The Fuel of Teams: Collaborate - 3 Easy Steps (Part 2 of 3)

Updated: May 14, 2020

The Fuel of Teams: Collaborate – 3 Easy Steps

Collaborate – 3 Easy Steps for Team Transformation

Focus Area: Innovative Change

Part 2 of 3: Tools to Build the Learning Network

by David Horton, Ed.D.

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Part 2 of 3 – Tools to Build the Learning Network

“A good tool improves the way you work.

A great tool improves the way you think.” – Jeff Duntemann

[Note: Please see the Introduction and Diagnostic and Part 1 in the previous blog posts before using the material in this post.]

Introduction to Part 2

Using this blog allows district leaders, principals, and teacher leaders the time to do other things while knowing they have a quality discussion, measuring devices, and team/trust-building dialogue activity planned and available for a meeting. The power of the tools is that it allows conversation around a professional topic to create equity of voice and build common understanding and bonds in the team.

To begin our work, we will first make one critical distinction – are you looking at a single team or the organization at large (district or school)? If we are looking at a single team – use the “Micro Level” tools below. If you are looking at an organization – use the “Macro Level” tools below.

The Basics – Micro Level

The micro level use of building the learning network, relational trust, and collaborative work in a single team is best done via targeted conversation. Use the steps and tools below to do this work for a single team.

3 Easy Steps - How to use the tools

The activity of hosting a purposeful dialogue to build relational trust can be done in about 8-12 minutes (or less) for the typical team.

The 3 easy steps are:

1) Dialogue – (Evidence)

2) Key Points and Ideas - (Analysis)

3) Take Action – (Action)

In more detail – Evidence (Step 1)

Host the dialogue with the team. This creates the evidence of where the team is, what their needs may be, and begin the direction of what they can do to improve and expand their collective capacity.

Step 1a – Use the Self-Assessment Tools (Appendices A1 & A2). Have each member of the team read each row from both Appendices. Assess each item as: NLU (Not Like us), SLU (Somewhat Like Us) or LU (Like Us).

Step 1b – As a team, select 3 prompts from Appendix A1 and 3 prompts from Appendix A2 that present the most interesting or needed area for discussion. These may be items that were rated NLU or SLU in Step 1a above. Record these selected prompts in Appendix B – Recording Document.

Step 1c – Read the background material (location of material described below). The team facilitator ensures all members have the corresponding reading and prompt for all members of the team.

The corresponding dialogue prompt are found in two locations:

If your team selected an item from Appendix A1 = Use Appendix C1, C2 or C3 in this blog


If your team selected an item from Appendix A2 = Use Leading School Teams book. See

Step 1d – After the reading is complete, have a timekeeper keep time and limit each person to 30 seconds of uninterrupted time to share their thoughts and ideas responding to the topic and the prompt questions.

As each team member shares, have each team member record on their Recording Organizer (see Appendix D). Record “Low Inference Notes” as each member shares. Meaning – record strengths of the team or organization and the actionable ideas that are shared while not assigning any judgment or evaluation of the ideas shared.

In more detail – Analysis (Step 2)

Analyze the results to examine common threads, key ideas, possible pathways moving forward.

Step 2a – Use Appendix D Analysis Section (Recording Organizer) – Team Facilitator leads a discussion to discover the common elements shared by the team. Fill in organizer with these common elements.

Step 2b – Team Facilitator leads a discussion with the team of the items collected in Step 2a which of the items appears most commonly and would be worth the team working on some collective actions regarding this item. The team can select 1 or 2 items for action.

In more detail – Action (Step 3)

Step 3a – Of the top 2 items uncovered in the Analysis above – build an Action Plan (Use Appendix D Action Section) of how the team can make progress on the ideas discovered above. Conclude the activity by building an action plan. What are the things we can do as a team to take action by engaging in behaviors and steps from the Analysis step described above. The actions should be concise, manageable and create an inclusive opportunity that all members of the team have the opportunity to work on items in a collaborative and/or rotating fashion.

The Basics – Macro Level

For an organizational view about how the Learning Network is functioning on a macro scale it is recommended to use a scientifically-based survey instrument to uncover some critical items and issues as well as strengths. The basic macro view will center on organizational indicators such as: trust, climate, learning, communication, connectedness, and innovation among others. Note: the full organizational climate and directional survey tool is “Core Connections” developed by Dr. Alan Daly at the University of California, San Diego.

The purpose of the entire tool is to give the organization and all the stakeholders in the system a chance to share perception level data about how they see the organization. In fact, the survey gathers feedback from all employees in the system (classified and certificated), parents, students, and even community members if desired. The survey allows all of these stakeholders to share how they feel about and see the organization. The data are gathered and compiled in such a way that there are no personal identifiers but rather by entire cohort. This allows for broad discussion about needs, next steps and strengths.

The powerful piece of this survey is that it can be given multiple times in a school year (fall and spring for instance) as well as over multiple school years. This gives executive leaders a scientifically-based instrument to gauge progress on areas of focus and growth over time.

For those who would like more detail and information on how the full survey can be deployed in your organization please visit:

How to use the tools – A word of caution

Because of the sensitive nature of gathering feedback from a broad audience in an organization it is not recommended that districts or schools engage in this work without assistance. It is recommended that organizations reach out to the Core Connections team to not only administer the survey but how to use the data and host conversations to create momentum in a positive direction.


As teams engage in this work it is recommended that they make this work a regular and periodic part of their team experience. This work is a direct impact on the Learning Network of a team by building relational trust through dialogue. The work and effort put in by teams creates a meaningful bond between team members because it was their common experience that generated the evidence that led to the analysis which led to the action. Take time as a team to cement when and how often these discussions will take place. Also, talk as a team how often you will revisit any given selected conversation. Allow the team to build on thoughts over time to build a stronger collective bond regarding the selected topic.

A Call to Action

Use the Tools: Simply put – use the tools. Have the dialogue. Talk and communicate. Relational trust doesn’t build without some action. As the famous quote from the great hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky states “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So it is with building relational trust. You miss an opportunity to build relational trust in 100% the situations where you don’t make it part of the routine. Give it a try and stick with it.

© Copyright 2020 – David Horton Consulting Inc. and Lead Team Learn

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