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This blog comes from the Chief Executive Officer of Folio Education Trust, Jonathan Wilden

For a number of years schools have operated in traditional ways where the establishment was essentially run by Headteachers.

Then came about the introduction of school business managers to help look at the way school funding was used. Then following the academisation of many schools this has developed into a more suitable role for chartered accountants who report a more accountable income statement and balance sheet to the Board.

Now we see a third evolution as academies join together either by choice or by persuasion from the DfE to benefit from the advantages of collaborative school improvement and shared services. These new structures drive economies of scale and generate additional savings.  These can then be driven back into the core purpose of schools, which is to support Teaching and Learning and help every child to reach their personal best.

This step change through the evolution of schools has meant that a gap is growing. The gap is between those who work on the front line, who are dealing with sometimes resource heavy teaching and learning experiences and those who are charged with the financial management and strategic direction of the Multi Academy Trust.

This gap is amplified by the variance in skill set, where a classroom teacher is trained to support young people and the CEO and CFO are becoming removed from classrooms and playgrounds and operating as managers of people and finances.

Some CEOs even, have never taught a lesson, which is a point of debate but can be overcome as long as their management style does not lead to a disconnect between teachers on the ground and those working in the central Trust.

This potential disconnect is the source of much conflict generated mainly by a lack of understanding. Those in the classroom don’t understand why the school needs to incur so much cost in the middle to help them save money. Those in the middle can forget the difficulties faced by those on the frontline when resources are being cut by an knock on effect of the Treasury, the DfE, the LA and then the Trust itself receiving less funding for schools.

Unfortunately, too many Trusts find themselves in a situation where the connect between the local school and the central Trust has been lost. Neither side understands the finer details of the other and so it creates a feeling of distrust. In the best Trusts there is an open, transparent relationship between those involved in running schools which includes central Trust staff (CEOs, CFOs and COOs), Headteachers, Senior Staff and Staff working directly with children.

Like many relationships two key features of running a healthy Multi Academy Trust are essential to its smooth running. These two things are finances and governance. These two mechanisms ensure that there are clear lines of accountability, clear lines of delegation and clarity of how things are done around here. They should be robust enough to stand up to scrutiny by external auditors and internal governance functions.

So therefore the hidden challenges of being a successful CEO lie within ensuring that the MAT model is well communicated and well executed. When done well, this reduces the disconnect between local schools and central Trust staff, ensuring that there is a clear message evidenced in facts and figures that what you are attempting to achieve is in the best interest of children.

There doesn’t have to be any fancy logos or values driven mission statements from the MAT just a good honest message that what we do in the middle is in the best interest of the families and communities that we serve.

What can CEO’s do to overcome these challenges?

 

CEOs are ambassadors of this model who essentially are charged in providing a service for schools. They are there to serve and support and make decisions in the best interest of others which must be well communicated.

Corporate Financial Management and Corporate Governance are two essential drivers which must not be underestimated as these are a new and sometimes foreign language for many working in schools.

For this reason, CEOs must translate what these drivers mean in reality and how they benefit children. If a CEO can evidence the value of their position which includes others such as the CFO and the COO then the model works.

If the school cannot articulate how they benefit as part of their Trust then it is not working. The disconnect must be closed because the fundamental thinking behind MATs is right. It does generate savings. It does increase accountability and improved school improvement collaboration. It does send more funding towards the core purpose of providing a better experience for young people and the staff who work with them.

CEO’s just need to be better equipped and supported to carry out their key duties, roles and responsibilities.

 

5 things that CEO’s can do to increase levels of effectiveness

1. Read the DfE Handbooks for Finance and Governance

The DfE fully recognise that the key drivers to an effective MAT are good governance and good financial management which is why they have published two key documents which must act as core texts for the role of CEO. Also consider how the DfE handbooks translate into the reality of running your schools. Consider, what does financial management and corporate governance mean to the staff working in schools?

  2. Reflect on the core purpose of your MAT

Answer these two key questions – What is our core purpose and why do we exist? If you can’t answer this question and can’t include the word children in the answer then rethink or give up.


