Teamwork Counts

Effective board members understand their role as a member of the governance team; the team that includes the board, the superintendent/ chief administrator, the board secretary, and others. Working together as a team means no one person is responsible–everyone is responsible–for the success of the governance team. Effective teams share essential elements:

  • Common Goals: Members of a successful team share and understand common goals. The boards that get the most done are those that know they have a mission to accomplish together. They have discussed and agreed on a common understanding of why the board exists and the function it serves. Moreover, they share a common vision of the future they want for the district. While individuals on the board may not always agree on the best path to get to that future, their shared vision and mission help draw them together and aid decision making.
  • A Game Plan: Good teams are organized and know how they will deal with specific situations. Clear, specific strategies and tools make up a board’s game plan. Your game plan might include specific goals for the year, adequate data and information upon which to base decisions, focused meeting agendas, policies, committee assignments, timelines for board responsibilities and other tools.
  • Clearly Defined Roles: Every team member has an important role to play. Any good team knows the strengths of each member and takes advantage of those strengths. Some people are good at expressing themselves; others are good at organizing and conducting meetings; others might have a keen understanding of a complicated area such as school finance. And yet, the whole board has a shared responsibility in each of these areas. A board that is split into factions and focused on each other’s weaknesses can fall into the trap of needing to win personal victories over important issues. Take some time to identify your board’s strengths and agree on roles, relationships, and responsibilities. Some boards like to put this in writing. They make a list of what the roles of the board will be and agree on how they will operate well together.
  • Regular Board Self-Assessment: Effective teams assess how well they’re doing and analyze what works and what doesn’t for their team. That’s why sports teams often watch post-game videos—to evaluate how they can improve for the next game. How can your board know how well it’s functioning? The board can use a variety of options to review team performance; everything from a quick reflection at the end of a board meeting to a more formal self-assessment process conducted at the end of the year. Your board might use one of NCSBA’s self- assessment tools, and/or work with an NCSBA facilitator on the board self-assessment process.
  • Trust and Confidence: High performing teams have high levels of trust among their members. Here are a few ideas to promote trust and confidence on your board team:
    • Practice honest, open communication. Be tactful and non-threatening when disagreeing. Study how body language and phrasing can inhibit or promote teamwork.
    • Avoid surprising each other, especially during board meetings. Send questions to your superintendent before the meeting so they can be answered during the meeting in front of community members in attendance.
    • Support each other! For example, in conversations, mention the contributions of others and be sure to thank them for their efforts.
    • Find ways to work together on common educational goals. Committee work and discussion groups can build unity on a board.
    • Take advantage of board development activities so your team can learn together and work from a shared understanding.
Ramona PowersTeamwork Counts