Coaching & Leadership Development
How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

    It’s an understatement to say that life as a school leader can be bruising. The impact of the responses of disgruntled staff, a poor OFSTED report, complaints from parents or conflict with governors can send even the most resilient of leaders into a downward mental spiral.   When negative events occur, your confidence can take at hit. You can begin to feel as though you are not up to the job for which you have been appointed. From my own experience working with school leaders, nothing can be further from the truth. Many, if not all, are still up to the role. It’s simply that they need to be reminded of their own power within and steps they can take to feel like their former, confident selves again.   If you are feeling at a bit of a low ebb now, because of events that you are facing as school leader, set a few minutes aside to read this short blog. See if you can identify at least one step that you can take to rebuild your leadership confidence again.   Step 1: Change your Habits   When we’re feeling low, we can get stuck in habits that were initially adopted to comfort us, but if overused, may actually inhibit our ability to grow our confidence and self-esteem. I knew of one school leader, who hid every time she saw a particularly vexatious member of staff heading along the corridor towards her.   At first, she did it because her thought process was, “I just don’t have the time to deal with her right now”. However, overtime,...
“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

This blog comes from former Headteacher of Marlwood School, and Director of InspirEducate, James Pope     As I write this it is a cool spring day during the Easter holidays and I am sat in my newly created office, carved out of a basement room at my home.  I imagine a collective professional mind, paused and taking breath, recharging the batteries, enjoying time with family, friends, perhaps sneaking in a holiday abroad or counting down the weeks until the summer one.   This holiday is an odd hiatus to the frenzied school year.  The majority of the year is done and yet the most pressurised period of time is still to come for students, their parents and school staff alike.  The time left is short and for that we are relieved, and yet the time left is short and for that we are not relieved – another example of the contradictory nature of school life in the 20teens.   For many it will be a period of reflection, looking for new jobs, promotion or a different challenge, finally deciding to take the plunge and retire – or just looking for a way out.   At the Headteacher’s Roundtable conference recently I spoke of the moment, just over a year ago, where, commuting to work, at the end of another testing term, the Basement Jaxx song ‘Where’s your head at?’ blasted out of the radio, the song rattling around my head like an earworm, as it has done for the most of the past 12 months.   So, it is a year since I spent Easter reflecting on that question...
How Headteachers can develop their Emotional Resilience

How Headteachers can develop their Emotional Resilience

  With the increasing pace of change in our schools and heightened levels of public scrutiny and accountability, it takes a great deal of courage and bravery to be a school leader today.   There are many joys involved in the role, but equally as many challenges. It is not until many school leaders reach headship, that they realise that the stresses of the job are such that they need to strengthen their emotional resilience in order to both thrive and survive.   One of the reasons is, the rules of the game keep changing.  As a result, school leaders become unsure of which rules to play by.   Imagine saying to a child, “Today I am going to teach you how to play tennis” and every time they thought they had mastered how to serve and felt confident in their own abilities [ based upon what you had told them] you then said to them “No, you’ve got it wrong. You now have to do it this way.”   Not only would they soon learn not to trust you, but also, they would never develop the depth of experience, knowledge and insight needed for them to become expert in the game. This is exactly what life is like for many school leaders today.   When we are unsure, we feel insecure. We don’t feel safe. Feelings of confidence, value and self-worth are replaced with feelings of fear, vulnerability and self- doubt. We begin to question our every thought, our every action, because we are never given enough time to ascertain whether they fit with the rules of engagement....
The 3 Questions that Damage our School Leaders and our Schools

The 3 Questions that Damage our School Leaders and our Schools

  School Leaders are not Data Technicians and children are not units of data.  This mechanistic approach can be damaging to Head Teachers, because there are negative inferences behind the questions that are frequently asked of them.   Being held to account and responding to questions is no bad thing. As a public servant, it is only right that you are held responsible for your actions. However, the climate surrounding school improvement over the past decade has led to increased ambiguity and inconsistency. This has led to heightened levels of fear and mistrust within the profession. This has created an unhealthy dynamic between politicians, policymakers and schools.   It has also impacted negatively on the type of relationships that exist between School Leaders and those who the government entrusts with the power to hold schools to account i.e. school inspectors and advisors. Against this backdrop of fear and mistrust, when questions are asked, it very often leads to a lack of incentive and can be more of a hindrance to school improvement.   The Damaging Power Dynamic   The power dynamic that now exists between government, inspectors, advisors and Head teachers is now based more overtly on the exertion of power and control than ever before. It may be useful to analyse the relationship between School Leaders and their assessors using the ‘Naughty Child and Critical Parent’ model. If you’ve ever been the ‘Naughty Child’ in this type of relationship, you know the unspoken psychological contract that permeates every conversation and question has several negative subtexts:   – You are not good enough – You need to do better/more – You...
Why Heads Need to Learn to Share

Why Heads Need to Learn to Share

    A while back, I attended a well-being conference for school leaders. An OFSTED inspector was one of the guest speakers. As the school leaders who were present aired their feelings about OFSTED and whether it was really fit for purpose, this inspector’s demeanour changed.   Initially, he confidently told the audience what he believed they should be thinking and feeling about OFSTED. But he became nervous and agitated when the audience asked him to listen to their actual thoughts and feelings.   It seemed that he was uncomfortable with the level of emotion in the room, and to have acknowledged that depth of feeling would have left him exposed and vulnerable. It is my belief that if he had dropped his guard – if only for a moment – he would have shown a more human side to OFSTED, which is what the delegates were desperate to see. Like all of us, they just wanted to be listened to.   The consequences of emotional insensitivity   When our emotional needs are not met, just as in the scenario above, we feel dehumanised and alone. We feel as though out humanity has been pushed to one side. The ability to feel, laugh, to cry to hurt can all be seen as a hinderance to one’s ability to lead effectively.   Sadly, for many Heads, spaces where they can feel, laugh, and cry are few and far between. As a result, many lead from a place of inner dissonance. Their basic emotional needs to feel accepted, appreciated, believed in, respected, listened to, valued and supported are ignored. Many suffer...
Why Budget Cuts hurt our Schools and their Leaders

Why Budget Cuts hurt our Schools and their Leaders

    Earlier this year, the TES quoted a report by the NAHT that revealed, ‘65% of school leaders “strongly agree” that cutbacks have already had a negative impact on the performance of their schools.”   In discussions related to the impact of spending cuts we have become used to reading about schools asking parents to contribute towards books and other essential supplies. We have become used to hearing about the pressure of increased class sizes, reduction in supply budgets and teachers taking on a raft of additional duties to cover posts that have been deleted. We hear all of this and quite naturally we understand how financial cuts have had a detrimental impact on the performance of many of our schools.   However, there is an added dimension to the debate that is often missed. Since the global financial crisis austerity has been an ever-present part of the collective mindset.   It has impacted on the way in which individuals and those charged with responsibility or, the care of our resources have discharged their duties. When it comes to money, it has resulted in many, school leaders included, adopting a scarcity mindset.   What is a scarcity mindset?   A scarcity mindset is quite simply a belief that there will never be enough. Actions and thoughts stem from a place of lack. The present, the urgent, the immediate context are all that matter. Decision making is myopic. Short term impact, with very often far-reaching long-term negative outcomes.   Why is this the case? Because when you are operating from a scarcity mindset, fear is in the driver’s seat....