3. Communicate your Purpose

Take the core purpose of the MAT and ensure it is well communicated to all staff and students within the Trust without overshadowing the distinct identity of any one school. Let local schools have their own ‘earned autonomy’ but make sure there is a clear and transparent message that the MAT is there to help deliver improved outcomes for children.

4. Develop Transparency

Ensure your MAT develops an open and transparent culture of financial decision making through a collaborative governance model. While financial management is best placed in the middle this does not mean that decisions should be taken without the agreement of local schools.

The strategy can be centrally coordinated and designed but before implementation there needs to be a clear understanding of why things are being done, how budgets are set and why any reductions, increases or pooling in funding are being suggested.

5. Improve your Knowledge

Seek out opportunities to improve knowledge in the areas of corporate finance and governance. I myself started life, much to the amusement of friends and relatives, as someone who crawled around in the dirt and coloured in maps for a living. I was a proud geography teacher who has now almost 25 years later become a CEO.

I need to reflect on my original training and consider how can I lead an organisation without any formal training in financial management. For this reason I am currently studying for an MBA. It is giving me the confidence and the understanding that the business I am now running will not make decisions without my understanding and my ability to translate and communicate this back to those working on the front line.

I must never forget my roots and remember what life is like for those on the shop floor who are doing the most challenging job in teaching – changing young people’s lives.

Meeting the needs of MAT CEO’s

Our school leaders and teachers are involved in creating new and emboldened futures for our children and young people. However, we believe, with the ever-increasing pace of change in our schools, true and sustained educational excellence can only be achieved when the need to provide a first-class education for our young is accompanied by the need to meet the emotional, mental and vocational wellbeing of those who teach them.

Our children deserve nothing less than the best, but this can only be achieved when the hearts and minds of our school leaders and teachers are also nurtured and cared for.

We know that there are many Academy Trusts across the country who believe this too. That’s why we work with MAT CEOs to help them overcome the inherent challenges of building and leading in a MAT, so that they can create a family of schools that are characterised by…

– Open, constructive and honest communication

– High levels of emotional resilience and capacity for overcoming challenges

– Humanity, compassion and a deep commitment to the MAT’s vision and values

– A true love for learning in which personal transformation is possible

– Strong, supportive and nurturing relationships

Learn More

The post What are the Hidden Challenges of being a MAT CEO? appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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This blog comes from the Chief Executive Officer of Folio Education Trust, Jonathan Wilden

People’s immediate answer to whether vulnerability is a suitable trait for a CEO would probably be absolutely not. Under no circumstances should a successful leader show any form of weakness. 

However, I feel this is too simple an understanding of what ‘vulnerability’ means in the context of leadership. Rather than translating as “showing weakness”, I believe vulnerability can be better understood as a human characteristic that involves being more open, more sensitive and at times becoming a more acquiescent leader, to allow the actions of others to develop and prevail.

Jim Collins in his description of a Level 5 leader, describes an individual who displays both ‘humility’ and ‘will’ – both of which are key elements of vulnerability and are two traits with which I have tried to build my professional career upon.

Certainly being ‘human’ and embedding empathy within our decision making could be interpreted as a softer more vulnerable side of leadership, which can bring more positive change and motivation from those that we lead.

I think that there is a strong human trait and a sense of vulnerability which is present in the best and most effective CEOs. As Jim Collins describes in his book ‘Good to Great’, there is nothing wrong with a Level 4 ‘effective’ leader who drives towards a clear and compelling vision, but they can lack that personal humility which can effectively compliment a professional will present in the vast majority of CEOs.

I suppose those interested in becoming a Level 5 CEO must ask themselves can they be confident enough to be effective in a vulnerable state, which may if deployed properly bring about the marginal gains of outstanding leadership.

By letting go of ego and holding oneself up to serve others we display a self-imposed vulnerability which can be very effective.

The key to success and effective leadership is knowing how to engage with one’s own vulnerability. For example, when embarking on something new, it is important that feelings of vulnerability are mediated, to allow courage, hope and optimism to shine through. Be the ice breaker at the front of the ship and do not allow those around you to concern themselves with the stresses and strains of focused, visionary leadership.

