Professional Learning Communities and School Leadership Teams often struggle with the important issues of student achievement, pedagogy, strategies, data, ideas, developing plans for improving student learning, or making important decisions for the school.
So, with that said, today we put Professional Learning Communities, School Leadership Teams, meetings, how to find agreement, Edward de Bono, and the book How To Have A Beautiful Mind go into the Education Innovation Blender.
PLCs and Leadership teams struggle because members often feel, either consciously or unconsciously, that they need to be right. The natural result of this need is disagreement and even arguments within the PLC or Leadership Team. As Edward de Bono describes it, “This is very much tied up in the ego. An argument is a battle between egos. When you agree you seem to be submitting to the other point of view—so you lose.”
Professional Learning Communities and School Leadership Teams are most effective when they have open discussion. “A discussion should be a genuine attempt to explore a subject rather than a battle between competing egos.” When PLC or SLT have meaningful disagreement, they are more effective in the ideas and decision they arrive at. But disagreements based on ego are not productive.
So here are 12 points (with thanks to Edward de Bono) on how to have a “beautiful” PLC or SLT team meeting.
1. Genuinely seek to find points of agreement in what the other person is saying.
It would be very rare indeed if we found nothing to agree upon with other members in our PLC or SLT. Finding points of agreement proves that you are listening and understanding, but also provides a common point to work from.
2. There is no contribution is you simply agree with everything.
Being a “yes man” shows that one is not thinking critically or being a “loafer” In either case, it is not helpful and not effective.
3. To disagree at every point is irritating and boring.
Conversely, saying no to everything is not helpful either. It does nothing to move the team forward to forging the solution or the decision.
4. Being argumentative is not at all beautiful. There are better methods of exploring a subject.
Be professional. No one wants to work with argumentative bullies.
5. There is no need to be “right” all the time. Remove your ego from the discussion and focus instead on the subject matter.
Rick Warren famously wrote, “It’s not about you.” It is about the school and the kids. The best interest of the school and the students is the reason you are meeting in a PLC or SLT in the first place. Keep the proper perspective.
6. Make a real effort to see where the other person is coming from. Explore that person’s “logic bubble.”
A logic bubble is, “…made up of the perceptions, values, needs and experience of that person.” A veteran teacher, a new teacher, a special education teacher, an administrator, or an instructional aide are all going to have very different logic bubbles. We need to explore each other’s bubbles to understand their reasoning.
7. See if there are any circumstances in which the other person’s views might be right. Spell out such circumstances and show your agreement under those circumstances.
It is important to be specific and check for understanding, but being clear on what circumstances you will agree to, the group has a road map of sorts from which to navigate.
8. See if there are any special values, which might make the other person’s view valid. Show that under those values you would agree. But also have your own opinion.
It is important that others know what values must be present or must not be present in a decision or idea. Our values are an essential part of who we are, so there is no need to minimize them, but we should be clear on where we stand. This allows for others to find a point of agreement.
9. Acknowledge the value of someone’s special experience and treat this as a strong possibility but not necessarily complete.
Education is a vast tapestry of experiences woven together. PLC or SLT members bring their very unique experiences to the table. Experiences should be acknowledged, validated, even incorporated into team thinking, but always keep one person’s experience in perspective. It is not the entire picture.
10. Reject sweeping generalizations but see whether you agree with any of the implications or any aspect of the generalization.
Sweeping generalizations are not always helpful, but their implications might provide a point of agreement.
11. Take genuine delight in discovering points of agreement—even when there is overall disagreement.
Celebrate and acknowledge the positives. Agreement, even within the context of overall disagreement, is a point on which to build from. Finding these points of agreement demonstrate critical listening and understanding.
12. Changing your perceptions to look at things in a different way is an important step in reaching possible agreement.
OPV: Other Point of View. Maybe you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. A simple change in perception can often create profound understanding and help to bring about agreement.
Following these 12 points should make for not only effective, but “beautiful” team meetings.