Team Building Turns Ugly For School Board

Did you see this article?

If not, here is the gist:

TAMPA – A Hillsborough School Board training session erupted in accusations, scoldings and door slamming Tuesday as the group met to create a vision for the district.

Packed into a tiny conference room at Orange Grove Middle Magnet School, the board and superintendent met with a facilitator from the Florida School Boards Association to keep them focused.

The meeting had barely started with a discussion of “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” when the veneer cracked.

April Griffin, the newest board member elected in November, said she lacked trust – one of the five dysfunctions – and called board meetings “an orchestrated play” rather than an honest discussion.

She recalled the board’s negative reaction a week earlier at a televised board meeting when she questioned the process of appointing an administrator, not usually done in public.

The group devolved into finger pointing and blaming and ended with April leaving the meeting and vowing not to return to another voluntary ‘team building’ session.

While an amusing story we can all relate to, this is a great example of ‘team building’ wrong from the beginning.

First of all, are these people really a team? Do they share the same goal, or do they each have their own goal?

After all, a team is a group of individuals with a common goal. My guess is that each individual of that school board has their own agenda they were more attached to than the ‘team’ goal.

Certainly Pat Lencioni’s book, ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a team’, is a decent place to start. However, the error of the facilitator is that she used the wrong context. It is too personal. The group immediately showed a lack of trust amongst each other and began discussing the lack of trust in the context of their work on the school board.

This is where the use of ‘team building’ activities is important.

I can talk about my lack of trust in the context of a silly game and that I screwed it up for the group. But I cannot make the same admission of error with regard to my work! I have too much ego and pride involved.

Through the use of activities, the group can talk about what went wrong in the game, how they could improve the group process and then translate that learning back to their work on the school board.

Because activities and the facilitation of the discussion after the activity focuses on the process the group went through:

  • Did they communicate well?
  • Was there a lack of trust?
  • Did the group plan?
  • How well did leadership work?

All during the process. Then the process is translated back to work by the group, not the facilitator.

This leads us to the secondary issue — was this a training session or a facilitation? Training and facilitation are very different and require different skills. Training is learning a skill and facilitation is a group process though discussion. Perhaps it was the journalist who made the error.

But this second error is very common in our profession. Trainers are NOT facilitators. A good trainer may also be a good facilitator, but typically not. Educators and trainers are used to teaching — helping individuals learn something new. And they are focused on the learning outcome. This is very necessary in an educational setting, but not in a facilitation setting.

Facilitation is about the group and the group process. The group may learn something completely different than what the facilitator had planned. But that is the power of facilitation. The group will learn what is most important to them, NOT what the facilitator wants them to learn.

When you combine activities with professional facilitation, the outcomes are much more likely to produce positive results.

Beginning a small group discussion and immediately moving into personal issues is sure to bring out offense and defense in each one of us.

Enter your keyword