You are the buffer, the champion of change and cannot afford to step off the journey to success or face the road to ruin where others may doubt you and question why things are done in a particular way. This position not only takes commitment and endeavour but a continual collaborative effort from other influential leaders within a MAT.  Where all senior leaders adopt the outward facing, shared narrative of success.

CEOs within educational organisations such as MATs are there to be the rock on which the organisation is built and so we need to understand how our own vulnerabilities impact upon how steady we feel in our own role, at times.  They must lead and influence others staying true to the shared vision, regularly reminding others of the core purpose and their role within it.

However, there will be times when feelings of vulnerability, will undoubtedly be present, but they cannot be allowed to scupper actions and decisions that are in the best interest of all of our children. E.g. When …

– Judging the performance of other professionals within the organisation.

– Assisting a failing teacher, offering an opportunity to change or be removed as they display an attitude of either ‘can’t do’ (capability) or ‘won’t do’ (disciplinary).

Whichever the case a CEO must permeate through the organisation a sense of urgency when expecting all staff to drive towards the professional competencies or Job Description outlined in their appraisal booklets and referred to in performance management meetings.

So in reflecting back on the original question, is there a place for vulnerability in the role of a CEO I think the answer is yes as there are certainly occasions when leaders need to show a blend of both ‘personal humility’ an ‘professional will’ and therefore embrace both the power and the threat of vulnerability. However, as for the place itself, for when to display these qualities – well that depends on the context, and the timing.

Meeting the needs of MAT CEO’s

Our school leaders and teachers are involved in creating new and emboldened futures for our children and young people. However, we believe, with the ever-increasing pace of change in our schools, true and sustained educational excellence can only be achieved when the need to provide a first-class education for our young is accompanied by the need to meet the emotional, mental and vocational wellbeing of those who teach them.

Our children deserve nothing less than the best, but this can only be achieved when the hearts and minds of our school leaders and teachers are also nurtured and cared for.

We know that there are many Academy Trusts across the country who believe this too. That’s why we work with MAT CEOs to help them overcome the inherent challenges of building and leading in a MAT, so that they can create a family of schools that are characterised by…

– Open, constructive and honest communication

– High levels of emotional resilience and capacity for overcoming challenges

– Humanity, compassion and a deep commitment to the MAT’s vision and values

– A true love for learning in which personal transformation is possible

– Strong, supportive and nurturing relationships

Learn More

The post Is there a place for Vulnerability as a MAT CEO? appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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This blog comes from the Chief Executive Officer of Folio Education Trust, Jonathan Wilden

In 2013, I was appointed to the position of Headteacher having been Deputy Headteacher in the School since 2010.

Following a rigorous external advert and interview process, I was in the fortunate position of being able to continue the work that I had already started in changing the school in its journey to becoming Ofsted outstanding which it finally achieved in 2017.

2013 was a very important year in my career development and remains a time which I reflect upon, now that I have moved from Headteacher to CEO. Two small but significant things happened. Firstly, following my appointment to my first Headship, the then retiring Headteacher came into my office smiling and through a book on my desk telling me to read it. He left chuckling to himself. The book was entitled ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’.

While this may come across as being mean it wasn’t. In the care free act of tossing me a book the message was clear – ‘you have been great but make sure you think about how to approach the next few years – don’t be the same person’. At the time I thought, ‘Don’t worry I will be fine’, but on reflection I needed that message. As being a Deputy is not the same as being a Headteacher and just like becoming a CEO is different to the role of Headship.

The second incident in 2013 was within my first Half Term as Headteacher. During this time I clearly hadn’t read the book! I was still in Deputy mode. I was walking the corridors, solving discipline issues, standing on the front gate. It wasn’t until my then Deputy Headteacher then delete asked to talk with me. ‘Let me do my job … give me the space I need … I will let you know when I need you to get involved.’ How rude! Telling me to back off, to get back in my office, but on reflection that book and my Deputy telling me to give him the space he needed were the most important messages in how to be a great Headteacher.

The School was judged by Ofsted in January 2017 as outstanding because it had developed a strategic formula for whole school improvement. It had metrics of monitoring and effective systems in place to target those children who were not making expected progress. It needed that strategic oversight and if I hadn’t have delete changed into a more hands off strategic Headteacher the school may never have made it. My shift empowered others to reach their personal best.

