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Every Sunday, my family and my cousins gathered in the linoleum-covered basement of my grandparents’ home in St. Paul, Minnesota. We sat at one large table, eating fabulous freshly caught fish or melt-in-your-mouth brisket, and talking politics and sports – and hope. Eternal optimism runs rampant on that side of my family. That optimism was tested season after season as we watched our beloved Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings lose the big games. I watched many games with my grandparents and father in the icy cold of the old Metropolitan Stadium, where the Mall of America now stands.

Much to my Minnesota family’s chagrin, I long ago transferred my allegiance to Boston’s sports teams. Recently, I went to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park (the Sox lost) but the camaraderie of the other ticket holders always instills in me a sense of belonging. Chants that rise in volume, spoken as one voice, united. What power.

Belonging to a team, to a community, to the Jewish people, has lifted me up for as long as I can remember. The joy of prayer in a communal space – whether at camp or in synagogue or the Beit Midrash at my kids’ schools – makes me feel part of something larger than myself.

What is it that makes us yearn to be part of something beyond ourselves? Spirituality and community offer us and our school families an opportunity to connect to a higher power, to a life filled with meaning.  Making meaning is what our schools do every day. Imagine the impact on our future if every family who wanted a day school education for their children could access it.

That sense of purpose and of meaning drives us here at PEJE to work to improve our own work culture. For the past several months, we have been using Patrick Lencioni’s 5-level pyramid of “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team” as a roadmap to improving our effectiveness as we serve schools. (Lencioni has also written a fabulously-titled book called, “Death by Meeting” that I also recommend.)

Lencioni posits that effective teams operate on five successive and levels: Trust, Constructive Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Attention to Collective Results. Trust is the foundation of all team work, with Attention to Collective Results at the pinnacle of the pyramid. Like a video game, a team must conquer each lower level before moving on to the next. The focus on collective results provides team members with the same sense of belonging as sports do for sports fans.

As you start the new school year, what are you doing to ensure that your stakeholders – your faculty, your students, your parents, your donors, your board members, your community leaders – feel part of your school’s team? How are you building that kind of trust that lifts them up, allows them to engage in constructive (a key word, that!) conflict, and engages them so they feel both committed and accountable?

Here at PEJE, in anticipation of greater collaboration among all of the day school intermediaries, we are reflecting on our challenges, assessing our strengths, determining where we can improve, and creating a plan to ensure that we focus relentlessly on collective results. Our results are measured by the services that we deliver to you and your increased financial sustainability. Your success is our success. We are here to enable and empower your progress.

We look forward to hearing what you are doing to feel the collective roar of the crowd cheering on your school. As you start your year, count on us to be among your school’s biggest boosters.