Coaching & Leadership Development
Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

  This thought piece comes from executive coach, former governor and Integrity Coaching Associate, Ben Gibbs. There is an ancient Persian tale about a householder who notices a bump in a rug. Whenever he tries to smooth the rug the bump reappears again, and again, and again. Finally, in frustration, he lifts the rug and out slides an angry snake. Of course, the point is that this is how we tend to try to change things in our organisations; dealing only with the symptoms and not the underlying cause – the snake under the surface. This is understandable, for we live in a rational age when we’re taught to believe only what we can see and to value only that which we can know. And so it goes for our professional development as leaders and managers, which trains us to view our colleagues as nothing more than rational actors, moving about on a surface in ways we might try to predict, and motivate with carrots and sticks. This perspective is so pervasive that we rarely question it. Flattening the Bump We just keep on trying to flatten the bump. But – at the risk of over-extending the metaphor – the longer we leave the snake under the rug (and the more we hit it), the more disruptive it will become. Because the fact of the matter is that humans are far more complex than this impoverished view of the workplace allows. In all our beauty, we are subject to fantasies, contradictory wishes and desires, defensive and destructive behaviours, and anxieties. Put us together in groups and organise us with process and structure...
Coronavirus – How to Protect your Mental Health in a Crisis

Coronavirus – How to Protect your Mental Health in a Crisis

“It may be that this emergency will offer the space and time to focus on our interior world” Tobias Jones After a week of self-isolating and not getting any better, this was very much the case for me. When it was confirmed over the phone, by my doctor that I had contracted Covid-19.   The diagnosis didn’t surprise me. For a week I’d felt awful; sore throat, persistent cough, aching limbs, no energy and loss of appetite. By the time my family made the decision to call the doctor, those symptoms had intensified, along with stinging headaches, that seemed to go on for hours and Paracetamol had little effect.   Self-isolating in my bedroom and with no energy to even read a book or watch TV, the only thing I could do was face my own interior world of thoughts and feelings.   My family were worried, particularly my 93 year old mum (who struggled to understand why she couldn’t come over and take care of me) and my eldest son, who despite his best efforts, found it difficult to mask his anxiety and worry.   As I slowly came back to full health ( a process that took slightly over three weeks) I realised that the sense of connectedness that I had with myself and others was a key factor in protecting my mental health. It helped me to retain a sense of hope as my body sought to recover.   Staying Connected   The illness meant that I had difficulty talking. Even trying to speak for just a few moments led to bouts of coughing that drained every ounce of energy from...
Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” – John Maxwell Change is all around us. It happens every second, every minute of our lives. Yet in spite of this, change is not something many of us are comfortable with. As a result, we so often miss the inherent opportunities for growth that accompany any change process.   Within the context of school leadership, my belief is that the reason for this, is because very little if anything is done to prepare individuals for the emotional and psychological consequences of change.   This becomes a particular problem at times like this, when school leaders are facing a huge amount of change and uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.   When faced with a crisis like this, when you are at the forefront and needing to manage change across your school, you also have to take stock and ask, “What is the change process  asking of you?”   This is a necessary first step if you are to develop the wherewithal to manage the crisis positively, not only for yourself, but also for those that you lead and manage.   In my work with school leaders, I have come to realise that change is managed most effectively when individuals understand that there are four distinct stages that they and their schools must successfully progress through.   Each stage requires a deep level of self-awareness and emotional maturity to avoid the fight or flight syndrome, or remaining stuck in an unhealthy comfort zone. The four stages are…   1. Letting go:   This is the stage where you have to: – Accept that some or...
Coronavirus – Why Schools Don’t Need “Superheads” in this Crisis

Coronavirus – Why Schools Don’t Need “Superheads” in this Crisis

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.   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 self-concept is never more dangerous than when a crisis (like the one we are all in now) hits. Suddenly circumstances outside one’s control present themselves. In an instant it becomes clear that humanity, sincerity and compassion, triumph over acts of bravado and self-interest.   A crisis like this  demands true leadership. Leadership that is in service to the greater good. It is leadership that requires huge amounts of empathy and self-awareness. It is leadership that that fully understands what is meant by the words “We are all in this together.”   Does this make sense 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...
Coronavirus – The 3 Steps to Surviving a Crisis

Coronavirus – The 3 Steps to Surviving a Crisis

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.    Many things can cause a crisis in a School, more often than not – they result from a set of circumstances which are often caused by things entirely out of one’s control as a school leader.   This has never been true since the coronavirus outbreak caused schools to shut back in March. Today, many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters; they are having to captain and lead ‘digital’ schools whilst simultaneously provide some type of specialised, alternative provision for children of key workers.   Given this pressure and enormous amount of change is also happening alongside many leaders’ personal circumstances, it is understandable to experience quite significant psychological upheaval.   With this upheaval leaders can begin to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the situation.   If this is the case for you, here’s three things you should do to regain a sense of agency and give yourself the best chance of surviving a crisis like this…    1. Remember Your Oxygen Mask   Firstly, I have learned that how you feel is more to do with your inner state than what’s going on out there.  When I’ve slept well and feel physically and mentally OK, I somehow feel ‘bigger’ and problems seem ‘smaller’.  They even seem to matter less, although I am still driven to solve them as best I can.  The difference is that I have some energy to do so.  Fatigue, on the other hand, makes us turn in on ourselves and it becomes even harder to face the world.   The first piece of advice,...