It is a bit of an understatement to say that being a school leader isn’t an easy task. The multi-layered complexity of the role brings with it a myriad of challenges. One of the biggest challenges, particularly for Heads, is how to create a culture of excellence in which everyone flourishes.
The writing of a School Improvement Plan, the analysis of data, curriculum innovation, can only take a school so far. True school improvement and the development of cultures of excellence, takes place through people, their behaviours and attitudes and the quality of relationships that exist. And this is where the real challenge lies.
Cultures of excellence are created, when alongside strategy and pedagogical advances, schools have systems in place that support an understanding of human process issues, that encourage people to develop a deep understanding of themselves and others.
As a coach, working with school leaders, I have identified 3 key things that successful school leaders do to create such cultures. They are outlined below.
As you read through them, you might find it helpful to ask yourself these two questions”
‘Where am I now?
‘Where is my school now?’
And have a scale like the one below, either in your head or on a piece of paper, and simply score yourself/your school from 1-10
1 [very limited] —————————————————————————— [very secure] 10
3 Key Ways to Create a Culture of Excellence – Where are you now?
1. School Leaders commit to developing their own Emotional Intelligence.
School leaders that I have worked with know that change begins with them. They have come to realise [sometimes through painful experience] that it is their people skills and ability to exhibit emotional self-control and self-awareness that needs to be strengthened, if they are secure the vision that they hold for themselves and the communities they serve.
Experience has taught many, that raising levels of emotional intelligence is often a very personal and private process. They have come to understand that we develop these competencies and strengthen our ability to use them, only when we develop ways of being that enable us to understand how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours impact upon the vision we have for ourselves and our relationships with others.
A strong and secure ability to manage one’s own emptions, leads to a very grounded sense of self and hence a greater ability to stand firm, when challenged by the strong emotions of others, who may be challenged by the school improvement process.
2. They invest in people management processes
For a school to realise its potential of being a place in which humanity is at its best (and by extension, a place where all human beings flourish), a school must be an emotionally healthy place in which all adults within the community possess a positive sense of self and robust emotional maturity. Again, this is not an easy task, but it is essential. The job of school improvement, is made so much easier when there is an;
‘Organic sense of self-improvement fuelled by the genuine and self-motivated desire of all individuals to make things better.’
When a school’s culture matches this description, what is created is a set of common understandings and beliefs about performance management – with the potential to achieve targets though:
– Creating alignment between organisational and personal objectives- Growing and developing other people
– Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones
– Inspiring confidence in other people’s ability to succeed
– Ensuring ownership and accountability
3. They promote risk-taking
Schools only move forward; individuals only move forward if they are growing. Growth requires change and it requires a healthy amount of risk taking as well. The healthiest and happiest schools that I have worked with, have been the ones where creativity and innovation are welcomed. All staff know that it’s Ok to take a risk, to step outside of their comfort zone and if it doesn’t work out that’s alright too, as long as individuals are prepared to learn from the experience.
As a result, there is an ease and a quiet confidence to how school improvement matters are addressed. Individuals do not feel straight jacketed, neither are they stuck in comfort zones, restricting their own growth and the growth of others. The collective and individual mind-set is, “Anything can be achieved. It’s how we approach our challenges that matters most”
Combined together these three factors have a great impact in creating climates that facilitate ‘psychological success’. A feeling that makes individuals;
‘Feel more competent and gives us a more competent identity. In general, the more competent someone feels the more likely they are to take risks in areas important to themselves.’
How did you Score?
Take a moment now to reflect on your scores, what did they reveal to you? If your scores have prompted you to think, “What more can I do?” then you may be interested in our latest offering in our mission to support School Leaders in overcoming the challenges of their roles and to help Heads succeed in fulfilling their vision for themselves and their schools.
Our 4 Day Coaching Programme (which is approved by the Institute of Leadership and Management) will aim to provide senior school leaders with the knowledge, skills and confidence to utilise coaching powerful as part of their normal work role. It is designed to provide a solid foundation for those school leaders who want to fully understand how to nurture a coaching culture in their school.
Our four-day coaching programme 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
– Facilitating better teamwork and minimising team conflict
– Developing your relationship management skills by helping you understand how to identify and respond to different personality types
Once you have completed the programme, you will come away with:
– A solid understanding of coaching and how it can be used to strengthen your ability to lead and manage others
– The coaching skills required for managing a range of personality types
– The confidence to use your coaching skills to support school improvement initiatives