Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
better tomorrow.

Why School Leaders Occasionally need to Retreat (Temporarily…)

Today’s Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.    I’ll never forget the face of a dear friend one evening as he arrived for the start of a two-day retreat.    He was in a leadership role in education.  His week so far had left him looking pale and harrowed, with the crease of a deep frown between his eyes, which were dull.  The light was out.  He looked spent.   Forty-five hours later, he was beaming.  His face was alive again, twinkling with humour and he looked ‘on top of the world’.  It was quite a remarkable transformation.   What had happened in between?   Those two days were like a ‘plunge pool’ of reflection and restoration.  Being in a Circle of Trust had made him feel safe to allow his vulnerability out, so it could be shared, honoured, treated, put into perspective.   Rising above it, like a helicopter, he saw the wood for the trees again.  A walk across fields even imprinted that image on his memory.  Nothing was quite so important as to get the better of him again, as things had started to do.   In quiet dialogue with like-minded fellow professionals, he found answers coming to him.  He had new clarity about the way forward and new energy to get there.  He regained the quiet conviction that comes from remembering the values that underlay his professional calling.   Three Reasons School Leaders occasionally need to retreat   1. Our relationships, at work and home, can get overloaded, mostly with other people’s agendas. Retreat provides us with that... LEARN MORE

The 3 Steps to Recapturing your Love of School Leadership

  It is my belief that school leadership can be one of the most fulfilling and joyful roles but it can also be one of the most stressful and emotionally testing roles too. Sadly for many school leaders, it seems the latter appears to be more aligned with their reality of the role.      In my previous blog, “Are You Falling out of Love with School Leadership?” I explained how the challenges and high cost of the School leadership can leave leaders feeling disenchanted by the role. I discussed how the culture of high accountability, low job security and excessive workload in our schools can serve to dishearten our school leaders and alienate many from the original vision and passion which inspired them when they entered headship.   However, the question remains: What should you do if you are finding that the role no longer offers you the same joy which it did?   It is my belief that a school leader’s compassion & heartfelt desire to make a difference and serve their pupils & community is something which can never be fully extinguished. However, the flames can require stoking in difficult times.  I believe this is not a case of starting from scratch but rather it is about reconnecting with that which has been lost, identifying ways to lessen the costs of the role and overcoming the challenges that the role presents.   Ultimately, I believe there are three steps which school leaders should take to bring back their passion for the role.   Step 1 – Learn to put yourself, those you love and what you... LEARN MORE

Are you falling out of love with School Leadership?

  Do you feel you still have the same zest for being a head teacher as your very first day? Do you wake up in the morning looking forward to what the day at school brings and leave work enthused by what you’ve accomplished? Does your future as a headteacher excite you?   Answering no to any of these questions is very normal, particularly after a tough week or a mound of paperwork or a difficult encounter with a parent or pupil. However, many can find they struggle to find the same joy that the role originally offered them for months and even years.   Causes   Losing the joy of school leadership can be caused by a number of things. However, I believe school leaders losing their joy for the role says less about the individuals in question who struggle with this phenomenon and more about the intense pressures and baggage which comes with being a head teacher. In particular, I believe there are 4 key pressures that can serve to diminish a Headteacher’s love of their role.   1.  High Expectation and Accountability – Head teachers are acutely aware of the enormous responsibility placed on their shoulders namely, the proper education and happiness of all the school’s pupils. However, if this was not enough, headteachers often also have to constantly meet (if not exceed) the considerable and often, diverse needs, hopes and expectations of school governors, politicians and thousands of parents and pupils. Keeping all these stakeholders happy is often not merely a tough balancing act but can be a minefield.   2. Job Insecurity – Growing accountability... LEARN MORE

The 3 Times EVERY School Leader Should Stop & Reflect

  One thing you learn very quickly as a school leader is that once you’re in the role, time changes completely for you! Everything seems to come at you swiftly and all at once. It’s often all you can do just to keep up with day to day issues. And any grand ideas you had about taking time to yourself go right out the window!   And I understand, believe me. You want to be a good school leader, and if that means giving your all to the school, then you’ll give it all your energy, focus, and time to ensure the job is done well.   But by pushing too hard to do something great for your school, you can [unintentionally] jeopardize the whole process!   You see, to grow as a school leader, to achieve greatness both for yourself and others, it’s imperative that you take time to reflect on where you’ve been and how you are changing in the role. You can’t lead unconsciously or by default and expect to get consistently good results; you have to build reflection into your work life just as you would CPD and time for school development planning.   And you can help yourself, by identifying when to press the pause button and simply stop and reflect. I believe there are 3 key times/situations when every School leader should press the pause button and make time to do just this.   After Mistakes   Reflecting on mistakes can be one of the most uncomfortable things to do, but also one of the most important things for a school leader to... LEARN MORE

