Leadership: building effective teams

Published: 04 Sep 2017
Evaluation indicators
Equitable outcomes
Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua


“It starts with creating the conditions where people can play their A game.”

A principal describes the need to establish the ‘fertile ground for innovation’ by being explicit about the need to be ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ in order that together they can question, inquire and critique to make things better the learners.

Key messages:

  • Organisational culture cannot be left to chance
  • A clear vision is the starting point
  • Ensuring everyone understands the teacher practice that enables that vision to become a reality
  • A collective focus on working toward the ‘graduate profile’
  • These core components interweave and are the basis for ongoing organisational improvement

Things to think about:

  • How aligned is our thinking around our vision, teacher practice and ‘graduate profile’

The evaluation indicators this video illustrates

  • Domain 2: Leadership for equity and excellence 
    • Evaluation indicators
      • Leadership promotes and participates in teacher learning and development
      • Leadership builds collective capacity to do evaluation and inquiry for sustained improvement​​​​​​​

This video is part of a series

This video is part of the series Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua. We created this series to inspire schools with examples of success in action. These examples highlight the benefits of fulfilling the evaluation indicators we use to review schools.

Remote video URL

(The video opens on a white screen. Text reading “Stonefields School: Leadership” slides on from the left to stop in the middle of the screen, and three hexagons coloured red, blue and green appear to the top right. After a couple of seconds the screen fades out to show a classroom. Three women sit at a table around a laptop. One of them speaks to the other two.)


So can you help me to understand what the first three weeks here has been like for you?


(The camera moves closer and one of the women gestures as she speaks, but we cannot read what she is saying. Instead, a woman’s voice speaks in voiceover.)

It starts with creating the conditions where people can play their A game.


(The woman who asked the question nods as she listens. The other woman speaks but we cannot hear her.)

Having the fertile ground for innovation.


(The scene now changes to show the woman speaking, who is also the woman who has asked a question in the previous scene. She sits in front of a bright green wall, speaking into the camera. Text on the bottom of the screen reads, “Sarah Martin, Principal, Stonefields School”. As she says “critique” the camera returns to her with the other women in the classroom. She speaks with them as she draws something in a large scrapbook. Her voiceover continues.)

Being explicit around being comfortable, being uncomfortable, together, to critique, question, inquire, to make stuff better for our kids.


(The camera returns to Sarah against the green wall. As she says “interpreted” we return to the classroom.)

The important piece is having a very sharp, clear vision that's interpreted by all.


(We return to Sarah against the green wall once more.)

And aligned to that vision, we want real coherence around the teacher practice that enables that vision to become a reality.


(Back in the classroom once more, we can hear as Sarah speaks to the other women.)

So one of the really important pieces of our vision to get your head around first is that first vision principle of building learning capacity.


(As she says “I’ve shown” the camera zooms in on the scrapbook she has been drawing in. It contains several rough diagrams.)

And we have the seven elements that make up the teacher effectiveness, and I've shown you that triangle from our vision.


(Her hands gesture at the edge of the screen.)


What does the teacher practice look like to be able to achieve the graduate profile?


(The camera zooms back out and we see the two women listen as Sarah continues. One of them nods in agreement.)

So that first element under the teacher effectiveness that aligns with building learning capacity is ensuring our kids are comfortable being uncomfortable in their learning.


(Sarah speaks into the camera in front of the green wall once more.)

What does the graduate learner look like after eight years here?


(Her voiceover continues as we see a close-up of a laptop screen. Is displays a diagram of a triangle with “Vision”, “Teaching Practice” and “Graduate learner” at the points. Sarah’s hands gesture to the left of the screen.)

Now I say that as a real triangle vision practice in the graduate learner. We can't leave that organisational culture to chance.


(Sarah is back in front of the green wall.)

We've got to be very intentional in working on it.


(Her voiceover continues as the scene changes to a classroom full of children in school uniforms. The camera pans across the room, showing students working at tables, sitting cross-legged on the floor and standing at desks.)

It's a necessity here because here's a collaborative office.


(We see a teacher at a small whiteboard speaking to the students sitting on the ground.)

We work so closely with one another.


(The camera zooms in on three teachers having a conversation at the back of the room. Students work in the foreground.)

Teachers are operating in the same environment with the same children.


(We see a teacher crouch down to speak with a group of students who are sitting on the ground holding computer tablets. The camera then changes to show teachers and students sitting together at tables. Zooming in, we see several teachers speaking with students.)

They've got to get over themselves to be able to work really effective ways to best serve and meet the needs of those learners.


(We now see the same classroom filled with adults instead of students. We hear a woman’s voice speak and they turn to listen. As the speaker says “about” the view changes to show her sitting with a laptop on the other side of the room.)

So we were having a chat the other day at the leadership team about what real learning was to us. And we realised that, while we were on the same page, we weren't necessarily in the same paragraph in terms of what real learning was.


(The angle of the camera changes to show the people sitting at the back of the room as they listen, then returns to the speaker.)

So we thought, actually, before we begin, we need to make sure that we are all aligned as a team on what real learning actually means to us.


(Sarah can again be heard in voiceover as the camera pans across the room. People now sit in groups talking amongst themselves. Some sit at tables, some in circles on the classroom floor.)

We don't start with a solution. Often there is just a blank canvas. And our beginnings come from brainstorming together. From co-constructing, from synthesising, from leaving time between these initial brainstorming sessions and coming back.


(As she says, “surfacing” the camera returns to her in front of the green wall.)

What new language, what new research is surfacing that wasn't there five years ago that we need to be cognisant of to embrace and keep breathing new life into our vision and direction.


(We return to the meeting, where the camera pans across several groups of people discussing something amongst themselves.)

What creates that team integrity? You absolutely value diversity and difference, and you welcome different perspectives to the table. You even ensure that there's rigour and debate and moving something forward or coming up with the best solution.


(Sarah is seen again against the green wall.)


The journey to establish the school, the team has worked incredibly hard.


(We are back at the meeting, seeing a group of people talk and smile as they sit around a laptop.)

Everyone's given it their all.


(On another side of the classroom a group of women write on paper with markers. As she says “move” the camera zooms in on someone writing “Powerful Learning, Learning to use Google Docs after being a PC user”. The camera then changes to a group of people sitting around a laptop.)

This organisation needs to be flexible and fluid and move to continue to have people's strengths realised and nurtured.


(The camera continues to switch between various group of people speaking amongst themselves.)

Get people's tanks filled and excited.


(We are back with Sarah against the green wall.)

That's important.


(We see the classroom once more as the screen fades to black.)