6 Destructive Myths About Teams in Higher Education

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“To thrive, higher ed needs high-performing, adaptive teams.”



Higher education will face daunting and complex challenges over the next decade, and campuses will need high-performing teams, especially a high-performing senior team, in order to face those challenges.

Building and nurturing a great team is a daunting and noble task for any leader. It takes courage and care, perspiration and aspiration, and investment of time and attention—all of which are in short supply on campuses.

The good news is that the effort is almost always worth it because an exceptional team can do amazing work. It makes the campus feel alive and energized. People talk about all the possibilities that can be realized. The gift that a stellar senior team gives their campus is that they model the way for others, not with platitudes and pontifications, but with a more powerful teaching model—their actions.

The senior team’s behavior has a trickle-down effect: if everyone on the senior team learns how to operate as a real team, they can then teach their direct reports how to be a real team. Those direct reports can, in turn, teach their own direct reports. This cascading learning process creates extraordinary leverage throughout campus. We have examined several campuses that have great teams at the director level—which is where most of the real work lives—and in each of those cases, they learned how to operate this way because their senior team modeled the way.

The challenge for campus leaders is that few of them have ever been taught or trained to actually build and create a team, so most leaders rely heavily on assumptions and on commonly held myths.

We recently conducted extensive interviews with several stellar teams including: award-winning research teams and cutting-edge technology companies, among other organizations, in order to learn what makes them tick. In the process, we uncovered several destructive myths about what makes a team great. In this paper, we will expose these 6 potentially destructive myths.

This paper will examine:
  • 6 potentially destructive myths about…
    • Talent
    • Focus
    • Conflict
    • Openness
    • Sameness
    • Motivational Metaphors
About the author: 

Patrick Sanaghan

Dr. Sanaghan serves as the head of The Sanaghan Group, an organizational firm specializing in leadership development, executive coaching, strategic planning, and leadership transitions. Pat has worked with over 200 campuses and hundreds of organizations in the last twenty-five years. He has taught leadership to thousands of leaders in higher education, and helped over one hundred campuses conduct collaborative, transparent strategic planning processes. He is the co-author/author of six books, numerous articles, and several monographs in the fields of strategic planning, leadership, and change management. His most recent books include: Collaborative Leadership in Action and How to Actually Build an Exceptional Team. Dr. Sanaghan also serves as a board member of the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, MN.