Coaching & Leadership Development
March 23, 2017

The 3 Times EVERY School Leader Should Stop & Reflect

The 3 Times EVERY School Leader Should Stop & Reflect


One thing you learn very quickly as a school leader is that once you’re in the role, time changes completely for you! Everything seems to come at you swiftly and all at once. It’s often all you can do just to keep up with day to day issues. And any grand ideas you had about taking time to yourself go right out the window!


And I understand, believe me. You want to be a good school leader, and if that means giving your all to the school, then you’ll give it all your energy, focus, and time to ensure the job is done well.


But by pushing too hard to do something great for your school, you can [unintentionally] jeopardize the whole process!


You see, to grow as a school leader, to achieve greatness both for yourself and others, it’s imperative that you take time to reflect on where you’ve been and how you are changing in the role. You can’t lead unconsciously or by default and expect to get consistently good results; you have to build reflection into your work life just as you would CPD and time for school development planning.


And you can help yourself, by identifying when to press the pause button and simply stop and reflect. I believe there are 3 key times/situations when every School leader should press the pause button and make time to do just this.


After Mistakes


Reflecting on mistakes can be one of the most uncomfortable things to do, but also one of the most important things for a school leader to undertake. If we fail to acknowledge and reflect on that which we didn’t do well and instances where we should’ve followed a different course of action, we can miss real opportunities for personal development.


When we reflect on what didn’t work we are more able to find new solutions. In other words, by learning from the leadership decisions and behaviours which have not served us well, we are able to make more informed decisions going forward about other ways of being that may be successful the next time around.


Mistakes can also happen when underlying circumstances, behaviours or issues haven’t been addressed. When we don’t allow ourselves to properly reflect on what may be behind the current problems we are facing. These ‘hidden’ issues can remain unchallenged, but may repeatedly make their presence known, in different forms and at different times, until they are addressed.


When we invest, time bringing the ‘hidden’ out into the ‘open’ we are more able to identify solutions so that history doesn’t repeat itself.


In a Crisis


Instinctively, we tend not to want to stop when things get tough. We often try to power through a situation and simply focus on trying to put out all the fires we see around us.


But by trying to plough through in the midst of a crisis, we can miss important lessons which either could help us put out the flames or help us prevent similar fires from starting in the future. We can also fail to recognise the impact the situation is having on us, on our behaviour and in turn, on our well-being.


However, if we allow ourselves to be aware of what’s going on internally, how we’re being affected and take time to really reflect on events at hand, then we can find that our behaviour and decisions become more reasoned and less reactive.  Our thoughts become clearer and solutions are more easily found.


What’s more, we become better equipped to learn from the crisis once the flames begin to subside.


Why not take a moment or two, to reflect on a recent crisis? Use the questions below to help you consider lessons learnt and what you might do differently the next time around.


1. What was the situation?

2. What impact did it have on me?

3. What actions served me well in helping to resolve the crisis?

4. Which actions didn’t serve me well?

5. What lessons did I learn?

6. What will I do differently the next time around?


Throughout the Year


School leadership can be a whirlwind and whilst it is important to reflect in a crisis and after mistakes, the truth is reflection is vital all year round. Reflection keeps you motivated, focused on fulfilling your school’s vision and ensures that you are constantly learning and growing.


Developing a reflective practice will help you lead more consciously, keep you connected to your core purpose and strengthen your values, the very roots of who you are and what you believe in.


In this sense, it can be helpful to liken reflection to the growing of crops. Over the course of the year, there is the time when seeds are sown in anticipation of what they will become, they are then cared for, watered and nurtured to ensure their growth and then, finally, harvested when the time is right. Reflection facilitates a similar growth process for ourselves.


– The Seeds – It is important to know what “seeds” you want to sow for yourself, your leadership, and your school; what can you start now, so that you have something to harvest at a later point in time.


– Watering and Nurturing – We all know the environment in which seeds are planted will determine the quality of the plant. Your role as a school leader is to ensure that you create the right environment for your “seeds” to grow. Take regular time to reflect on the culture you have/are creating to ensure that all the necessary nutrients are available to support strong, sustained, healthy, growth for everyone.


– The Harvest – You will reach so many milestones over the course of a school year, month or term. These milestones, will be the times when you can look back on how far you have come, how much your vision has grown and reap the harvest of all your hard work. Depending on circumstances and situation, the harvest will vary, but there will nearly always be something to be grateful for and something that you can claim as further evidence of your growth and development.



A Chance to Reflect



In the frenetic life of a school leader time and space are increasingly rare commodities. With a constant flow of meetings to be held, problems to solve and fires to put out – it can be very hard for leaders to find the time and space to be still and think.


However, without this chance to stop and consider what’s working and what isn’t – many leaders find themselves repeatedly making the same mistakes or simply leading on “autopilot”.This lack of space also means many have very few avenues for exploring and talking through the emotional aspects of the role, the challenges it poses and the impact is having upon them, mentally, emotionally and physically.


In turn, this can (without doubt) increase the risk of emotional ‘burn out’. When this begins to happen, not only do we experience extreme levels of mental and emotional exhaustion that can be debilitating to our ability to lead others, our health and our overall well-being.  Having been a Head myself, I know all too well what this feels like but equally what must be done to prevent it!


That’s why we’re now are offering a “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.


The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.

Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.

Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…


Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.

Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.

Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.

A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.

Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.

If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more about the Programme

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