Saturday, March 30, 2013

How PLCs Survive Cultural Tornadoes

In a recent post, 2 Ways PLCs Battle through the Storm, I illustrated how teams must use the mission and vision to right the ship if conflict is prevalent. Teams would identify issues that prevent the unit from fulfilling the campus mission and ascertain if their collaborative efforts were moving them closer to or further away from their vision. An all too common mistake begins when teams stop by reviewing and recommitting to the mission and vision.

When invigorated, individuals take off with their own understanding of this new mission and vision and create a whirlwind of work, while others stay behind and watch with an air of cynicism. Those on fire represent a mass of warm air, while those who remain uncommitted represent a cold air mass. When these 2 masses of powerful air are in the same building, the potential exists for conflict to occur and emotions to collide in such a way that an F5 tornado can form. Once this occurs, the destructive forces of confusion and frustration will turn a once hopeful unit into a cultural catastrophe. In short, stating that you have a mission and a vision isn't enough to make a PLC work.

Here's how to avoid your Tornado!

Once teams assess their current location in their journey to realize their vision, they must calibrate their behaviors and actions if they truly hope to become the team they aspire to be. To become better, teams must start with behaviors or values. Values represent collective commitments of how individuals will work together to benefit the entire system, thus preventing a tornado. In absence of values, teams succumb to the emotion of the day.

So what are values?

1. Collective Expectations

Values are expectations that all team members develop together. These commitments detail how the daily actions and interactions from each team member will push the team closer to reaching the goal of the entire organization.

2. Steps for Improvement

In order to improve as a whole, teams need guidelines that help them understand the behaviors that must be present if the campus is going to improve. Individuals must understand that in order for the team to improve, each member possesses a moral responsibility to commit, grow and help others grow.

3. Rules to Resolve Conflict

In the presence of conflict and the absence of values, PLCs can suffer setbacks that could potentially destroy the team. Values that include guidelines for honest dialogue and steps to honor differences are crucial. Teams that fail to plan for conflict subconsciously are in effect lowering the barometer toward tornadic conditions.

Values are more Powerful than Directives

Successful PLCs thrive on collective commitments and reciprocal accountability. In essence, they are not dependent on the leader to tell them what to do and how to behave. Values are what brings the term, professional, to Professional Learning Communities. Both leaders and teams lose value time leading when they are forced to dedicate their efforts to holding people accountable. Leaders must hold people accountable from time to time, but when values are actively in place, leaders can direct the majority of their time to those who need development or redirection rather than every employee.

Each spring, there is plenty of stress to spread around. Strong teams are able to process stress in a healthy way as opposed to allowing it to turn into conflict. Weak teams allow conflict to deter them from their focus, and when the conditions are right, conflict turns into a tornado.

The best way to avoid a Cultural Tornado is to value your campus and staff enough to not allow a tornado to form in the first place.

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