Coaching & Leadership Development
What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

If you are head teacher, then I am sure, this image will speak volumes to you! You know exactly what it takes each and every day to step into the role of Head teacher and enter a system that so often forgets that you are human. A system, which despite all the well-intentioned rhetoric, expects you to constantly withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. And, no matter how fast and furious they might be, requires that you always come out victorious, with an ever-present smile on your face.   However, I am sure you know as a Head, many a time life just isn’t like that. Those slings and arrows, whether from a colleague, an inspector, a parent or a Governor, can hurt. They can pierce the soul and leave you feeling utterly down-spirited and disheartened.   It is because of this fact and working closely as we do, with Head teachers, that we decided to host our termly Headteacher’s Nurture Meals. We wanted to do something, that clearly said to Head teachers,    ‘You are of value; you are of worth and you have the right to have your needs met’   We are always very clear in our purpose. This was designed not to be one of those Head teacher gathering where individuals met with their peers, but still felt the need to be to wear their leadership mask or suit of armour, for fear of being judged or criticised for anything that they might say. We wanted to make sure this was different.   Different…. But how? Well … we create a loose framework for discussion, but in the...
The 5 Characteristics of Great School Culture

The 5 Characteristics of Great 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...
How to Stop People Management Issues Dominating Your Leadership

How to Stop People Management Issues Dominating Your Leadership

  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...
3 Things Headteachers Should Stop Feeling Guilty About

3 Things Headteachers Should Stop Feeling Guilty About

    The weight of school leadership is not an easy load to bear. It takes a pair of broad shoulders to consistently carry the weight of expectation that is placed upon Heads and their roles.   All too often, the weight of responsibility is made that much heavier by the feelings of guilt that many Heads carry around with them. Guilt that is kept hidden from others but is not secret to the bearer.   For many a School Leader guilt is insidious and more often than not undermines your efforts to do the right thing. You know as a Head, doing the right thing is frequently the most difficult thing to do; particularly when decisions made are contrary to what ‘others’ believe is required.   Guilt knows this and rather than support your decisions, guilt works in tandem with your inner critic to tell you that you have got it wrong. That it is you that is out of step and that you are to blame for the emotional responses and behaviours of others.   In addition, because guilt has an intimate relationship with the psyche of School Leaders, it has played a key role in thwarting many School Leaders’ attempts to take care of themselves. If you are a School Leader, guilt tells you that you are in some way mistaken if you consider putting your needs ahead of the children or staff in your school.   It tells you, even when you are at breaking point, that you can’t take your foot off the peddle. Guilt just pushes you harder and harder and has little...
4 Tips for a Successful School Year

4 Tips for a Successful School Year

    The new school term has only just begun and I am guessing it’s already feeling as though you have never been away!   The to-do list is just as long as it was when last term ended. There are still a high volume of issues demanding your attention — and you may feel as though you are struggling to keep the feeling of overwhelm away from your door!   There may appear to be so many choices and decisions to make, that it’s feeling hard to know where to begin.   If this feels like you, then here are four simple tips to help you have a successful school year…   1.  Decide on your Priorities and Plan around them   When we’re feeling overwhelmed with competing options, it’s important to take a step back and decide on your priorities and plan around them.  Sometimes, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees and to do what feels right for you, so it’s best to have a strategy that can help you to be both decisive and more effective with your time.   The best strategy always begins with a plan. Without planning, you may end up picking whatever’s closest to hand, whatever’s screeching the loudest, or whatever seems least unpleasant in the moment. Time often proves that when decisions and choices are made under these circumstances, the outcome is often far from what you had originally hoped for.   When we plan, we create focus, structure and order in our minds. As a result, we provide ourselves with a scaffold that will support us to...
Teaching and Leading from your Heart and Soul

Teaching and Leading from your Heart and Soul

  Now I am keenly aware that the term ‘soul’ has its connotations and I ought to clarify from the outset how it is being used in this piece. Soul is one way of referring to a sense of ‘core self’, which might be a more palatable and psychologically derived term. It refers to what’s at the heart of who we are. For the purposes of this piece, I am using the term as an elaborated sense of core self which has a spiritual and psychological character.   “Heart and soul” rhetoric can be regarded as passé, or worse, by some critics in our post-modernist world.  Far from being socially and politically regressive, “heart and soul” language, rightly understood, is one of the most radical rhetorics we have. Despite our cultural bias that all power resides in the outward, visible world, history offers ample evidence that the inward and invisible powers of the human spirit can have at least equal impact changing our individual and collective lives.¹   If you are interested in the theme of soul and educational leadership you inevitably have to encounter Parker Palmer and his Courage to Teach. I first came across a copy early in my career and its wisdom passed me by; I was preoccupied with the technicalities of getting kids to shut up and sit down to work. How I wish I had stayed with the book, forced myself to look beyond accomplishing glorified babysitting and engaged with the kind of professional vocation that can sustain an entire teaching career.   Palmer’s work is full of insights, questions and dilemmas which will...