Executive Leadership Team Our Inaugural Year-In-Review
Table of contents
Letter from the CEO
Reflection On Our Charge
Reflections on our charge
There are several lessons that will inform areas of focus as we move into the new year. We invite others to add to and suggest additional priorities for FY18.
"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful." Margaret J. Wheatley
- Clarity is Critical: In FY18 we will reset early, beginning with the purpose of the ELT and the orientation required to fully and appropriately leverage the group. We will continue to clarify the purpose, expected outcomes and follow up required for all of our time together.
- Live into Culture We Aspire To: We are a collection of individuals with varied experiences and perspectives, we want to articulate norms and expectations of how to engage and what to do when we fall short and how to celebrate when we get it right. Specifically, we need to better manage the gap between regional and national members. We know relationships and making time to develop and strengthen relationships will help us make progress culturally and strategically.
- Drive Integration & Cohesion: There are several ways the ELT can facilitate the work of streamlining efforts and communication across the organization. The ELT is also key in understanding the breath of what is happening across the organization. Additional focus on surfacing successes, learning and spreading innovation will happen in FY18.
The Management Team has outlined priorities for FY18. These priorities will govern what we focus on in-personal as well as virtually. (insert a link to presentation or include here at a high level)
ELT By NUMBERS
View ELT By-The-Numbers Here
“The work we do in the next 12-18 months will be as critical as all of our work to this point. That is how important this time is for our organization.” ELT Member
The external landscape has been one characterized by perpetual swirl and endless tumult. With no indication that it will settle anytime soon, the new normal seems to be marked by complexity, uncertainly and ambiguity. Our internal landscape is similar. While it would be helpful to have stability internally to counterbalance the significant external changes, that is not our reality. Change has been our normal in recent years.
The Executive Leadership Team is not immune to the change that has pervaded every function and level of Teach For America. The existence of the group itself is the result of philosophical and structural changes still being navigated.
It is quite a new reality for national and regional leaders to regularly share space examining issues and exploring solutions together. While the expertise and diversity of this group is what makes for such staggering potential of the group, that potential has not be realized in year one.
Questions of how and where the ELT fits in relation to individual role and other leadership bodies have arisen. Technically the question has been answered. However, a seeming lack of clarity or cohesiveness persist. This will have to be a focus in the coming year.
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." Niccolo Machiavelli
Our internal story is becoming clearer. Our core values have been finalized, or Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness statement has been fine-tuned and we have greater understanding of what "elevating the regional voice' means in our new model. These new elements and critical understanding coupled with avowing what is core to Teach for America will be our North Star, guiding and directing us on the path to One Day.
Teach For America has many strengths. Chief among our most powerful assets is our community. Our size, our diversity, our experience as a collective is staggering and certainly a competitive advantage. Among the current ELT we have a former Congressional Press Secretary, florist, psychology professor and someone who sourced forklifts for a food processing company. This diversity is largely why the ELT exists and why we must continue to identify and systematize was of optimizing the richness of the group.
The formation of the ELT has created a central space for senior-most leaders to engage. This has increased the number of common spaces for regional and national leaders and allowed teams/partners to not only share information but also get input/information in a single instance.
Trust is a building block of strength we need to develop. There is no doubt the group wants to be impactful and good stewards of the organization. However, it is consistently acknowledged that being this is a new space, it will take time to build trust and relationships. Deep, trusting relationships is what is needed to support the CEO/MT making the best, most informed decisions. This means creating time and space to develop trusting relationships. So while the formation of the group is a step in the right direction, there is more work to do to fully leverage the impact of the group.
The challenge is compounded by two things: 1. our desire to be responsive and address timely issues and 2. our propensity for action/task over relationships. We have to fully understand and accept what this orientation means to no only what happens today but also to what we can (and cannot) accomplish in the future. Increasing opportunities to learn from each other, collaborate across Home Teams/teams and regions and problem-solve together will bring us to fully comprehend what Aristotle meant when he said "the whole is greater than the part." We look forward to becoming better and stronger together.
“All is connected ... no one thing can change by itself." Paul Hawken
“I loved the space that was provided [ELT Conference] and I'm grateful for all of the time and thought that went into this conference...it made me feel more connected to what is happening nationally.” ELT Member
Achieving clarity has been a primary order of business for the ELT. We've spent many hours defining the root cause of current organizational challenges and defining the best solutions and path forward. This is a place where the diverse perspectives and expertise at the ELT table are key. What we need to clarify in FY18 is how this diversity is maximized as will live out the charge of the ELT. How does this play out in the real world? While it is largely understood to be an advisory body, there have been instance where asks and actions have seemingly crossed into decision-making.
Resetting on purpose, orientation and making sure agendas, objectives and asks all reinforce the ELT as an advisory body is key in FY18. Making sure there is no question of role or place of the ELT , how it lives into its charge is work worth doing as it will increase quality of input and overall impact.
"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet." Theodore M. Hesburgh
The last twenty-five years has offered many proof points as to the as to the impact, need and importance of the work of Teach For America. However, there is evidence that what we do, how we do it and the why of what we do has become obscured. This is not surprising given the spread of our work. We are a single entity that exists in many "versions", 53 regions, over one dozen national functional teams and in the experience of nearly 9000 corps members and over 40,000 alumni.
Central to the ELT's work this year and an area of focus in FY18 will be helping themselves and every member of our community understand what is core...what we do and who we are. The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) has taken a leadership role in stewarding the entire organization into the next phase of Teach For America, in a reality vastly different from that during its founding. Resetting and evolving what we do, betting crystal clear on what we do and why we do it, knowing this work is more important than ever, driving harder towards One Day.
"Core ideology in a great company endures as a source of guidance and inspiration." Jim Collins
The ELT has benefited from the expertise and experience of many outside of the ELT. In additional to many regional and national teams, our work has been furthered by many partners. We appreciate our partners and look forward to adding partners in FY18. Our FY17 partners include:
- Boston Consulting Group
- Charter Board Partners
- Dr. Michael Lomax
- The Management Center
- Newark Charter School Fund
- Peter Block
- Teach For All