The Chicago Bears Have an Effective Leadership Setup, Does Your School?

This week, Eklund Consultant Todd Battaglia writes about his hometown professional football team and how it reminds him of his work with leadership teams in schools.  

The 2014-15 Chicago Bears season ended in disaster.  High preseason expectations went unfulfilled through weak leadership and a disastrous workplace culture.  Changes were made, and change is not easy in the NFL or in education.

New head coach, John Fox, has started a Leadership Council that closely resembles an effective school leadership team that we strive to set up in schools.  Fox brings together members from all the position groups and team leaders who were voted into the council by their peers.  These council meetings allow a place for players’ voices to be heard, not a common occurrence in most professional sports organizations, or many organizations.  Often times, schools have leadership teams (the moniker varies at every school) that are setup fine and have been in place for many years, but are not run as effectively as needed. Many times, these leadership teams are simply a place for information distribution, not actual leadership.

After working with Leadership Teams in education, I have some advice to John Fox and all Principals:

1)    Establish a system where all stakeholders’ voices can be heard in the council.

·      How does the first year rookie have his voice heard by the council?  Position leaders should be listening in team meetings and bringing information, concerns, and ideas to the Leadership Council.

2)    Bring snacks.

·      Always welcome, probably especially for football players.

3)    Listen.

·      Many times, the coach/Principal is doing all the talking in these meetings.  This is not an opportunity for information distribution, but a place for discussion.  The best leaders are the best listeners in staff discussions.

4)    Know your role in the council/organization.

·      There will come a time where tough decisions will have to be made on issues that have been debated and exhausted.  That is the coach’s/Principal’s job.  Do your job.  Also, there will be times when issues, ideas, and concerns will come from above in the organization.  Bring those to Leadership Council.

5)    Establish a system where all stakeholders hear what was accomplished by the council.

·      Often in schools, we hear that administration “takes our opinions, but doesn’t do anything about them.”  What they really want to know is what happened to their input and was it heard.  Most are understanding when something goes against their wishes, but they want to know that their voices are heard.  A record of what was brought up in the meeting and how decisions were made lets the rookie know how his concern, idea, or information was addressed by the council.  The return of information by the Leadership Council members is vital to establishing effective communication.

John Fox and the Bears are in the process of turning around a team in turmoil.  Change is sometimes painful and takes time and maintenance.  However, an effective leadership team where voices are heard and authentic value is given to all stakeholders is one step that can change a struggling team, help maintain a proven winner, and establish a positive culture that can help take the team/school to new heights.

Bear down, Chicago Bears.