How to Stop People Management Issues Dominating Your Leadership

  As a school leader have you ever wondered why people management issues tend to dominate most of your time?   My reflection on this is quite simply that we humans are complex and the older we get, the harder it seems for us to truly grow up and behave as adults! Children are far easier to understand and deal with, even the most challenging are honest; whether through their behaviour, or otherwise, they tend to let us know how they are truly feeling.   The games people play   With us ‘grown ups’, the communication games we played as children continue into adulthood and into our personal and professional lives. Most of the time, we are unaware of the roles that we adopt in the game. However, if you are a leader, there will come a time when you shout:   “Stop! the rules of the game need to change!”   That’s when you come to the realisation, that, if you understood a little bit more about yourself and the dynamics of human behaviour, you’d have a far greater chance of being able to achieve better outcomes for yourself and those that you lead and manage. Transactional Analysis [TA]   Developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1950s, TA is a psychological tool that can help us develop a greater understanding of what happens when we communicate with other people. An understanding of TA in our working lives can help us to:   – Identify our emotional triggers and the emotional triggers of others – Overcome our emotional triggers and lead from a place of deep personal self-control... LEARN MORE

3 Reasons Why our Schools Need Authentic Leaders

  It truly saddens me to say this, but it is my belief that one of the unfortunate legacies of recent educational reform has been the fuelling of egocentric approaches to school improvement.   Government policy has enabled investment that has assisted the creation of personal power bases, rather than an education system in which all truly flourish.   For those heads and school leaders who have sought to maintain an altruistic approach to their roles, the constant question many have struggled with is;   “How, within the current realities of the education system, can I maintain my original ideals and lead with true authenticity?”   The school leaders who ask this question are the brave and courageous ones. They are the ones who are prepared to do the ‘inner work’ of school leadership and ask the deep questions that will ensure that they remain rooted in their values and what they know to be true. They are the authentic leaders.   And, make no mistake, like never before, we need these authentic leaders. We need them at the helm of our schools for 3 key reasons:   1. Every child has the right to flourish   For this to be true our school leaders need to flourish. School leaders cannot and do not flourish when they are leading from a place that is a lesser version of their true/best self. It simply isn’t possible.   Within us all there is a desire to reach forward, to grow. However, when this is thwarted, whether through fear, the misuse of power, etc., individuals adopt behaviours that keep them and their... LEARN MORE

Secret Headteacher – What Every Governor Needs to Know About Supporting Headteachers

Today’s Blog comes from a current Headteacher, whose identity for the purpose of this blog will not be disclosed. For the last three years, I have been the headteacher at a special needs school. When I first joined the school, it was very much going through a difficult period of transition.   The head and the deputy head had both left at the same time, and so had left the school without any real leadership and in a state of instability. So I was brought in, relatively inexperienced and without any real leadership support, to make some substantial changes. Firefighting without the equipment   It was clear from the beginning that some of my team had different opinions about what could be achieved at the school and that many of staff were struggling to come to terms with the changes that were going on. So I found myself having to constantly firefight, with no time or space to really develop my thinking and find long-term solutions to these problems.   I knew where I was going but I could only fulfil my vision for the school, if everyone in my team saw it too and fully got behind it.  I realised that I had to find a way to lead that team through the changes, to promote my vision and demonstrate that the changes that I wanted to make were really going to develop the school, whilst maintaining all the things which I believed made it outstanding.   However, I knew that to do this – I needed support; support to help my staff fully understand my vision, the... LEARN MORE

