Coaching & Leadership Development
My Guardian Article – Tips for Headteachers to help prevent Burnout

My Guardian Article – Tips for Headteachers to help prevent Burnout

I was recently asked to write an article for the Guardian to offer my advice to School Leaders about what can be done to tackle the causes of burn-out and reduce some of the stress of the role. Below are the tips that I shared with them… If you would like to comment or read my original article on the Guardian website, please click here.   The stress that headteachers are under continues to be reported – with the numbers leaving the profession a growing concern. For many, headship is a role that’s beginning to feel untenable.   This echoes what I often hear from headteachers in my role as school leadership coach. The headteachers I speak to feel overwhelmed by shrinking budgets, the teacher recruitment crisis and the high-pressure inspection system. So what steps can they take to prevent burnout?   1. Don’t ignore stress and anxiety In his book Leading from the Edge, ex primary head James Hilton recounts how he fooled himself into believing that all was well, even though his body was showing signs of stress through increasingly frequent back pains and migraines.   It’s easy to normalise symptoms of stress, which can also include problems sleeping, loss of appetite and mood swings. You tell yourself it’s part of the job. This is what I did when I was headteacher and I see many others doing the same thing. But these kinds of problems can be a physiological response to stress and anxiety, and should be taken seriously.   2. Build a support system   Leading organisational psychologists Arnold Bakker and Patrícia Costa argue in their research paper on chronic burnout for tailored...
Growing the Leader Within – Steve Russell

Growing the Leader Within – Steve Russell

This Blog comes from Integrity Coaching Associate & Education for the Soul Conference Workshop Facilitator, Steve Russell.   So there I am, high-viz jacket on, walkie talkie in hand, walking the corridors on my first day as an interim senior leader of a bustling secondary school.   As I approach a group of students, several of whose uniforms need tidying up, an anxiety rises within me as I prepare to ask them to tuck shirts in and straighten ties. “Will they take the blindest bit of notice of me?’ is that nagging thought, rumbling underneath as I check my body posture and clear my throat.   Fast forward a couple of hours later and I’m sat across the table from a behaviour mentor about whose performance there are some concerns. I’ve been tasked with establishing whether these concerns are well-founded and, if so, put together an action plan in order to ‘move things on’. Within five minutes, I’ve heard how her dad is seriously ill and that this is why she isn’t effective as she usually is.   These two examples immediately spring to my mind when I think of the challenge of leadership. You will have your own. Perhaps it’s dealing with a parent whose behaviour you find challenging; or working with governors on a specific aspect of school development. The list is endless –and quite often contains the issues that keep you awake at night.   Essentially, the challenge is essentially around how do we carry ourselves with integrity when fulfilling the role of being in charge?  Going back to my two examples – I have previous experiences...
The 5 Characteristics of Resilient School Leaders

The 5 Characteristics of Resilient School Leaders

Over the last few years, I’ve seen more and more School Leaders struggling with the emotional and psychological cost of being a School Leader today and I have seen many leave the profession as a result. We’re seeing how school leadership has increasingly become a high-risk role and the detrimental impact that this has on the emotional and mental health of leaders across the profession. Many, recognising that their psychological health is at stake if they continue, have been forced to abandon their dreams for themselves and their school and have exited the profession early. With the current pressures as they are, more than ever, our school leaders need high levels of emotional resilience, if they are to remain in the role for the long-haul. However, what does it mean to be a resilient school leader? What does it look like? Well, I believe there are 5 key qualities that emotionally resilient school leaders have in common… 1. They stay hopeful and focussed on their vision   Resilient school leaders believe wholeheartedly in their vision and what their school can become. They understand the type of culture that needs to be instilled and the behaviours that they will need to model to give life to their vision. Their vision of a better future for every child in their school fuels all their decisions and actions. They are keenly aware of the potential for growth that their vision holds. This belief that growth is a necessary part of their school’s development, keeps them committed to their own growth and development. Even in the darkest of times.  2. They have a growth mind-set  ...
How to Build Your Courage as a School Leader

How to Build Your Courage as a School Leader

  If you are a school leader, then it is my belief that you are going to need far more courage than most other individuals.   As on a daily basis, it would seem that you have to confront an array of challenging situations which to varying degrees leave you feeling:   – Threatened – Afraid – Weak – Vulnerable – Pushed to the limit – Confused   It takes courage to meet these feelings head on and to not let them stop you from moving forward, but courage is not always easy to develop! We seem to find it easier to identify it in others, but harder to discover the route that we must take to find it in ourselves.   If you want to develop greater courage as a school leader, then read through these six tips below.   1. Feel the Fear but choose to act anyway   Admit to yourself that you are afraid. When you admit to yourself the truth of what you are feeling, you then develop an honesty with yourself about the choices you must make to overcome your fear.   When we choose not to admit to ourselves that we are afraid, the actions that we then take are often less than conscious and are less to do with addressing our fear and more to do with simply masking it.   2. Press on in the face of adversity   As Winston Churchill famously said, “Never, never give up!” Just ensure that as you press on towards your goal, that you are supported by those who love and care for you...
How to Make Time for a Life Outside of School

How to Make Time for a Life Outside of School

  It’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in the role of being a Head, to the point that your private life simply drops off the schedule as you work on autopilot, just getting through the day. But this is dangerous, not only for your health and your relationships, but for your school life as well.   The truth is as much as we may treat our work lives and personal lives are separate, when one suffers, it is rare for the other to go on completely unaffected.   Therefore, if leaders are to stay at their best, they need to find a balance and devote the same care to both, both for the well-being and for the sake of their own personal efficacy.   No matter how much you might not want to admit it sometimes, you’re a person in a role, not a robot. This means that you have all of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs that people have, including that of work life balance.   So many Heads just assume that stepping into this role means an end to their work life balance. They put their heads down, get through day after day hoping to make it to retirement, and end up totally incapacitating themselves.   If you’re currently in “Robo-Head” mode, don’t wait for a crisis to force you to re-evaluate. Instead, bring some consciousness into your work life balance. Look at how things are now, what’s working and what’s not working. If you find yourself saying a lot of “Yeah, buts” — as in, “Yeah I should spend more time on myself, but…”...