Recently, a university president came to us with a problem.  He said, “I want to charter a senior leadership team to focus solely on our plan for improving admissions and retention.   We have 22 initiatives that are all important and they are interrelated.  I need for these leaders get out of their silos and really work together as a team. How can I make sure that happens?”

The president was looking for a set of guiding principles that would keep his team on track. The eight principles below became part of the team charter. Together they describe behaviors that can help any team work better together and avoid the pitfalls that can derail important work.

Guiding Principles for Leadership Team Effectiveness:

  1. We need to own the work of the team, individually and collectively.  We are accountable and responsible for its results
  2. None of us can do it alone. The tactics are interrelated and their attainment is critical for achieving our enrollment stabilization and growth outcomes.
  3. This is our real work. Implementation of tactics is not an overload or add-on to current duties and responsibilities but core initiatives that require reallocation of time, energy, resources and attention for their full implementation and attainment.
  4. What is measured, recognized and rewarded is what will get done.  We are responsible for making sure the right things are measured and rewarded.
  5. The qualitative index of our productivity is the positive difference we make in the lives of individual students
  6. The quantitative index of productivity is the increased number of full-time enrollees and graduates based on the goals we have set.
  7. Our team’s culture requires each of us to be forthright, candid, open but also considerate in our deliberations; but politeness cannot be a substitute for honest expression of ideas and assessment.
  8. We win or lose as a team. Asking for help and offering help are valued behaviors and should not be seen as power grabs or ways to diminish other’s efforts.

The Lesson for Leaders
It is easy for even the best teams to get off track and lose focus. It is easy for teams at every level to become fixated on process rather than focusing on outcomes.  A team charter and periodic review of team effectiveness is a good way to prevent that.

The lesson for leaders is that you personally must make it clear that this team is collectively responsible for results and individual commitments and priorities must be managed so they do not interfere with the work of the team.   Make meetings count.  Make meetings a place for evaluating results and planning corrective actions rather than just reporting activities since the last meeting.   If you as the leader do not communicate that sense of urgency and purpose, your team members will drift back to the urgent things that are on each of their desks.

Our work with clients is primarily about helping leaders lead in a way that others will choose to support. All leadership is ultimately about helping the people of an organization prepare for change and then putting them in a position where they can achieve it.   It is about helping people get clear about the “why” and the “what” of the change so they can take charge of the “how”.  Chartering a leadership team is an example of doing that.