When I assumed my first educational leadership position as a department head, I realized I had a lot of work on my hands to turn our organization around. While the department met the organization’s basic requirements, compared to others it was underperforming.

On my first day as the Department Head, I began meeting with each leadership team member. In the meetings, each member provided me with an update on their team. During the meetings, I asked team leaders questions about their vision for the organization.

Throughout my first couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to spend time listening and learning about the organization. In addition to meeting with my team leaders, I also met with the leaders of the other departments.

After I gathered my data, I realized the reason for the department’s lack of success. While the team leaders understood their role in fulfilling the organization’s mission, they were not working together to achieve success.

John Maxwell said, “Nothing of significance was ever achieved by an individual acting alone.” To improve our performance, we needed to move from “I” to “we.” I knew we could accomplish great things together.

Over the next couple of months, we spent several meetings working through each team member’s role in our department’s vision. Finally, after a couple of bumpy months, the team began to gel and come together.

I would love to tell you it was smooth sailing during my time as the leader; however, our team would fall into old routines during stressful periods. When that happened, we had to remember that “collaboration was more important than cooperation.”

“Collaboration is people working for one another in unity for the sake of a shared vision.”

– John Maxwell,

When our team began to put their differences aside and work together to achieve our shared vision, we began to outpace the other departments.

While leading people to achieve organizational goals is rewarding, it is also challenging work. Sometimes it feels like herding cats! However, research by John Kania and Mark Kramer can assist you as a leader to affect positive change in your organization.

Kania and Kramer identified the following five common characteristics of successful groups:

  1. A common agenda that allows everyone to work together and move in the same direction.
  2. A shared measurement system that provides data on the group’s progress.
  3. Engaging in actions that contribute to the cause helping each team member work together to achieve their shared agenda.
  4. Continuous communication between group members helping them learn, adapt, and improve.
  5. Creating a support team to help keep everything moving forward and in the right direction.

When I became the Department Head, I realized my greatest challenge was to bring the team together to maximize their strengths. When working with others, remember what unities you is greater than what divides you.

Vincent van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

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  • The integration of a new MRP system has certainly had my team collaborating more than ever. I think that it has improved our ability to appreciate the extent of each other’s daily workload and has helped give us insight into how we can work together to mitigate issues.

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    About the author

    Hi, I'm Kim, Your Leadership Guide. I equip aspiring leaders to lead with confidence, emerging leaders to expand their influence, and accomplished leaders to achieve significance!