Five Guidelines for a Collaborating Community

Morten Hansen’s article, “Five Collaboration Mistakes Leaders Should Avoid,” provides an insightful list of leadership errors with the corresponding repair. I commend this valuable article to your reading, and look forward to his future contributions.
A brief reconsideration presents these mistakes as guidelines for a collaborating community. Since I write specifically for Merlyn’s heirs in the profession of Learning (Teaching), I will adjust these guidelines for our use.
1. Establish common language throughout your team, especially when the language is new.
Communication is difficult enough without common vocabulary. Develop definitions within your school’s vocabulary, especially relating to mission and common practice.
2. Understand your role as delegator and collaborator.
(Roles are different than jobs. Being a teacher is a job. Being an encourager is a role, as is delegator or collaborator.)
Effective school leaders know the role they assign themselves and learns when changing roles becomes necessary for the team’s success.
Effective leaders know the discomfort inherent in restricting their role. Others may execute tasks differently, yet an effective leader remains silent as long as the work is effective and no ethics are breached.
When changing the role becomes necessary – as President Obama discovered during the health care process – the leader clearly communicates with the team about the changing role and why that change was necessary.
3. Provide permanent seats at the table for those who disagree.
Because an administrator’s whisper may be a roar to a teacher, a potential trap of the leader’s role may be a false sense of infallibility.
Do not mistake disagreement with lack of support or disloyalty. Those brave enough to disagree provide insight and a broader perspective than your own. 
Leaving those voices unheard turns disagreement into resentment, which raises stress levels in a community and leaves those on the “outside” looking elsewhere for refuge or relief.
4. Recognize the difference between an incomplete decision-making process and an impasse requiring a compromise.
Tough decisions may divide a community. Hard compromises to resolve tough decisions should be difficult – but possible – to accept.
If an issue polarizes a community, and a hard compromise leaves everyone in the community at similar levels of discomfort (albeit for different reasons). The near-universal discomfort provides important evidence of a well-built compromise.
5. Create a compelling common goal. 
En route to the New World, John Winthrop wrote a statement of community for his new colony, creating the comparison to their settlement as “a city on a hill.” Remind yourself – and each other – of what your community is becoming, and work together to bring that vision into reality.

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