4 Things than can Hinder School Improvement

There are many challenges to bringing a School Development Plan (SDP) to life and ensuring that priorities are owned and meticulously followed through by all relevant parties.
It’s easy to understand, how within the busyness of school-life, many can mistakenly assume, that a well written SDP, backed up with numerous sets of data will secure a school’s progress and increase levels of performance.
If that were true, many a School Leader would find the whole task of school improvement relatively easy. They’d never worry, ruminate over errors made or worry about the next OFSTED visit. They’d just write the SDP, give it to others to read and feel safe in the knowledge that teachers would complete every action detailed within the plan and improvements would follow in simple, predictable, sequential steps. But… we know, schools are busy places and life in schools just isn’t like that!
Senior School Leaders know this and recognise that they have a critical role to play in the execution of the SDP and how it is received by others. Those that fare well are aware of how their actions can either hinder or facilitate school improvement. Their self-awareness is such that their skill in managing inter-personal relationships becomes a key determinant for the degree to which staff engage with the school’s priorities for improvement and their own roles and responsibilities.
In essence, they know that success very much depends on them not doing four of these key things when leading and managing others…


1. Being ambiguous about expectations

Individuals like to know where they stand. Ambiguity over role and performance expectations only leads to confusion and very often disillusionment as well. Individuals opt out of the school improvement process because they are unclear about the criteria against which their performance will be judged.
The self-aware leader knows that their expectation of others has to be clear, so that individuals are supported to succeed rather than fail. They know that when, in collaboration with their colleagues, it is made clear what the organisational and personal milestones are and how to approach them, there is less room for misinterpretation or unconscious sabotage.

2. Not dumping additional work on others

There will always be phenomenal amounts of work to be done in schools. No one person can carry the load for school improvement. Yet, there were still be some corners in schools where staff will complain of being dumped on, when being asked to take on additional tasks.
The self-aware leader recognises that effective leadership is concerned with growing and developing others. They know that for those they line-manage, clear and effective delegation can help others to step outside of their comfort zones and develop new skills and areas of knowledge. But it has to be done carefully.
Individuals have to have bought into the bigger picture, to see how their role is part of the collective whole. If not, they complain and rather than seeing additional duties as an opportunity for growth, they are perceived as unwelcome additions to their workload. Effective delegation occurs when individuals can see the relationship between their own role and areas for development, as well as the priorities within the school development plan.

3. Being risk-averse

Taking on the mantle of School Leadership is very much an act of courage. It involves showing up daily and being prepared for whatever the day may throw at you (planned and unplanned). The courageous school-leader recognises that how they respond to these challenges will be a marker for others and the degree to which they believe risks can be taken in support of the school’s vision, values and goals.
In addition, the self-aware leader knows that if things go wrong it is far healthier to focus on finding a solution and/or learn from the mistake.
They understand that mistakes are often the best place for development and growth. There is an understanding that circumnavigating this process by being too prescriptive, can thwart creativity, encourage risk-averse behaviours and thereby limit the extent to which an individual can explore their potentialities and that of the school they are in.

4. Talking more when listening to others

We’ve all been there. That conversation that is entirely one way and we know how this type of conversation makes us feel.  We feign attention, give the impression that we are interested, but inwardly we have retreated and disengaged from the conversation.
The self-aware leader knows the folly of this way of being and so they make a concerted effort to listen more and talk less. Knowing that deep listening, will help to foster relationships built on mutual trust and understanding. They know that when trust is in place, they are more able to have the conversations with others that will steer both their own and the school’s journey forward.

Managing Personalities and Relationships

In my years of working with School Leaders, I’ve learned that one of the most important skills any School Leader can have is the ability to effectively manage and nurture personalities and relationships within their school. This is because quite simply, when school relationships are positive – the outcomes tend to be more positive too.
Conversely, when relationships are strained or neglected, school teams can struggle to effectively work together and staff can find themselves increasingly becoming disconnected from what the school and their leaders are trying to achieve. In turn, leaders can find themselves spending a large amount of their time dealing with people management issues, rather than focussing on the more strategic aspects of the role.
Yet in spite of this, many leaders have not received significant training or opportunities to develop skills that could help them to deal with difficult conversations, identify how best to manage and maximise staff performance.
That’s why one of the key ways that we support School Leaders fulfil their vision is by offering a 4 Day Coaching Programme designed to provide Senior School Leaders with the knowledge, skills and confidence to apply a range of coaching skills that can help improve the performance of those they lead and manage.
Our four-day coaching programme that will equip you with the skills for:
– Managing difficult conversations
– Understanding how to get the best out of individuals with challenging behaviours
– Understanding yourself better and knowing how to draw upon your strengths to get the best out of others
– Developing your relationship management skills by helping you understand how to identify and respond to different personality types
– Nurturing a Coaching Culture in your School so that you can support members of your team

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