Coaching & Leadership Development
What can School Leaders learn from Martin Luther King?

What can School Leaders learn from Martin Luther King?

This blog comes from writer, storyteller, educator and “Education for the Soul” Conference keynote speaker, Geoff Mead.     Narratives that veer toward generalities, explanations, and abstractions, or which insist on telling us their moral or meaning, have abandoned storytelling in favour of propositional knowing and advocacy, and thereby lose their extraordinary ability to stimulate both the feelings and imagination of teller and audience.   Wise leaders know this. Martin Luther King, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of 200,000 civil rights supporters, in Washington on August 28, 1963, probably knew it. His friend, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who urged him from the crowd “Tell them about the dream, Martin,” certainly knew it. Responding to her encouragement, King broke off from his prepared speech and told the story of a future nation in which there would be racial justice and equality.   Over 50 years later, we still remember that story barely 300 words – though we might be hard put to recall the rest of his 1,600 word speech. It was a story so powerful that even the story of telling the story has become iconic. Stories touch us in ways that other forms of communication do not. A good story, well told, can slip past the defences of the rational mind, pluck at our hearts, and stir our souls.   Visionary leaders are both far-seeing and far-shaping: their grasp of imaginative possibilities is more clearly aligned than most with the unfolding future and therefore enables them to influence it more strongly. They are able, at least to some extent, to create an empowering...
Why Headteachers Need to Learn to Reflect

Why Headteachers Need to Learn to Reflect

    As a Head there are many questions that you are called to answer; questions for which you very often have to justify, defend or give account for your actions and decisions made. These questions are very much bound up in the ‘doing’ of the role, the day to day actions by which much of your role is defined.   There are however, another set of questions, which I believe many Heads are called to answer, when they step into the role. Although the reality is, that the frenetic nature of school leadership means that many never even realise this.   As a result, they trudge through the day to day, not knowing, not realising, that their inner dis-ease is a call to stop, pause and reflect and to pay attention to the deeper questions of the soul/the person in the role.   How do I know this?   When I was a Head teacher, I had constant inner ache. I believed that I had been called to be Head of the school that I was in, yet there was many a time when things just didn’t feel right. When times were tough, I had many questions that I needed to ask of others about the role, about the challenges I faced.   As time progressed, I soon came to realise, that those on hand to ‘support me’ where very skilled in providing answers for what I had to do, but no-one, not a single person, was able to offer support and guidance on who I needed to be.   And so, the inner ache remained. I got...
How Stories Change us and Determine our Future

How Stories Change us and Determine our Future

This blog comes from writer, storyteller, educator and “Education for the Soul” Conference keynote speaker, Geoff Mead. Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories that individuals or nations live by and tell themselves and you change the individuals and nations. John Okri     Anthropologist Dr Frances Harwood — a student of Margaret Mead’s — once asked a Sioux elder why people tell stories. He answered: “In order to become human beings.” She asked, ‘Aren’t we human beings already?” He smiled. “Not everyone makes it.”   The world is full of stories. But not everything is a story; we communicate in other ways as well: we analyse data, exchange information, proffer opinions, make arguments, and plead our case, to name but a few. So, what exactly is a story?   My favourite definition comes from organizational storyteller Annette Simmons who says that a story is: “an imagined (or reimagined) experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imagination to experience it as real!”   A story happens somewhere in the space between the teller’s imagination and the listener’s imagination. “Ah. But I don’t deal in imagination,” you might say. “I deal in facts. I only want to know what’s really happening.”   Actually, imagination is how we create reality. We rely on our capacity to make images in the mind to interpret immediate sensory information (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste): we smell baking and imagine the pie; we hear a bang and imagine a gunshot; the hairs on the back of our neck stand up and we imagine an intruder.   In this way,...
How to Engage the Heart for Successful School Improvement

How to Engage the Heart for Successful School Improvement

  Change is never easy. Ironically, we counter it almost every single day of our lives and yet the accompanying struggles and stresses that are often a part of the change process, still seem to always take us by surprise.   Never more so is this the case than in schools where very often the emotional responses to change and school improvement can cause individuals to lose sight of the fact that change is just as much a relational process as it is a strategic and operational process.   Successful change involves engagement of the heart, just as much as it does engagement of our cognitive faculties. When the heart is engaged, the stories that individuals then tell about the change process within their schools is more humane, generative and hope-centred.   Research carried out by Dr Belinda Harris (one of the workshop hosts for our up and coming “Education for the Soul” Conference) suggests that there are three emotional conditions necessary for school improvement or three `heart’ conditions which are central to the process of change…   1. Emotional Fitness   The first of these is defined as `emotional fitness’, whereby creating a climate of trust in the school is essential to foster positive feelings of involvement and ownership.   When fears, anxieties and even resistance are articulated and accepted as normal and healthy responses to change, teachers are more likely to trust that their efforts will not be ridiculed or dismissed. Communication and positive relationships are central components of emotional fitness allowing staff to realistically assess and confront their own strengths and weaknesses in order to achieve...
How to Develop Your Own Personal Vision

How to Develop Your Own Personal Vision

This blog comes from Justin Robbins and Karen Dempster, co-authors of ‘How to Build Communication Success in Your School’ and workshop facilitators at our upcoming “Education for the Soul” Conference. When trying to develop effective communication approaches that promote collaboration and drive positive outcomes, an important starting point to understand what makes your school stand out from the crowd is its vision. The power of a vision in schools is well documented. It is stated that if you do not know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? A vision is a ‘north star’ against which all decisions are made. But how about a personal vision? Should a leader have a personal vision that guides their day to day decisions and shapes their plans against which they measure their success? Well we think so. Here are three things to consider if you want to develop a meaningful personal vision that inspires those around you to deliver their best every day… Be positive   It is easy to limit your beliefs without realising. How often do you think “I can’t do that because…” rather than “I can achieve that if…”? As Steve Jobs once said “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do” And as Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” So approach your vision with a positive mindset. If your vision is to make a difference in a certain area, ask yourself what you need to enable you to do that, to overcome the barriers you will face?  A positive...