The same applies today to the way I have morphed from Headteacher to CEO. What got me there definitely won’t get me here. The role is different again. Or is it? The change process is actually the same but we need to imagine that the school has just become a lot bigger. In a Multi Academy Trust of 5 to 10 schools the CEO needs to have that strategic oversight. To get out of the hair of the Headteachers and let them do their professional duty. Trust them to be, in a way, good Deputies. To know the heartbeat of their school and to buffer the local issues that as a CEO you will drown in if you try and understand the detail too much.

Many Headteachers will struggle at being effective CEOs because they won’t be able to make the shift similar to that which they first made when they became Headteachers. Their main challenge being they just can’t let it go, and still find themselves caught up too much in the operational aspects of school life.

Here would be my essential list of do’s and don’ts to becoming an effective CEO…

– Don’t try and know the name of every member of staff and every child in every school within the Trust. Firstly, it would take too long and secondly it would take too much time and you would have to get too close to the school to get to this point and ultimately undermining the role of the Headteacher. Have staff lists and be able to picture the amazing teacher or the person who is being promoted should you be told about them or should you meet them on your travels but really it is the senior staff who you are most interested in understanding.

– Organise strategic Headteacher meetings which are similar to traditional SLT meetings in school. Use these to develop collaborative school improvement strategies and to co-construct shared documents, like an effective scheme of delegation or an effective trust wide governance model, Performance Metrics, monitoring, governance and an effective scheme of delegation will become your world.

– Have an absolute watertight appraisal mechanisms in place for all Headteachers, modelling the importance of a school development plan which acts as the single most important mechanism for improving a school. Use this to motivate a Headteacher and their team and re-visit it regularly as a way of knowing the areas the school is developing.

– Don’t be afraid of feeling like you are always in the wrong place. You can’t be everywhere and if you try to be you are probably not staying long enough to be helpful.

– Empathise at all times. Feel the stresses and strains of Headship and be an ear to listen or the voice of reason when you sense that life is tough for Headteachers. Give yourself respite from the dark days of CEO leadership by helping others solve issues in their schools. Think of it as providing an educational service. Offer possible answers but not precise solutions as this would be too involved in the day to day operations of a school. By alleviating the dark moments from others you will in fact alleviate the dark days from yourself knowing that you are of use and are having an impact.

– Don’t over stretch your ability to take on new projects or additional schools. I hugely dislike the phrase ‘empire building’. It is a short but hurtful comment towards what I believe are the best CEOs, who are genuinely trying to develop local collaborative groups of schools that benefit from working with each other to solve the difficult life chances of many young people.

– Maintain a firm moral purpose that what we do is always in the best interest of children. This is unbreakable and can challenge any failing Headteacher, teacher or non-teaching member of staff. By having a strong moral purpose we can smile and wave, sleep at night and ensure we have an impact on the local educational landscape.

By identifying some simple Do’s and Don’ts we are able to maintain the purpose and functionality of our role as an effective CEO. We are able to make that step from Headship effectively.

If I were to boil it down to one key skill or important attribute it would be…

“The ability to form meaningful and empowering relationships with headteachers, which have clear lines of delegation and a warmness of character thereby allowing us to join the romantic roller coaster of changing children’s lives”

Being an effective CEO is a great job which brings real accountability to a family of schools, but we MUST reflect upon the fact that what got us to this point in our career might not get us where we want to go in the future, unless we reflect and adapt.

Meeting the needs of MAT CEO’s

Our school leaders and teachers are involved in creating new and emboldened futures for our children and young people. However, we believe, with the ever-increasing pace of change in our schools, true and sustained educational excellence can only be achieved when the need to provide a first-class education for our young is accompanied by the need to meet the emotional, mental and vocational wellbeing of those who teach them.

Our children deserve nothing less than the best, but this can only be achieved when the hearts and minds of our school leaders and teachers are also nurtured and cared for.

