Distractions or disruptions to our schools, organizations or normal routines can cause people to lose focus on what’s most important. These distractions can be large and more long-term or minor and pass relatively quickly. It’s understandable that we may pause from our normal routines and measures to respond to the situation. However, after the initial response and actions have been taken, it’s critical for leaders to carefully shift their team’s thoughts back to progress and results.


Leaders can encourage their teams to focus on what’s most important by providing clear direction, aligning people to goals and monitoring progress towards execution.

  • Clarity – What does success look like for your organization? Communicate your strategic plan or action plan with everyone on the team and ask for feedback to validate their understanding.
  • Alignment – What are the 2-3 most important goals or outcomes for the next 30 or 60 days? Clearly communicate the department goals and team goals so team members understand what is most important. This will help the team align and develop their individual goals accordingly.
  • Execution – What actions will individuals take to move the organization forward towards its goal? How should these actions be prioritized? Meet regularly with teams and leaders to monitor progress on these actions and determine how team members are strategically aligning their daily and weekly actions to priorities.

These three steps can be incorporated into your team or organization by using the following two types of connection opportunities.


On March 26, we ran our first Burton School District Cabinet Huddle. We were able to communicate effectively from all of our homes… The huddle really gave us those quick informational ideas. We first talked about harvested wins. After that, everyone had an opportunity to talk about what they are doing in the next 24 to 48 hours and what they are stuck on. And I think that was the most critical piece. If they were stuck, everyone was able from this level to then call each other and share their experiences and insight. – Sergio Mendoza, Superintendent, Burton School District

Whether we are experiencing intense periods of change or disruption, working and learning from home or we have returned to a more normal routine, consistent huddles provide leaders an opportunity to connect, report updates and actions and raise awareness to foreseen barriers.

As Burton School District Superintendent, Sergio Mendoza explained during a podcast interview with Janet Pilcher, a biweekly leader huddle had tremendous impacts for his school district, which led to better problem-solving and an increased connection between principals and teachers. The consistent routine established by daily huddles enables leaders to test ideas and monitor progress on our most important actions.

Team huddles foster clarity, alignment and execution through clear communication, timely updates and attention on what matters most to achieve results. This sample agenda can be modified and used to help create structure and consistency for team huddles:

Greetings/Welcome/Roll Call
One Minute
Harvested Win:

Select one person to contribute
One Minute
Communicate something recognized from leader connections
One Minute
Two Minutes
Discussion on Actions for the Day

Determine who will report out (usually team leaders):

  • What’s up in the next 24 hours? (15 seconds per team lead and only relate to key activities, meetings, decisions)
  • How are we doing on daily metrics? (30 seconds per team lead talking about daily metrics)
  • Where are you stuck? (90 seconds per team lead talking about concerns that would keep the team from having a great 24 hours)

Ten Minutes

Wrap Up/Follow-Up
One Minute

In the interview, Sergio explained his cabinet leadership team met twice a week using an agenda similar to above. Determine what cadence will be most beneficial to keep your team informed and monitor progress frequently. This can range from daily to weekly depending on the organization and team’s needs. Depending on the size of your team, you may find it useful to assign leaders specific days to report their actions to the team.

If there are places where leaders are stuck, or barriers to progress, problem solving does not occur during the team huddle. The right people will meet outside of the larger group to discuss and solve for barriers. This could also be an opportunity for a leader to meet one on one with their employee to focus on feedback and problem solving.


Although there is some two-way communication during huddles, our time and focus is limited to the specific agenda. Conversations with individuals that dive into detail and allow employees the opportunity to give feedback help leaders verify understanding and alignment and guide execution. While we recommend meeting one on one with direct reports at least once every thirty days, Gallup research indicates that engagement is highest among employees who meet with their manager at least once per week.

During his interview, Sergio also mentions rounding is another critical piece to contributing to clarity, alignment and execution of team goals. Sergio explains,

The other piece of that was rounding. I started to do rounding with my cabinet and then I introduced the rounding portion of the huddles with my principals. And the principals actually, they individually would call their teachers and they were trying to figure out ‘where are you’…They learned a lot about their stuckness on either their personal life or their education. So, we really built some great relationships that we hope the future will continue to grow whether face to face, or online—whatever comes.

Rounding is the most powerful leadership tactic focusing on employee engagement and satisfaction. It helps leaders harvest wins and allows employees to provide feedback about their work environment. Most importantly, rounding is about building strong, genuine relationships.

Here is a core set of questions to use that will create consistency for your team and provide leaders with ongoing information about individual wins, ideas and opportunities for improvement:

  1. What is working well for you?
  2. Do you have what you need to do your job?
  3. Is there anything I can do to help you continue to perform well?
  4. Is there anyone who has been especially helpful to you?

More Questions for Clarity, Alignment and Execution

During connections with your team members, you can clarify their understanding of the strategic goals and how their roles reflect those goals by asking, “What actions are you prioritizing this month?”. Leaders can offer feedback about how those actions align with the overall goal for the organization. This will give you an awareness of team members who might not be prioritizing the right actions and opportunities to support those individuals.

Incorporate questions that probe and clarify into your connections and team meetings. For example, instead of asking, “Do you have any questions?,” ask, “What can I explain better?” You can probe further by asking, “Can you be more specific?,” “What makes you say that?,” “Can you give me an example?,” and “Why do you think that’s working?”.

Connections with employees and teams increase employee engagement, satisfaction and keep people focused on our most important priorities. Hear more about team connections and the importance of daily huddles from Burton School District Superintendent, Sergio Mendoza at our virtual conference, What’s Right in Education 2020 (WRIE).

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