Coaching & Leadership Development
My Biggest Regret as a Headteacher

My Biggest Regret as a Headteacher

    Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reminiscing on my experience of Headship, the many golden moments and times of great happiness, joy and laughter – but also the numerous challenges, stresses and struggles that came with the role.    As I reflected, I was struck that I was not left feeling rueful by my memories. As with time, I have come to realise that with each and every difficulty, I experienced moments of deep growth and development (even if it hurt at the time!)   However, having said that, there was one thing that did stand out as a regret. Something that has stayed with me to this day. Had this one thing been present, I am 100% sure my whole experience of Headship would have been completely different.   It’ll probably come as no surprise to many, particularly those that know my story, that when I look back on my years as a Headteacher, this big regret is that I didn’t have a coach.   I can’t understate the difference it would have made if I’d had a trusted, external, companion to walk alongside me. Not just to problem solve and talk through the inherent challenges of the role, but for me personally, I just wish I’d had someone to accompany me through the major transitions that I experienced as a Head.   Certainly when I look back there were three major transitions that I now know, I would have progressed through differently had I had a coach…   1st Transition – Moving from acting Headship to Substantive Headship and Motherhood (both at the same time!)   Whenever, I tell others...
4 Steps to Work-Life Harmony as a School Leader

4 Steps to Work-Life Harmony as a School Leader

  Over the last few years, there’s been a growing understanding that; “talking of a work-life balance is too simplistic” and that we have become “collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way” (David Whyte)   This deepening understanding has come about as many have come to realise that the term “work-life balance” suggests that we have to split our time equally between our work and personal lives and in so doing barter one off against the others. The terminology forces individuals to think in terms of trade-offs and sacrifices – instead of the possibility for harmonising all aspects of our lives. The truth is all aspects of our lives inter-relate – work-life, home-life, personal-life, etc and they all have an impact on how we show up as individuals.   To quote David Whyte again;   “In the deeper hidden realms of the human psyche, work and life are not separate things and therefore cannot be balanced against each other, except to create further trouble.”   So instead of trying to create balance, David Whyte and others suggest that it is better for us to think about the conversations that we can have with ourselves (and others) to bring greater harmony and alignment to our lives as a whole. This is no easy task and this is perhaps another reason as to why when considering well-being in schools “Work-life Balance” has become the default term. It is far easier to think in opposing terms, to set one thing up against the other, than it is to think about integration...
5 Tips for Reducing the Stress of Headship

5 Tips for Reducing the Stress of Headship

    You would not have reached where you are today if you didn’t know how to harness the power of hope to help you overcome the stresses of school leadership.   We know that hope can be incredibly elusive. When external demands and pressures mount and crisis follows crisis, the light at the end of the tunnel can appear to be very faint and distant glimmer. In such times, hope is just as essential for your own well-being, as rain is for flowers in the desert.   As you seek to move forward in your endeavour to create brighter futures for our young people, here are five tips for keeping hope alive and reducing feelings of stress when the challenges arise…   Tip 1: Learn to keep one eye backward and another eye forward   In order to live more fully and to make progress in our lives, it is helpful to have a process in place that enables us to develop a greater understanding of our own personal/professional journeys. Such a process enables us to develop a greater understanding of where we have come from and where we are heading and to hopefully move forward with deeper levels of insight and wisdom.   When this becomes a regular pattern of behaviour, it becomes much harder for you to be knocked off course by the challenges of school life – you have a wider perspective for viewing events and understanding how they relate to the bigger picture, both personally and professionally.   Tip 2: Stay Connected   School leadership does not happen in a vacuum. Leaders need people,...
“Fight or Flight” – How to End the Leadership Struggle

“Fight or Flight” – How to End the Leadership Struggle

  In May of this year, a national newspaper headline read, ‘Three in 10 new School leaders quit in the first five years”. For those of us who work in schools this is old news. We know that draconian changes within the education sector have left many teachers and school leaders struggling …   “With a sense of despair, self-doubt and frustration that occurs when they experience themselves in ways which are incommensurate with their vision…. They experience a disjuncture between original ideas and current realities” Parker J Palmer   We know this means many teachers and school leaders simply struggle to survive – mentally, physically and emotionally. Consequently, many feel they have only two options to either fight or flight. Neither options are good for the system or the individual.   For the system, when schools are led by individuals who are in either fight or flight mode it often means:   – The hallmarks of the Ego, control, competition, fear and coercion dominate – Emotionally Intelligent styles of leadership are derided, if they do not result in fast turn arounds and accelerated results – Good people ‘disappear’ – either as a result of stress and burnout or because they have been forced out by the powers that be   For School leaders who find themselves operating from the fight or flight mode it often means:   – Being in a constant state of high alert, with stress hormones continually flooding your body and impacting adversely on how you lead both yourself and others – Playing it safe, minimising taking risks or listening to your own voice, for...
How to Survive as a School Leader

How to Survive as a School Leader

This blog comes from CEO of the Archway Learning Trust, Sian Hampton   Over the last few years I have moved from being the head of a single school, albeit on two sites, to CEO of a Multi Academy Trust serving over 4,000 students and employing about 700 staff.    I love my job and the fantastic staff and students I get to work with every day, but the pressures of this changed role and the ever increasing demand for more have taken their toll.   This year has probably been one of the hardest – and most rewarding – of my career.  From a place of still figuring things out, there are five key observations I would like to make about how to survive as a leader and what my strategies will be going forwards.   1. Recognise the symptoms   Despite the chest pains, constant headaches and sleepless nights, I ignored all the physical symptoms of anxiety and kept going.  All leaders are high functioning so it is perfectly possible to soldier on without due regard for ourselves and our well-being no matter what our bodies are telling us.  Understanding that we are struggling, recognising the signs of stress and anxiety are part of the solution to managing them.   Stress can be positive as a means of motivation and energy helping us to perform more effectively, but we are in dangerous territory when that stress becomes physically limiting and instead of dealing with it, we compartmentalise and ignore it.   2. Collaborate don’t compete   There is a building narrative around the growth of Multi Academy Trust...
How to Make the Most of the School Holidays

How to Make the Most of the School Holidays

    When you are working in a school, engaging day-to-day with children and their families, teachers, support staff, governors and other adults, you will know that you expend great amounts of mental, physical and emotional energy meeting the emotional needs of others.   The long meetings, difficult conversations and fires you’ve had to put out over the course of the term (whether you realise it or not) are very likely to have taken their toll on you and your energy levels.   That’s why it’s so important that you use your holiday time to really switch off from the pressures of running a school, sit back, relax, re-charge your batteries and above all, focus on your emotional needs.  If you don’t, you will return to school not as emotionally and mentally robust as you need to be for the inevitable challenges.   If you need a little help winding down over the holiday break or planning how you’re going to make the most of your school holidays, then it’s perhaps worth bearing in mind these 6 key tips…   1. Make a plan for your work   Statistics from the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) report that 3 in 5 Brits don’t leave their work behind when they’re on leave and feel “obligated” to take work with them on holiday, even when travelling abroad.   But breaks are incredibly important; you need this time off to truly wind down. Yes, there may well be work that needs to be completed before you can fully settle into the holiday routine. If that is the case, take control of it and tackle it...