Why Deep Listening should be at the Heart of Support for School Leaders

  We’ve all been there. I know I have. That moment when you realise that the person you are talking to is not listening. They are pretending and the moment you become aware of this, you begin an inward retreat, silently vowing to only reveal the bare minimum of yourself, whenever you are in their company again.   The reason for this is because our souls long to be heard. The very essence of who we are and what makes us special needs a safe space to be nurtured and encouraged, so that we can shine and become the very best version of ourselves.   Quite simply, we all need to be listened to.   Following one of our recent ‘Coaching for the Soul’ workshops, one participant commented, after being involved in a deep listening exercise, that she felt guilty. When asked her reasons as to why she felt this way, she said it was because the exercise made her realise, she rarely listened at a deep level.   This is not unusual. The demands of school life, often invite types of behaviour/ listening that are not fully aligned with the development of self and others.   Which types of listening behaviour do you recognise?     Have a look at the types of listening below. These are the types of listening that because of the constrains of pressure and time, have for many become the norm in our schools. As you look through the list simply ask yourself;   “When have I been on the receiving end of this type of listening and how did it make me... LEARN MORE

Why You Need Different Support as a Head than as a Teacher

Everyone can use support in their careers, full stop. But what many people don’t realise is that the further you progress in your career, the more support you need. While most assume that once they get to the Head teacher spot, they no longer need support, or that they can continue with the level of support they had as teachers, that couldn’t be less true. Heads need unique support because of challenges like:   Isolation   Headship is a lonely job, and without the right support you can become incredibly isolated. As a teacher, no matter what kind of challenges you’re facing, you’re still surrounded by a group of people, in your school, who are undergoing similar challenges, but as a Head, you’re on your own.   Responsibility   Similarly, as a Head, the buck stops with you in a way that you couldn’t have imagined as a teacher. The huge pressure that creates on you would be hard to deal with in any situation, but when you add in the low trust/high accountability culture that’s so prevalent in our school system, it can be crippling.   Complex Dynamics   While you have to deal with the complexities of behaviour and relationship dynamics in your class and with your colleagues as a teacher, it can’t compare to doing the same thing for all of the classes and staff in a school, the governors, parents, politicians, and the myriad other stakeholders. When you’re thrown into the deep end of these complex dynamics, it’s almost impossible not to become overwhelmed.   External Pressures   Besides the pressures of school, many Heads... LEARN MORE

My Open Letter to Amanda Spielman

Dear Amanda,   Since taking up your post as the new Head of Ofsted, you have made it known that you, “want everyone to see us (Ofsted) as a force for improvement.”   I am sure you know that it is ‘how’ you do this that will determine whether opinions are changed and Ofsted is fully embraced by all in the teaching profession as a ‘force for improvement.’   From my own perspective, as a former Head and one who frequently observes the emotional aftermath of Ofsted inspections, these are just a few points that you might like to consider as you seek to change the way in which Ofsted is perceived.   – Take the fear out of Ofsted inspections: Children don’t thrive in cultures of fear. Therefore, it is ludicrous to expect our teachers and school leaders to thrive in a climate where an Ofsted inspection is the equivalent to having the sword of Damocles hanging over your head.   – Value the context as well as the data: Far too little value is placed on the unique contexts for different schools. Most head teachers know in intimate detail the intricacies of the families and communities they serve. This information provides the framework around which they build their school improvement strategies. Ofsted needs to acknowledge this more when schools are inspected.   – Find a way to inspire the profession: I have yet to come across a school that has felt inspired after an Ofsted inspection. The reality is that many are left tired, exhausted and simply relived that the whole process is over. Just imagine the... LEARN MORE

Why Being a “Superhead” can make you more Vulnerable in a Crisis

Today’s Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small. Tim has been involved in education for over 27 years and is passionate about sharing his experience to help School Leaders maintain their ability to lead & inspire.   We’re all familiar with the notion of a ‘Superhead’ that is all too often projected onto Heads by the media, namely the idea of a Headteacher unmoved by any problems, and entirely impervious to criticism and job insecurity.   The truth is such a Head has never existed, yet many Heads still try to live up to this myth. Heads put on this “mask” to appear entirely in control and imply an unshakeable foundation for their school but by continually wearing this mask, it begins to alter how they perceive themselves.   Some Heads wear this “mask” so much that they begin to believe themselves to be this indestructible persona. In turn, their reputation of being able to control every situation becomes increasingly attached to their sense of identity and self-worth.   This conception is never more dangerous than when a crisis hits and a combination of circumstances outside one’s control presents itself. A crisis can shake the equilibrium of any leadership, particularly if you are in a smaller school where there aren’t so many people to share problem-solving or take on a bit of extra load.   Does this sound familiar to you?   I remember once suffering from a combination of a flu’ epidemic, a shortage of supply teachers and three long-term sickness cases on my staff.  Behaviour started to get worse in classes most disrupted by... LEARN MORE

