Consider your major team members (and yourself) given what you know now about MBTI preferences. How might different preferences affect/have affected the team’s interactions–both positively and negatively? 

In the team scenario I shared, middle school co-teachers, Karen and Martha, came to blows over the issue of students not adhering to the dress code.  Though both teachers agreed on the problem and shared the same goal-students adhering to the dress code-each had a different view on how the issue should be addressed.  The chasm in their views and their responses to each other became irreconcilable and eventually, led to the dysfunction of the entire middle school program.

Karen was passionate in her belief of Montessori pedagogy and held that the problem should be addressed in adherence to Montessori values of cooperation, teamwork and collaborative problem solving. She wanted to let students problem-solve the issue through discussion and peer accountability.  Karen believed students could be motivated through intrinsic motivation

Her approach suggests that she is a Sensing/Feeling (SF) leader who prefers the Cooperation cultural pattern. Karen’s view was personally tied to her core beliefs and she was driven by her passion to align with what she viewed as the Montessori approach. When she perceived that  Martha did not share that view, she attacked her both personally and professionally.

Martha, though not Montessori trained, was an experienced teacher with a worldview aligned to what she knew about Montessori practice.  She, too, supported giving students a voice, but also believed that consistency in establishing and enforcing rules was important.  When students continued to blatantly disregard the dress code after repeated discussion, she believed that extrinsic measures were needed and suggested implementing consequences and accountability systems to correct their behavior. Her approach suggests that she is a Sensing/Thinking(ST) leader who prefers the Consistent cultural pattern.  Further egregious to her sense of order and propriety was the betrayal she felt by Karen who went outside the chain of command and blind sighted her by bringing this issue to the head of school and assistant head of school instead of working it out with her.

What insights does this lens give you in thinking about team development?

In my view, both Karen and Martha brought valuable perspectives to the situation and perhaps, under different circumstances and direction, their personal profiles would have complemented each other more than conflicted with each other. Both had skills that were needed in establishing a thriving secondary program, yet, without administrative direction and oversight, they were unchecked and unbalanced in their views. As Truskie suggests in his article, when one becomes entrenched in their cultural view and overemphasizes a particular pattern, they can become unbalanced (p. 4).  Both Karen and Martha “dug their heels in” with respect to their view and even turned a professional divide into a personal attack. This team of two operated too autonomously.  With no established administrative oversight, they were cut off from other areas of the school and when tensions mounted, there was no buffer or other perspectives to balance the two dynamics. Consequently, I saw the importance of developing a more well-rounded team with administrative access, established norms for communication and collaboration, and a shared vision-developing an authentic secondary Montessori program.

What actions could you take/could you have taken to improve team dynamics?

As an Intuition/Judging (NJ), when I took over as the administrative lead of the team my goal was to get this team functioning again and to build an excellent Montessori secondary program. Hindsight is always 20/20 but looking back on this team dynamic now, had  I been a more skilled leader and more knowledgeable about Montessori pedagogy and the school’s culture at the time (remember I had only been on the job for week when this altercation occurred), I think I could have helped each to see the value their perspective offered and looked to apply both to the situation-a student-led approach with established accountability measures. Over the course of the following three years working with the secondary program, I saw that both Martha and Karen tapped into two key pitfalls in the middle school program. We needed teachers trained in Montessori pedagogy directing the program, and the program lacked accountability and communication systems needed to keep the program from running amuck.

As a team, we could have benefitted from a coaching or development plan using an instrument measure such as the MBTI and/or the L4 Strategy Model that would have helped us to understand our leadership styles better and how to recognize the value each offered. Ironically, two weeks before this incident occurred between the two co-leads, the entire school had taken a profile inventory and the results were shared with each faculty member; however, the focus of the inventory was on self-reflection rather than team dynamics.  It was just a fun thing we did. There was no coaching strategy as Truskie suggests which helped teams to consider how their profiles worked together or could be leveraged for effectiveness.  I think had we used the instrument in understanding team dynamics-both potentiality and pitfalls-the team may have responded differently to the conflict. Following a development plan, would have allowed us to address issues without personal attack.  In the end, the personal attacks were so deep, that the team could not go forward.  We had to encourage the departure and replacement of  team members to move the program forward.

When I became the team lead, I sought to bring a more balanced view to the team.  I grew the team from two co-leads, to four team members and myself. Though we did not use a personality metric like Myers-Briggs, I did carefully consider the balance and leadership styles of candidates and involved team members in the interview process when bringing on new team members. Using a distributed model of leadership, we utilized strengths and expertise to take responsibility for different aspects of the program. We set regular team meetings with established norms for discussion.  Through respectful dialogue, recognition of common goals, and grace, we continue to grow as a team. We do not always get it right, but we use feedback to make adjustments when needed, and we give each other room to experiment with new ideas.