Coaching & Leadership Development
“Returning from Maternity Leave was my Hardest Challenge”

“Returning from Maternity Leave was my Hardest Challenge”

  *The author of this blog has asked to remain anonymous I have been a Head teacher in a North London Primary school for 13 years now. In that time, like most Heads – I’ve had to endure some very challenging circumstances, with the rise of personal accountability, frequent changes to the curriculum and depleting school budgets.   However, perhaps one of the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my role was when I came back to my Headship after my maternity leave.   My Deputy head had just had a taste of being a Head teacher. As a result, she decided to leave to take up her own headship and so I found myself having to form a new School Leadership team.   To make matters worse, not long after I returned, we were inspected by OFSTED and we went into “required improvement”. Before I even had chance to settle back into my role, I was suddenly having to deal with the extra stress and challenges of improving our school’s rating.   It felt as though everything had changed in the five months, I’d been away and that the job was un-recognisable from the one I left. Before I went on maternity leave I was quite confident about my Headship, but when I returned I suddenly felt like I had lost the conviction with which I used to lead.   As a leader, losing your self-confidence can be one of the hardest things. I began to second-guess my decisions, question whether I could do the job anymore and I constantly felt that I couldn’t cope. To have to...
What every Headteacher needs to know about Overcoming Stress

What every Headteacher needs to know about Overcoming Stress

  It is my belief that more Headteachers would remain in the profession if, on appointment, it was made explicit to them the link between school improvement and their own personal development.   Unfortunately, however, in today’s world of high public scrutiny and personal accountability, they are not and as a result far too many Heads become victims of stress and burn out, unable to cope with the intense psychological and emotional demands of the role.   The Irish author and poet David Whyte works with large organisations and businesses across the globe. He has an acute understanding of the interplay between self and work. He says,   “We must have a relationship with our work that is larger than any individual job description we are given. Real work, like a real person, grows and changes and surprises us, asking constantly for recommitment.”   Whyte’s words foretell the trajectory of a Head’s life. They point to a life that will stretch and grow the individual. A life that will be accompanied by an array of ‘surprises’. New circumstances that will force Heads way beyond the confines of their comfort zones and to come to know themselves in new and unexpected ways.   Because of this, it is vital that one of the first things that any Headteacher must learn to do, in order to overcome the stresses of their role, is to ask for help.   Learning to ask for help, I believe, is an act of courage as much as it is an act of kindness and compassion towards oneself. In the headship role, vulnerability and fear of...
How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership

How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership

You will know, more than most, that sometimes headship can feel like the loneliest job in the world! There will be times, even when you are surrounded by a school full of children and colleagues who share the day to day tasks of leading and managing your school, when you feel as though there is absolutely no one that you can turn to.   These are the times perhaps, when as a headteacher, you feel most vulnerable. You may feel:   – Desperately alone – That you have no one to turn to – There is no one within your work context with whom you can share exactly how you feel   To make matters worse, when you try to talk to friends and family outside of school, many may offer a sympathetic ear, but you soon realise that sympathy is not always what you need and sometimes their well meaning responses, leave you wishing you hadn’t bothered to ‘burden’ them with your problems after all.   So what do you do? Do you, like many headteachers, find ways to cope on your own? Do you increasingly find yourself …   – Thinking that you are the only one that has the answer? – Moving further inside your office, your thoughts and your concerns? – Becoming detached from relationships with colleagues, friends and family? – Relying more upon what you can do to address a situation rather than seeking help from other others?   These strategies for dealing with the loneliness of headship may appear to work in the short term, but in the long term they will only...
How do School Leaders Benefit from Coaching?

How do School Leaders Benefit from Coaching?

    Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing the wonderful impact that coaching has on both school leaders and their schools. This experience has led me to believe there will come a time when all Head teachers are provided with this support as a pre-requisite for the fulfilment of their roles.   However, in spite of the fact that the business world and a growing number of schools now embrace coaching as an integral form of leadership support,  there are still many that are only now beginning to recognise the value of coaching in education.   So how do School Leaders and their schools benefit when coaching support is in place?   To answer this question, I decided to ask two Headteachers I’ve coached what lead them to seek to coaching to better support themselves in their role and more importantly, what did they get out of it for themselves and their schools…   Henry, Headteacher of Inner City London Secondary School “I had began to feel that I was leading on Autopilot…”   1. What were the main challenges you faced which made you consider Coaching?   Before I took up Coaching, I had been at the school for 15 years and I had began to feel that I was leading on autopilot. I felt like I needed to get a fresh insight on how to be a better leader and to refresh my expertise and my approach.   I also felt I was beginning to dry out and beginning to see leadership as something I had to do rather than wanted to do. So I was looking for new ways...
Secret Headteacher – What Every Governor Needs to Know About Supporting Headteachers

Secret Headteacher – What Every Governor Needs to Know About Supporting Headteachers

Today’s Blog comes from a current Headteacher, whose identity for the purpose of this blog will not be disclosed. For the last three years, I have been the headteacher at a special needs school. When I first joined the school, it was very much going through a difficult period of transition.   The head and the deputy head had both left at the same time, and so had left the school without any real leadership and in a state of instability. So I was brought in, relatively inexperienced and without any real leadership support, to make some substantial changes. Firefighting without the equipment   It was clear from the beginning that some of my team had different opinions about what could be achieved at the school and that many of staff were struggling to come to terms with the changes that were going on. So I found myself having to constantly firefight, with no time or space to really develop my thinking and find long-term solutions to these problems.   I knew where I was going but I could only fulfil my vision for the school, if everyone in my team saw it too and fully got behind it.  I realised that I had to find a way to lead that team through the changes, to promote my vision and demonstrate that the changes that I wanted to make were really going to develop the school, whilst maintaining all the things which I believed made it outstanding.   However, I knew that to do this – I needed support; support to help my staff fully understand my vision, the...
Why Deep Listening should be at the Heart of Support for School Leaders

Why Deep Listening should be at the Heart of Support for School Leaders

  We’ve all been there. I know I have. That moment when you realise that the person you are talking to is not listening. They are pretending and the moment you become aware of this, you begin an inward retreat, silently vowing to only reveal the bare minimum of yourself, whenever you are in their company again.   The reason for this is because our souls long to be heard. The very essence of who we are and what makes us special needs a safe space to be nurtured and encouraged, so that we can shine and become the very best version of ourselves.   Quite simply, we all need to be listened to.   Following one of our recent ‘Coaching for the Soul’ workshops, one participant commented, after being involved in a deep listening exercise, that she felt guilty. When asked her reasons as to why she felt this way, she said it was because the exercise made her realise, she rarely listened at a deep level.   This is not unusual. The demands of school life, often invite types of behaviour/ listening that are not fully aligned with the development of self and others.   Which types of listening behaviour do you recognise?     Have a look at the types of listening below. These are the types of listening that because of the constrains of pressure and time, have for many become the norm in our schools. As you look through the list simply ask yourself;   “When have I been on the receiving end of this type of listening and how did it make me...