June’s Story – Counting the Cost of Neglecting the “Soul in the Role”

The current recruitment and retention crisis facing the profession is evidence enough, that the system no longer knows how to keep teachers and school leaders connected to their deep moral purpose and sense of vocation. But… what if there was a way to help teachers and school leaders stay connected to what matters most? –  What if Heads could be helped to overcome the guilt that so many often feel, in regard to having money spent on the meeting of their own personal and professional development needs? –  What if we could help school governors to fully understand the link between a Head’s performance and the meeting of their emotional and psychological needs? – What if we could help everyone to see that if you ‘Take Care of the Soul in the Role’ we all benefit! Our schools, our families, our communities, society at large! It is not an easy task, but it is a possible task and school leaders who chose to travel this road are testimony to the fact that if you are feeling: – Battered by the demands of others – Bereft of self- confidence because of others’ questioning of you – Disillusioned because your values appear out of alignment with others You do not need to give it all up and throw in the towel. For many this point of realisation often comes only after they have had to count the cost of neglecting their own personal needs. As was the case for June, an Integrity client, whose story is shared in this week’s blog. June’s Story My name is June and I have been... LEARN MORE

How to Turn your Vulnerabilities into Strengths

  Recently, I’ve found myself talking a lot about vulnerability and what it takes to let down our masks and show up as our True Selves.   At the start of last week, I delivered three days of training for a DfE funded diverse leaders programme and shared with aspiring BAME school  leaders keys lessons I have learnt about vulnerability and finding True Self. Then on Saturday, I delivered a workshop at the Coventry #WomenEd unconference on a similar theme.   My gender, my ethnicity, my experience of school leadership and coaching others, have taught me an incredible amount about vulnerability. In dealing with my own vulnerabilities, I have had to learn how to turn them into strengths. I have had to learn that we do so, when we turn our energy away from covering up our fears, worries and self- doubt and instead invest the same energy into how learning to overcome them, so that we show up as our True Selves.   The lessons, I have learnt may not be the same for you, but there may be some similarities. As you read through the lessons that I have learnt, ask yourself these three questions.   1. When have I covered up for fear of being seen? 2. How did my behaviour impact on the True vision that I have of myself? 3. How can I bring greater alignment to my inner and outer worlds?   Three Key Lessons on turning Vulnerability into strength   1. I learnt that vulnerability becomes a strength when you let go of ‘old’ beliefs When speaking, I have been quite public... LEARN MORE

Leading with Authenticity – The Cost of Not Being Yourself

  Many of us have, no doubt, experienced times or even situations when we have felt the need to act differently from what feels to be our true self.    Sometimes this is because we believe that in order to succeed or gain approval, we have to alter our behaviour and show others a changed version of ourselves; one that we perceive others want us to be – a “false self” that we think will meet their expectations. In some situations, the “false self” acts as a very clever defence mechanism. It has the cunning ability to make us feel safe in potentially threatening situations. If we are on our guard and present this “false self” to the  world, then we have no fear of rejection or criticism. As our true, authentic, vulnerable self is protected from the judgement and critique of others. Being authentic is something increasingly talked about in the context of leadership, but can be very difficult for School Leaders. Particularly given the prevalent damaging expectation on School leaders to be “Superheads”, strong rocks of their respective schools, impervious to criticism, unmoved by crises and able to turn around a school without feeling anything in the process. As such, it is not unusual for many Heads to feel that they need to hide their vulnerability, in order to try and live up to this expectation and maintain order and command respect from staff and pupils alike. However, what is often overlooked, is that by not being ourselves, there is a heavy price to pay, in terms of our well-being, our relationships and for school leaders –... LEARN MORE

