Coaching & Leadership Development
4 Steps to Work-Life Harmony as a School Leader

4 Steps to Work-Life Harmony as a School Leader

  Over the last few years, there’s been a growing understanding that; “talking of a work-life balance is too simplistic” and that we have become “collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way” (David Whyte)   This deepening understanding has come about as many have come to realise that the term “work-life balance” suggests that we have to split our time equally between our work and personal lives and in so doing barter one off against the others. The terminology forces individuals to think in terms of trade-offs and sacrifices – instead of the possibility for harmonising all aspects of our lives. The truth is all aspects of our lives inter-relate – work-life, home-life, personal-life, etc and they all have an impact on how we show up as individuals.   To quote David Whyte again;   “In the deeper hidden realms of the human psyche, work and life are not separate things and therefore cannot be balanced against each other, except to create further trouble.”   So instead of trying to create balance, David Whyte and others suggest that it is better for us to think about the conversations that we can have with ourselves (and others) to bring greater harmony and alignment to our lives as a whole. This is no easy task and this is perhaps another reason as to why when considering well-being in schools “Work-life Balance” has become the default term. It is far easier to think in opposing terms, to set one thing up against the other, than it is to think about integration...
The Coaching Leadership Style – the Pros and Cons

The Coaching Leadership Style – the Pros and Cons

  As a school leader you will no doubt, have a vast array of knowledge about leadership styles and how and when to deploy them.   We all know context is everything and there is no point adopting a democratic leadership style, when the school fire alarm has gone off and the building needs to be evacuated immediately!   However, I never cease to be amazed when working with school leaders, that out of the six most commonly referred to leadership styles i.e. Visionary, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, Authoritative and Coaching, the latter is the one that most leaders appear to find the hardest to develop. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so…   1. The frenetic pace of the school life: The speed at which things need to happen, means that many a time you have to set a fast pace, to get things done. So, pace-setting and authoritative styles of leadership lend themselves quite naturally to the role.   2. Everyone needs to be on board the bus: Everyone has to be in alignment with the school’s vision and goals. A school’s trajectory will flounder if there is not a clear sense of purpose and direction. Visionary leaders know this and ensure that at key times through-out the school year, they adopt a Visionary style to keep everyone on the bus.   3. Relationships are the key to school improvement: School Improvement plans are not the key to a school’s success, relationships are. It is the relationships that school leaders form with their staff that are important. They determine the degree to which...
Wellbeing and What it Means to me – Expert Interview

Wellbeing and What it Means to me – Expert Interview

This expert interview is with former Headteacher, executive coach and well-being expert, Samantha Jayasuriya. 1. How do you define Wellbeing?   The way I would define “Wellbeing” is a state of positive physical, mental and emotional health which enables a person to live a creative life.   2. How has Wellbeing become a particular area of interest for you?   My interest started around the same time as I became a Headteacher, and began to notice how exhausted I was around the ends of term.  Like many of my fellow Heads I spent too many holidays fighting flu instead of sharing joy with my family and friends. A chance meeting with an artist friend who had spun, naturally dyed and knitted an autumnal jumper made me reflect on how I used my time out of work.   By placing boundaries on my work, leaving at 6pm and not looking at emails at home I created the space to think and enjoy time with my family and friends, who helped to keep me grounded.     I recognised that rest was vital for me to recharge, and a chance for me to take off the mantle of responsibility that I wore as a Head. I took up knitting again, enjoying the creative process as well as the finished product. This became my kind of mindfulness or meditation. Research backed up my knowledge that my well-being was being enhanced. The repetitive nature of a simple pattern de-stressed me, quieted my mind and had the added benefit of creating new neural pathways in my brain.     It became increasingly obvious to me that...
The Biggest Mistake a Headteacher can Make

The Biggest Mistake a Headteacher can Make

    As a Head you are human and just like us all, there will be times when you will make mistakes. Mistakes are not to be feared. It is through our mistakes that we learn and grow.   However, in the life of a Head teacher, I would argue there is one mistake, that you cannot afford to make. And that is the mistake of believing because you are now at the ‘top’ of the ladder you are the finished article.   Your years of honing your craft in the classroom and leading as a Deputy have fully prepared you for the role that you now occupy and that there is nothing more for you to learn. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.   When you step into the Headteacher role, it is important to recognise that you are now at another stage in your development as a leader. Very often, the psychological adjustments that need to be made in order for you to fully accept and understand this can be like learning to walk again.   Just as when you were a child learning to walk, you were supported by loved ones to move from a place of unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence (Maslow’s Four Stages of Learning – below), as a school leader you have to be supported to move to this confident place of being.   The impact of leading without psychological support   Without psychological support, the experience for a Head growing into their role can be both lonely and limiting. Progress can be slow and in extreme cases, stunted; neither the...
Why Heads Need to Learn to Share

Why Heads Need to Learn to Share

    A while back, I attended a well-being conference for school leaders. An OFSTED inspector was one of the guest speakers. As the school leaders who were present aired their feelings about OFSTED and whether it was really fit for purpose, this inspector’s demeanour changed.   Initially, he confidently told the audience what he believed they should be thinking and feeling about OFSTED. But he became nervous and agitated when the audience asked him to listen to their actual thoughts and feelings.   It seemed that he was uncomfortable with the level of emotion in the room, and to have acknowledged that depth of feeling would have left him exposed and vulnerable. It is my belief that if he had dropped his guard – if only for a moment – he would have shown a more human side to OFSTED, which is what the delegates were desperate to see. Like all of us, they just wanted to be listened to.   The consequences of emotional insensitivity   When our emotional needs are not met, just as in the scenario above, we feel dehumanised and alone. We feel as though out humanity has been pushed to one side. The ability to feel, laugh, to cry to hurt can all be seen as a hinderance to one’s ability to lead effectively.   Sadly, for many Heads, spaces where they can feel, laugh, and cry are few and far between. As a result, many lead from a place of inner dissonance. Their basic emotional needs to feel accepted, appreciated, believed in, respected, listened to, valued and supported are ignored. Many suffer...