Coaching & Leadership Development
The 5 Characteristics of Positive School Culture

The 5 Characteristics of Positive School Culture

  Recently, we announced the launch of our latest cohort of our 4 Day Coaching Programme to Maximise School Performance.   In preparation for the programme, I have been reflecting on the features of school cultures that serve to grow adults and foster outstanding staff performance.   As I did so, I was reminded of research carried out by Stoll and Fink at the Institute of Education. Their research identified a number of school cultural norms that they cite as evidence for strong, positive school cultures.   They assert that if these norms are weak or non-existent within a school, then growth and development at both an individual and organisational level are severely hampered.   Out of the norms which they identified, I believe there are five that are essential, for creating genuine school cultures in which all adults and young people thrive.   As you read through these, I’d encourage you to reflect on each of the norms below and perhaps consider these questions:   – To what extent are these norms present in your school culture? – Which norms are strengths and would act as enablers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – Which norms are weaknesses/areas for development and might act as potential barriers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – What strategies could be developed for overcoming these barriers?   1. Shared Goals & Vision – We know where we’re going   When individuals are empowered to take ownership of their goals it can cause a shift in the culture of a school. As individuals learn how to work in alignment with the school’s vision and values, a new set of relationship...
The 5 Coaching Skills Every SLT Needs

The 5 Coaching Skills Every SLT Needs

    When SLT members are skilled in using the principles of coaching to assist their meetings and relationships with staff, they can help to play a key role in creating school cultures where there is an:    Organic sense of self-improvement fuelled by the genuine and self-motivated desire of all individuals to make things better.  [Buck, 2009: 22]   When coaching is placed firmly at the heart of processes for developing others, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation.   Individuals come to see more fully their unique role and the contributions they can make towards bringing about improvements in their school. Rather than seeing it as something that is done to them, they begin to understand what it means to be accountable to themselves and others and they start to own the process.   Undoubtedly, it takes times to develop these skills and for those SLT members who are committed to developing their coaching skills there are five initial competencies that they should seek to develop…   1. Asking High Level Questions   Questions have the power to change both the content and direction of a conversation. They can play a key role in shaping the structure of a meeting and the quality of outcomes.   For example, in performance management meetings, asking ‘high level’ questions (i.e. ones that enable an individual to think deeply about their intention and motivation to succeed) can be used to enable both the member of staff and line manager to assess:   – Commitment to the...
4 Steps to Better People Management

4 Steps to Better People Management

  As a school leader have you ever wondered why people management issues tend to dominate most of your time?   My reflection on this is quite simply that we humans are complex and the older we get, the harder it seems for us to truly grow up and behave as adults! Children are far easier to understand and deal with, even the most challenging are honest; whether through their behaviour, or otherwise, they tend to let us know how they are truly feeling.   The games people play   With us ‘grown ups’, the communication games we played as children continue into adulthood and into our personal and professional lives. Most of the time, we are unaware of the roles that we adopt in the game. However, if you are a leader, there will come a time when you shout:   “Stop! the rules of the game need to change!”   That’s when you come to the realisation, that, if you understood a little bit more about yourself and the dynamics of human behaviour, you’d have a far greater chance of being able to achieve better outcomes for yourself and those that you lead and manage. Transactional Analysis [TA]   Developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1950s, TA is a psychological tool that can help us develop a greater understanding of what happens when we communicate with other people. An understanding of TA in our working lives can help us to:   – Identify our emotional triggers and the emotional triggers of others – Overcome our emotional triggers and lead from a place of deep personal self-control...
The 3 Mistakes Heads make when Dealing with Conflict

The 3 Mistakes Heads make when Dealing with Conflict

    Most Heads I know and work with are adept at dealing with conflict. That is not to say they either like or enjoy managing disputes, but they have adjusted well enough to the fact that they comes with the territory.   However, I have on occasion had to work with Heads, who have found that their once finely-honed conflict management skills have become somewhat dulled. They are confused, battle with doubt and anxiety and are often uncertain of the steps that they can take to help sharpen their skills again.   After letting them explain their situation to me and asking a few searching questions, the reasons soon become apparent as to why they are feeling stuck and unable to move forward. Very often, it is because they are making one or all of the three mistakes as outlined below.   1. They are stuck in the past   A past conflict, has left them feeling battered, bruised and deeply hurt. The situation could have been anything from an aggrieved parent to a vexatious member of staff, but whatever the situation, it has left its mark. Something about the situation, has left the individual doubting their capabilities as a leader.   Sometimes, this is due to the fact that the outcome was not as they had hoped for and they now feel that this is a slight on their leadership/character. Or they had felt particularly isolated and unsupported when the situation arose and are stuck with feelings of anger, resentment, hurt and remorse.   Understandable feelings, but they don’t help individuals to move forward. Instead, when similar...
9 Ways to Forge Trusting Relationships with Your Staff

9 Ways to Forge Trusting Relationships with Your Staff

  In an ideal world, every school would be a place of trusting relationships between the students, staff, governors, parents and the wider school community. So often however, the opposite can be true.   Outdated models of leadership, immature staff and fractured relationships can make for tense times in the staff room. When such dynamics are in play, they can have far reaching effects on the performance of the school, the quality of teaching, and the creativity of the students!   That’s why it’s so important to make creating trusting relationships with your staff a top priority when you are in a leadership role — and here are nine tips for making it happen:   1. Get a sense of your values.   Get a sense of your values and the difference that you want to make in your school and in your community. A great question to ask yourself is, “What do I want students to remember about their time in my school?” This will act as your internal compass for everything you do in your school, which is going to give you the consistency in your behaviour, that’s the foundation of trust.   2. Develop your EI   EI still tends to be a bit of a buzzword in education, but there’s a big difference between having read Daniel Goleman’s books and actually working on your emotional self. As you’re building trust with people, you have to be prepared for some projection to go on — people are going to assign their emotions to you or assign intentions and feelings to you that actually belong to themselves...
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 all the various leadership styles, the coaching leadership style 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 adults engage with the school’s priorities and the actions they...