3 Ways School Leaders Create a Culture of Excellence in their Schools

  It is a bit of an understatement to say that being a school leader isn’t an easy task. The multi-layered complexity of the role brings with it a myriad of challenges. One of the biggest challenges, particularly for Heads, is how to create a culture of excellence in which everyone flourishes.   The writing of a School Improvement Plan, the analysis of data, curriculum innovation, can only take a school so far. True school improvement and the development of cultures of excellence, takes place through people, their behaviours and attitudes and the quality of relationships that exist. And this is where the real challenge lies.   Cultures of excellence are created, when alongside strategy and pedagogical advances, schools have systems in place that support an understanding of human process issues, that encourage people to develop a deep understanding of themselves and others.   As a coach, working with school leaders, I have identified 3 key things that successful school leaders do to create such cultures. They are outlined below.   As you read through them, you might find it helpful to ask yourself these two questions”    ‘Where am I now? ‘Where is my school now?’   And have a scale like the one below, either in your head or on a piece of paper, and simply score yourself/your school from 1-10   1 [very limited] —————————————————————————— [very secure] 10   3 Key Ways to Create a Culture of Excellence – Where are you now?   1. School Leaders commit to developing their own Emotional Intelligence.   School leaders that I have worked with know that change begins... LEARN MORE

The Highs & Lows of Exam Results – Why they Shouldn’t Define You and Your School’s Success

The results are in. Following weeks of nervous excitement going through all the possible outcomes of how results will turn out, it can feel like the whole year has been building up to this moment. Having poured your heart and soul into ensuring that your school delivers the results you felt it could achieve, sadly it might be that they haven’t quite turned out to be what you had hoped for. It may feel like someone has not just let the air out of your balloon but has popped it. When you have invested so much of yourself into the job, it’s all too easy to take the results personally as though they are a sole reflection of your ability to lead. It’s at times like these when all sorts of doubts and concerns may well creep into your head and you may begin to question the validity of role. If this sounds familiar, then don’t despair. Now is not the time to give up on your dreams! Indeed, it is more of a time for deep reflection, a time to pause and re-caliberate, so that you can begin the new school year with a renewed sense of energy, purpose and commitment. So, if your school results are not as you had expected and you have found yourself prone to negative and self-depreciating thoughts, read on and take encouragement from our seven tips on how to re-define what success really means for you and your school. Seven key tips on how to re-define what success really means for you and your school Tip 1: Remember that true learning lies... LEARN MORE

Needs that every School Leader must have met to fulfil their New Year Goals!

The “Staying A Head” Manifesto So we’ve seen in the New Year, set our goals for the New Year ahead and if you’re like most of us, once the general euphoria of seeing in the New Year has worn off, you’ll be asking yourself a couple of questions: “Will this year really be any different from the next?” “Can I really stick to the goals I have set myself?” “Once work begins, won’t we all just slip back into the same old routines?” If you are a school leader these are more than just a few superficial questions traversing the corridors of your mind. They are questions that hold deep significance. Why? Because it is likely that the majority of your professional hopes, dreams, and goals will be related to improving the life chances of the young people in your school. So these questions have to be answered! “Will this year be any different from the next? Can you really stick to the goals that you have set for yourself? Can you prevent yourself and others from slipping into the same old routines?” Well… the answer is, “Yes” but if and only If….. You learn and commit to putting the meeting of your own needs first! Why am I saying this? Too often, school leaders [in particular, head teachers] set goals etc for their schools, without a moment’s thought for what achievement of the goal might mean for them on a personal level. Too often, the end result means burn-out; at best, it means tiredness and disillusionment with the role. This year things can be different … If you... LEARN MORE

Why is Reflection so important?

How to build the practice of reflection into your role. I firmly believe that this should be a time when everyone in education takes some much needed time out for themselves; to reflect on what the past school year has meant for them, lessons learnt and implications for the next school year ahead. Learning to keep one eye backward and another forward Let’s be honest, this is incredibly hard to do. Not only physically does it seem a near impossible request to make of the human body, but practically too, when do you ever get a chance, simply to stop, pause and reflect? Everything is urgent and needs to have been done yesterday! To quote from the case study of a head teacher in “Staying A Head: The Stress Management Secrets of Successful School Leaders”, this head teacher said, “I knew that I had to keep an eye on the future and plan ahead, but the day-to-day aspects of the role took over and I wasn’t able to look forward enough. The challenges that I had to face and the behaviours that I adopted meant that I felt unfulfilled and unhappy. I felt as if I had lost myself.” Since publishing, “Staying A Head”, I have heard from a number of head teachers and school leaders who feel like this. Things can be different and the first step often begins with making a conscious decision to lean from the past in order to create a better future. Here is a quote that I came across a while ago, from the Danish Philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards, but... LEARN MORE