’re not watching because we’re distracted. So we’ve really focused in on the experience that these teams have had, as I said, forming and competing and we’ve learned a lot from that. So you mentioned to the 3 by 3 framework which has come out of these observations. Can you start to describe that for us a little bit? Sure. What we found is high-performing teams. Basically, when they’re getting started on a task, focus on three things, goals, roles, and norms. So that’s the first part of the, the three by three. If you look at the Team’s literature, you’ll find versions of those basic foundations again and again and again. So I wouldn’t say that is all new, that we’ve streamline the framework a little bit in that respect. But we also find that you need to, teams need to continually revisit those foundations in the three steps that we mentioned in the title. So step one is to commit to shared goals, roles, and norms. And what I hear, and that is there’s something about being explicit, about what those goals, roles, and norms absolutely. Yeah, explicit and having a really good conversation about those three things. And maybe we could come back to how to have a really good conversation. And then given that there are all kinds of pushes and pulls in a typical workday. So you may be May 1 be on multiple teams. You may be working on multiple projects. You have commitments out outside of work, or you’re describing my life right now? Exactly. So you’re distracted and you’re going in many different directions. And over time, naturally, almost inevitably there’s drift on teams around those goals, roles, and norms. So you need to revisit them. So we, we found that high performing teams check in from time to time. What does that look like? It’s going back to those original commitments. Like, what do we want to do? How do we want to work together? How are we going to share information and make decisions, so on and so forth? Are we still committed to those things that we initially talked about? If not, how are we going to close the gap between what we say we want to do and what we’re actually doing. Which leads to the third step, which we call clothes. And the key activity there is closing the gap, closing the same doing gap as we like to put it. And what we found is that the most effective way to close that gap is in small steps. Small steps targeted at really specific changes with attention paid to the environment in which the team is working and, and attempts made to create an environment that supports taking those small steps. And then being realistic about what you can do and what you can’t do. We’d like to say realistic optimists do better than pure optimists. Because realistic optimists think ahead about what can get in the way of doing what they want to do. So the three-by-three in some is initial conversation about goals, roles, and norms, and then checking in from time to time. And then working to close the gap between what you’re actually doing, what you say you want to do, and then doing that again and again and again. And that’s an iterative process. And they, and the key to doing that well is having a really good conversation or really paying attention to what’s happening on the team. And it turns out that it’s really hard to pay pay attention. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as I think about it, the teams that I’m a part of now, the teams that I’ve been a part of kinda flashed through my mind and I’m aware that in some of those teams, those conversations felt like they were easier, they were expected in other teams, they were much harder, right? What suggestions do you have for, for leaders of teams, for teammates who want to make sure that they’re able to have these kinds of check in Congress, right? Yes. Yeah. So three things that that I would offer His guidelines. One is pay attention to style. So we all have different styles of different kinds. Some of us are extroverted, some introverted, some of us love conflict, some of us don’t, and so on. So going for kind of style and you pull it off right there. So have a conversation about styles. To have one on ones. You know, the best way to build relationships are a very helpful way to build relationships is through one-on-one dialogue. Not that you don’t want to have group dialogue as well, but if you just have group dialogue, sometimes the group dynamics becomes so complex. Yeah, it’s just hard to manage. So you’re building trust more on a one-on-one, but yes. And then I would say focus on a few things versus a lot of things, right? And teams typically get overwhelmed or often get overwhelmed because they’re just trying to do too much or their goals are too big. So keep it simple, keep it, keep it manageable. That helps than that. If you do all those things, you tend to have a better conversation than if you’re not paying attention to how you talk to each other and you’re not simplifying the things that you talk about. As you as you and your colleagues observed teams within the executive development program, did any any ratio or relationship between kind of working time and check in time emerge. Is there do you have guidelines for team leader yes. About how to think about yeah. Yeah. Really good question. So I want to give the answer, the classic consultant answer. It depends. So it really does depend. Some teams have a huge appetite for process and talking and have a huge need for that. So they’ll probably take more time with check-ins. Some have more of a get it done sort of attitude and maybe are a little bit impatient and they are going to take less time for the, for the check-ins. But the really important point is to have check-ins and then use your judgment as to what’s most helpful. You know, how much time you want to spend