Making the Most of Your Team Meeting: An Excerpt From the Considerations Packet Strategies for Creating Effective School Leadership Teams

By Lee Anne Sulzberger, M.Ed.

February/March 2012
Republished May/June 2013

Specialists from the College of William and Mary's Training and Technical Assistance Center (W&M T/TAC) research and disseminate free Considerations Packets designed to inform administrators, teachers, and parents of the latest information on an array of topics. The packets are available from the W&M T/TAC website,

This article provides an excerpt from the Considerations Packet entitled, Strategies for Creating Effective School Leadership Teams, designed to support school leadership teams as they guide improvement efforts. Topics addressed in the packet include the rationale for using a team approach, team composition, and necessary skills and responsibilities of the leadership team. The following addresses strategies for conducting productive meetings.

What Makes a Leadership Team Effective?

group of teachers imageAfter the school leadership team has been assembled, specific strategies may be used to support the team in effectively and efficiently doing its job. First, it is essential that the principal give the leadership team the authority to make decisions within the scope of its work (Cotton, 2003).

 Group Norms

Once the leadership team has been granted decision-making authority, the team can create meeting protocols to guide its work. The first step is to establish norms or guiding principles that the leadership team agrees to honor.

 The Center for Collaborative Education (CCE, n.d.) suggests that teams consider certain areas when establishing group norms. Table 3 presents these areas and corresponding questions for school leadership team members to consider.

Table 3
Establishing Group Norms

Areas (CCE, n.d.)
Questions to Consider


How often do we need to meet in order to do our work? Where and when will we meet? How long should our meetings last?


When should we start and end meetings? Will we start on time or wait for all members to be present? What are our expectations for attendance?


How will we show respect for one another?

Decision-making process

How will we make decisions and reach agreements? How do we reach consensus?

Workload assignment

How can we ensure that the work of the leadership team is being shared? How can we help one another balance the work of the leadership team with other responsibilities?


In addition to establishing and adhering to group norms, school leadership teams can structure productive meetings by …
  • preparing and distributing a meeting agenda prior to the meeting (see Appendices A and B);
  • establishing time limits for each agenda item;
  • ensuring that each meeting has a facilitator, recorder, and timekeeper (roles can rotate among members);
  • recording tasks, persons responsible, and due dates in the meeting notes (see Appendices C and D);
  • establishing a consistent way to regularly share progress and information with all stakeholders, including the principal if he or she is not a member of the team, and with other school-based teams;
  • establishing a consistent way to get feedback from faculty and other stakeholders; and
  • periodically reflecting on the effectiveness of the team.

Effective Communication Skills

To be successful, leadership team members must also use effective communication skills. Below are some strategies, adapted from Gravois, Rosenfield, and Gickling (1998), that team members may use to enhance their communication skills.

  • Paraphrasing. Repeat in your own words a portion of the information that another team member has relayed. For example, “So what you are telling me is that the benchmark data show that sixth graders are having difficulty with the scientific method.”
  • Perception checking. Reflect back an emotion that may have been communicated in the conversation. For example, “From what I hear you saying, it is frustrating for you not to have all the information you need.”
  • Asking clarifying questions. Gain a clearer picture, in observable terms, by clarifying what you have heard. For example, “Are you saying that lack of common planning time is making it difficult for teachers to plan appropriate interventions?”
  • Requesting clarification. Use questions that ask for clarification of what has been said. For example, “Can you tell me more about what you think we could change to make student data more accessible for teachers?”
  • Summarizing. Near the end of a discussion, concisely restate what you heard to check if it is what the team member meant to say. For example, “Let me summarize what you’ve said. Jim and Angela will write an update on the leadership team’s progress for the next PTA newsletter.”
  • Asking relevant questions. Ask questions related to the topic at hand that expand the discussion. For example, “What evidence or data do we have to show that our writing curriculum is effective?”
  • Active/attentive listening. Use nonverbal cues to acknowledge what is being said so that the speaker knows that you are engaged in the conversation. Listeners can use attentive body language, such as making eye contact or leaning toward the speaker.

Visit for additional information on effective communication.


School leadership teams may also find it helpful to use a structured problem-solving process.

Table 4 presents steps and examples that can be used to aid effective problem-solving.

Table 4
Sample Problem-Solving Process

Questions to Consider

Identify and clarify the issue the team needs to address by phrasing the issue as a question.

How can we ensure that all students are meeting the benchmarks in math?

Brainstorm areas of success regarding the issue.

Where are students who struggle with math doing well?

Identify what is going on in the areas where success is being seen.

What is occurring in these classes that contributes to student success?

Brainstorm ways to incorporate the identified successful practices into the problem area.

How can we infuse math classes with the practices that are helping students succeed in other areas?

Develop a way to measure success.

What formative assessments will we use to measure student progress in math?

Summarize and record the plan for addressing the issue.

What practices will we try in the math classes? Who is responsible for implementation? When is our target date for implementation?


Visit  to learn about another structured problem-solving process.


Fullan (2010) observed that “change problems come in all shapes and sizes …The goal of all change leaders in these situations is to get movement in an improved direction” (p. 9). School leadership teams can provide a vehicle for “change leaders” (Fullan, p. 9) to organize and implement improvement processes that focus on meeting the needs of all students.


Center for Collaborative Education. (n.d.). Guide to collaborative culture and shared leadership.  [Excerpt]. Retrieved from

Cotton, K. (2003). Principals and student achievement: What the research says. Alexandria, VA:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fullan, M. (2010). Motion leadership: The skinny on becoming change savvy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Gravois, T., Rosenfield, S., & Gickling, E. (1998). Instructional consultation team training manual. (Available from the Virginia Department of Education, 101 N 14th St., Richmond, VA 23210.)