A few years back I was training a site based team in using data to develop action plans.

I distributed school performance data for the group to analyze. The group was not used to using data at all and I was hard pressed not to flat out TELL them what the issues the data suggested were.

I waited for what seemed an eternity when finally one of the teachers said, (sic) “I think I can draw one conclusion from what I see. But I am afraid to say it to the group because there are parents here who may misunderstand and miscommunicate what I want to say.”

I waited for what seemed another eternity. Finally a parent said, (sic) “I have a real problem with what you just said. We are all here for the same reason. So we should be comfortable with what we have to say to each other.”

The teacher took a gulp and then said, sic, “I don’t think our Special Education program works very well.”

Now the two preceding eternities felt like nanoseconds. This teacher had actually said something didn’t work. And not only that, he had given his trust to the group by voicing and substantiating his conclusions.

And this time it wasn’t the parents who squirmed. This time it was the administrator – members who clearly did not want the deficits this teacher had pinpointed brought to the forum.

And as they squirmed I had to decide how to lever this opportunity to foster Team Learning and to drive collective trust amongst the group.

And so we worked it. I asked the teacher to point out his reasoning for his conclusions. I watched for defensiveness amongst the administrator stakeholders. At first they were, but the data did not lie and so that led us to truly trying to uncover what the root cause issues that may have been at play behind the data.

From time to time the various stakeholder sub groups would ask questions or offer solutions that needed clarification and understanding and over the course of the next few sessions the group got beyond the he said – she said points of view to understand their collective tasks which were to synthesize each other’s energies to create effective solutions and plans for the students whom they served.

As Lencioni rightfully avers, nothing can happen in group unless they trust each other.