on the track. Now, Murray, I’d imagine over a 100 teams that you and your colleagues have observed. I’d imagine that you witnessed some common errors, are common mistakes that teammates, teams can fall into. Do you want to maybe outline a few of those? Yeah. Sure. A few. Yeah. And yeah, we’ve we’ve identified a few and we talk about them in the book. But one would be relying too much on one person. We call that the great person theory. So there may be one person who has a really strong vision or as a dominant personality or for one reason or another, sends the message, they could do it all. It’s. It’s almost always a big mistake to focus too much on one person. Another mistake that teams commonly make is focusing too much on simply a plan and not thinking about how to execute the plan and organizing people around that, around that plan on that I imagined ties right back into the discussion around role. Absolutely. Yeah. In fact, you anticipated something that the next thing that I wanted to say, which is that another mistake that teams make is not paying enough attention to roles. So let’s say they have a good discussion about their goals. They’re all behind their, their goals and they say, let’s go off and do it. If they don’t have a conversation about who’s gonna do what. In other words, roles, then usually they just don’t maximize their efforts. So roles not paying enough attention to execution, focusing too much on one person. Those are some common errors that we see it in the book. You describe a trend that we see in the workplace, that we see certainly in universities as well. And that is this reliance on teams to get things done. We are all members of multiple teams now. So what’s the kind of work that’s really well-suited to a team. And is there a kind of work that maybe AT teams not best suited? Yeah. Yeah. Great question. And I think that’s a really important question. I think probably it’s not asked enough these days. So there’s lots of evidence that generally speaking, groups don’t maximize their potential because they, because they don’t organize well. And often groups take on tasks that should be done by individuals. For example, tests that require specialized expertise or highly creative task. Let’s say writing, writing a poem or a symphony. But in a work setting it might be writing a report. So those sorts of tests probably should be done by an individual. And then also when time is really short, you may want to have one person just do a task because individuals tend to be more efficient than groups. On the other hand, when you’re working on a problem that requires multiple perspectives, multiple sources of expertise. That’s probably when you want to work with a team and apply the basic steps that we’ve been talking about. There’s such pressure within organizations today to achieve. Yet at the same time, we know that teams need to be building capacity for the future. What did you find and what advice do you have about how to manage that tension? Yeah. No one to go fast and no one to go slow. Okay. Dann kann, Dann Canada and published a great book a few years ago called Thinking Fast and Slow. And we’d like to say there’s a lot of wisdom in that. So when you need to go fast, maybe don’t pay so much attention to team process. But when, when team process is really important, when you need to pull in multiple perspectives, for example, That’s when you want to slow down and be deliberate about how the team forms and how the team has its conversations. And I want to take us as we start to wrap up our time here, back to the beginning of the conversation where you were talking about this process of committing and checking in. Within the book, you talk about the concept of psychological safety for team members. Why is that? What is that? First of all, and then why is it important to to this three-by-three for sure? Yeah. Most of the time, people do not speak their minds. We know that from lots and lots of research so well over half the time people are not sharing what they’re thinking and feeling, even on camera. Maybe, maybe not. So the more information you have, the better your decisions are going to be, the better your collaboration is going to be. So creating an environment where people feel that they’re able to share their thoughts. In other words, where they feel safe. In other words, where their psychological safety turns out to be really important. And if I were going to focus on one thing, I think it would be that creating an environment of psychological safety. And how do you do that? That goes back to some of the things we were talking about earlier. Building trust, having good one-on-one relation, conversations, listening, and showing empathy, showing that you care. So this apparently soft factor of psychological safety plays a big role in delivering results. I’d like to say that the soft stuff is the hard stuff. Absolutely. Now, you, in my final question, I want to ask you to do a little bit of reflection if I can. Sure. You wrote about teams in a team. And and so how did your partnership with Derek and Madeline how did that evolve? How did you use the check-in process? Cer time? Yeah. Well, being on a team is like being in a committed relationship. You can’t just phone it in and never works. So we were clear about what we wanted to do. We wanted to write a book that was helpful to leaders making decisions in a, in a, in a team environment. We were clear. We wanted to speak to a wide audience. We liked how each other wrote. We have compatible styles. And when things weren’t working out, we talked about it. It’s always nice when we get to live are absolutely, Absolutely. Well, Mario, thank you so much for being here today with knowledge at work. Thank you. It was a lot of fun.