Five ways educators can create high performing teams

Recently Deloitte’s Human Capital practice facilitated the SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection Thought Leadership Gathering in Melbourne. The event focused on how educators can build high performing teams.These events are part of The Connection’s broader effort to empower education leaders with networks and knowledge, in order to improve student outcomes. So how do you create a high performing team? In this guest blog Lizzy Finn, a manager at Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, explains.

Last month’s SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection Thought Leadership Gathering (TLG) saw an impressive group of successful and emerging leaders from schools across Victoria come together to reflect on their role in creating high performing teams.

Research from the RAND Corporation states that nearly 60% of a school’s impact on student achievement is due to leadership and teacher effectiveness. But, the report also found that isolated brilliance among the teaching staff was not enough.

“While effective teachers have a profound effect on student outcome, this effect soon fades when the student moved on to another teacher, unless the new teacher is equally effective,” the report said.

So, how can you enhance your own leadership capability, and grow the effectiveness of your teams?

1. Understanding ‘Business Chemistry’ helps build relationships

What is your personal style? At the TLG we examined our preferences to determine our ‘Business Chemistry’. There are four Business Chemistry types:

  • PIONEER | Imaginative, energetic, adaptable. Dislike structure and limits.
  • GUARDIAN | Reserved, practical, and loyal. Appreciate detail and silence.
  • DRIVER | Technical and logical. Intent on achievement over relationships.
  • INTEGRATOR | Diplomatic, empathic, helpful. Value consensus and emotions.

How can you apply Business Chemistry?

Think about what your Business Chemistry type is: how might others perceive you? How does your type influence your leadership style?

Try and ‘hunch’ the Business Chemistry type of others in your team. How could you flex your style to work better with them in a team?

2. Make every moment matter

What are the moments you create as a leader? Are they positive or negative? Participants were asked to think about the moments where they can make the most impact on their teachers, staff, and students. We then explored a series of ‘moves’ that leaders can make in these moments to maximise their impact.

How can you apply Moments that Matter?

Habits take time and effort to form, and none of us can change overnight. Think about one or two high-potential moments that happen often in your day. Some examples of these types of moments include: saying hello to a colleague, giving feedback, or responding to a question.

Pick one or two of these high-potential moments and try and consistently make these moments matter.

It’s important to lead by example. A small change in your behaviour can have a widespread effect. As leaders, you have the ability to set the tone of the team. By modelling the right behaviour, you set an example for ‘how we do things around here’.

3. Diversity of thought creates more effective teams

Inclusive leaders collect diverse evidence and perspectives from people so that they are better able to solve problems, make decisions, and reach goals. Diversity goes beyond demographics. As outlined in Juliet Bourke’s, Which Two Heads are Better Than One, there are six approaches to thought that we see in teams:

  • OUTCOMES | What are the objectives?
  • OPTIONS | What are the possibilities?
  • EVIDENCE | What are the facts?
  • PROCESS | What are the steps to implement?
  • PEOPLE | Who is the audience?
  • RISKS | What could go wrong?

Research shows that teams that apply all of these perspectives when solving a problem reduce risk and increase innovation.

How can you apply Diversity of Thought:

Think about what your thinking preference is: what is your role in the team and how can you bring your strengths to the table?

In your next team meeting, think about the different perspectives at the table. How can you bring out the different voices and create a balanced and inclusive dialogue?

4. Demonstrate truly inclusive leadership

Inclusive leadership embraces difference, and leverages that difference to build successful teams. To do this, inclusive leaders need to demonstrate six signature traits:

  • COMMITMENT | A strong and authentic commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • COURAGE | A humility to be open about strengths and weaknesses
  • COGNISANCE | Mindful of personal blind spots
  • CURIOSITY | An open mind and a desire to understand others
  • CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE | Confidence in cross-cultural interactions
  • COLLABORATION | The ability to create and leverage diverse thinking

How can you apply Inclusive Leadership?

Honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses as an inclusive leader. In the areas where you are strong, look for opportunities to share these stories with those you work with. Be a role model for these behaviours in your teams.

Seek out role models of your own. Do you know someone who demonstrates a strength you would like to develop? How could you learn from them? Growing as a leader sometimes means being vulnerable – we aren’t heroes, and we all have much to learn.

5. Help your teams reach peak performance through inspirational coaching

How can we make performance conversations more effective? Performance conversations should be forward-looking and motivating. Taking the time to coach those in our teams not only builds better performance, it creates greater engagement. We reduce the risk of attrition, and we grow our pipeline of future leaders by taking the time to build the talent in our teams.

There are a wide range of coaching tools out there. We looked at the GROW model. We saw that effective coaching is about asking the right questions, which we split into four different types:

  • GOAL | What are you looking to achieve?
  • REALITY | Where are you today?
  • OUTCOME |What are the possibilities?
  • WAY FORWARD | What will you do?

How can you apply the GROW (or other coaching) Model?

Try using the GROW model in your next performance conversation. How did it make you feel? What was the impact of using this model on your coachee?

Shift performance conversations away from blame and towards solutions. Focus less on the problem and more about positive steps you and your coachee can take to change the situation for the better.

Try asking questions rather than providing answers.

Continuing your journey

It was inspiring to see such a talented and passionate group of leaders come together to explore what leadership means to them, and how they can make an impact that matters on their teams, their students, their schools, and their communities.

I encourage you to continue to consider the shadow you cast as a leader: how can you extend that shadow, and touch the lives of those around you in positive and meaningful ways? There is no one right way to do this. Explore. Ask questions. Be curious. Make mistakes. Learn. Grow.

I wish you all the best of luck in your journey.


SVA would like to extend a big thank you to the Deloitte Human Capital team that facilitated the session. 

Lizzy Finn, manager, Deloitte Human Capital practice 
Chris Grimwood, director, Deloitte Human Capital practice
Kate McDonald, partner, Deloitte Human Capital practice