3 Reasons Why School Leadership Teams Fail

All leaders play a central role in developing strategies for bringing out the best in others. How they lead and manage has a direct impact on whether the climate they create is one in which all individuals are able to flourish.
As a Headteacher, you will know the benefits of having a strong SLT. When you have a strong SLT, magic just seems to happen. Things get done, problems are surmounted, because collaboration, mutual respect, openness and understanding means individuals work to the best of their abilities to achieve the best possible outcomes for everyone.
However, sadly there are occasionally things that get in the way of teams performing at their best. Three of the most common relate to the lack of clarity individuals have about;
1. The SLT Vision and purpose
2. Their Role
3. How to maintain successful working relationships

1. Lack of Clarity about the SLT Vision and Purpose

To achieve success, an SLT needs to know its role and purpose in achieving the school’s overall vision.  All SLT members need to have laser-like clarity about the function of the SLT and the role they play as individuals and as a team in steering the ship towards its end goal.
All members need to have a shared understanding of the teams:
– Values – what the SLT stands for and what behaviours will keep them in alignment with their values
– Direction – where it’s going
– Purpose – why it’s going there
– Approach – how this purpose can and should be reached
SLT’s are more likely to be successful in their endeavours when they become clear about what success looks like in all of the above areas. Clear success criteria then become the measures against which the SLT holds itself to account.
As a result, individuals find that rather than pulling in different directions, they are all moving together as one towards the school’s goals. In addition, successful SLT’s create opportunities to regularly regroup to discuss the continuing validity of their vision. If goals or the direction need to be adjusted, the corrections are made together so that everyone is on board. They ask themselves the important, deeper questions around the school’s vision and purpose, such as:
– Where do we want to get to?
– How far have we come?
– Why are we here?
– Where is the next step on our journey?
Such processes help the best SLTs to live and breathe the school vision and act as champions of it – in the school and beyond. Their shared sense of purpose ensures that the right decisions are made for the right reasons. The vision is important to all of them. They see how it is aligned with their own moral purpose, their values, their sense of vocation and hopes for the pupils and themselves

2. Poor Clarity in Roles

It is important to clearly define the role of each leadership team member and to lay out the expectations for each role, along with the responsibilities for each task or project. When roles are unclear, it leaves people struggling to decide where to go and what to do next.
Likewise, without clearly defined roles, a team member may take on a task that may not suit their expertise or is not a priority or is a task that another team member has already taken on. When time and energy are misused in this way, it can set back, even the best of teams!
To ensure that this isn’t the case, productive SLT’s have clear role definitions and regular discussions regarding who’s responsible for what and making sure there are no big overlaps or gaps between each person on the team.
It can also help to have a clear organisational structure relating to roles and projects to help clarify the areas which individuals are responsible for – so that tasks can easily be allocated accordingly.
This is also helpful for teachers and staff as they are then better able to understand who to approach when there are questions or decisions that need to be made around a particular issue or area.

3. How to maintain successful relationships

Trust is the building block for all positive, thriving relationships: personal, social and professional. It is essential to a SLT’s success that members can trust the character of those in their team, that they can feel safe with each other, comfortable to open up and take appropriate risks.
It is also important that SLT members are able to trust in the skills and capabilities of their fellow team members. Particularly in the delicate balance of relationships between members in an SLT, where each individual is dependent on the other members of the team to achieve desired outcomes. It is crucial that everyone feels confident that their colleagues will be able to do what is asked of them.
If team members mistrust each other’s capabilities or character – there can be all sorts of negative consequences. It can cause individuals to be reluctant or unwilling to collaborate, delegate, share information and innovate. As team members spend their time protecting themselves and their interests. Ultimately, this will almost inevitably prove detrimental to the success of any SLT.
In my experience, one of the biggest causes of a lack of trust arises from unfamiliarity and the absence of connection. When we don’t know others well, their character, their strengths or their capabilities – we can be naturally unwilling to place our trust in them. Equally, if we have little or no bond with that individual, we may be equally reluctant to collaborate with them.
So, if you want to build trust within your team, then lead by example, and show your colleagues that you trust them and that you can be trusted. Never forget that your team members are always watching and taking cues from you – take the opportunity to show them what trust really looks like.
For example, you can…
– Create scenarios and encourage conversations which develop and nurture trust and connection between your team members.
– Organise socials, team building days or facilitated group discussions that encourage individuals to build a deeper understanding and stronger bond with each other.
– Facilitate team discussions that help team members to see and appreciate the strengths of one another and identify ways to make the most of these when working together.
– Try to ensure that every mistake is treated as a learning opportunity – rather than an opportunity to blame and shame. If appropriate, be open with your vulnerabilities and admit mistakes when you make them.
By committing to action in one or all of the above, you can help create a safe environment between your team members that will enable them to keep their promises, be consistent in the implementation of policies and decisions and be clear, honest and open in their communications. All because you have been clear about what trust looks like and what it takes to foster it in others.

How can I build a Successful School Leadership Team?

Every senior leadership team ( SLT’s) has the desire to be able to work effectively for the benefit of every staff member and child in their school.
However, as many an SLT team member will testify, working together for the success of everyone is not always a goal that is easily achieved.
That’s why we offer Coaching for School Leadership Teams designed to support you as you build a resilient, collaborative and solution-focused SLT in your school by helping your team to…
– Establish a process for holding meetings in which all team members feel safe, valued, listened to and understood
– Know how to self-manage and have open, constructive and supportive dialogue with one another
– Understand why conflicts arise and how to positively address for the benefit of all
– Achieve coherence around strategy, implementation of policy and systems that support full commitment and accountability from all team members
If you’d like to find out more about our coaching for SLTs and learn how it could support your school, simply follow the link below…

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