We know that there are many Academy Trusts across the country who believe this too. That’s why we work with MAT CEOs to help them overcome the inherent challenges of building and leading in a MAT, so that they can create a family of schools that are characterised by…

– Open, constructive and honest communication

– High levels of emotional resilience and capacity for overcoming challenges

– Humanity, compassion and a deep commitment to the MAT’s vision and values

– A true love for learning in which personal transformation is possible

– Strong, supportive and nurturing relationships

Learn More

The post What are the habits of an Effective MAT CEO? appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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“In solitude one is not alone; once is present to oneself”

James Hollis

One of the things that I love to do at the end of a week, is to find a quiet place; switch off from the outside world and look inward. Pressing the pause button at regular intervals has become a deliberate and conscious act for me. It is how I regain my equilibrium.

It is how I build my own levels of resilience. It is how I become present to myself and attentive to the life lessons that have unfolded for me during the course of a week.

Many resilient school leaders have a similar ritual or practice in place. They know that time alone, or indeed a time alone with another, that facilitates a sense of being present to one self helps them to do three key things:

1. Deepen their self–understanding: They know that a better understanding of themselves, will also help to foster a richer and deeper understanding of others.

2. Develop emotional resources: They recognise that their emotional resources ebb and flow in relation to the demands of the role and that it is necessary to find ways to replenish.

3. Sustain a sense of vocation and purpose: They know without a process that connects them back to their ‘Why” it can become all too easy to get caught up in the detritus and trauma of school life.

These resilient school leaders have come to recognise as the author Parker J Palmer often says:

“The primary challenge is to help people develop a set of practices that keep their dreams whole, while cultivating an awareness of current reality around them.”

Quite simply … they have come to recognise the importance of reflection; as a deliberate and necessary tool for bringing a level of depth and perspective to both personal and professional development.

Reflections adds Depth and Meaning

Reflection also helps bring deeper meaning and understanding into the lives of school leaders. As most of us know, much of a school leader’s every-day life is spent trying to make sense of a range of difficult circumstances, for which many are ultimately held responsible for resolving.

Sadly, however, all too often, the system robs them of any real opportunity to find meaning in times of stress or difficulty. Obsessed as the system is, with data and statistical measures, it has created a vacuous process for measuring success. Not realising that the perceived gap in pupil progress, teacher numbers etc will not be filled through yet another system change or curriculum initiative.

The gap that needs to be filled is the gaping wound in the vocational heartlands of our nation’s teachers and school leaders. Bring a greater sense of love, joy, humanity back into the profession, show pupils, teachers and school leaders that it is who they are on the inside that matters, as opposed to external appearances and school league tables and then things might begin to change.

However, until such times, it is incumbent for school leaders to develop a deliberate practice. A deliberate practice which is concerned with the ‘cultivation of self’. Such a practice which will ultimately lead to:

– A deeper understanding and awareness of the personal journey that all school leaders undertake and… it is always, always easier to take this journey consciously as opposed to feeling one is at the mercy of both personal and professional malevolent forces

– Greater levels of wisdom and maturity: Individuals finding that in the slowing down they have greater capacity for by-passing the rational mind (which always thinks it knows best!) and accessing much deeper levels of intuitive wisdom and guidance. We need only to look at the growing data and research from the field of Neuroscience to know that this is the case. When our beta waves slow down and we literally start to think straight (as our brain patterns change) we change too .. for the better!

– An increased ability to respond to the changing needs of the person in role. Such a deliberate practice can then be seen as a generative process, bringing new insight, building confidence and building not just emotional resilience, but mental, physical and vocational resilience as well!

When we take time out, when we invest in ourselves, we are allowing ourselves to truly appreciate time as gift and when we do so, it is not just ourselves who benefit, those ‘whose lives we touch’ benefit also.

A Chance to Reflect

One of the most essential aspects of sustainable leadership is having regular opportunities to reflect on one’s leadership, re-energise, re-connect with what drives them, and above all, focus on how they are going about to achieve their vision.

That’s why we offer our “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.

The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.

Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.

Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…

Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.

Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.

Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.

A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.

Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.

If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more about the Programme

The post 3 Things that Resilient School Leaders do Differently appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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When I look back on my time as a Headteacher, time never stood still.

There was an abundance of meetings to hold, opportunities to be taken advantage of, problems to solve, fires to put out…  Yet, there was always a shortage of what I needed most …time and space.  Time to be still and space to think and feel.

In the frenetic life of a school leader time and space are rare commodities. By not affording time to reflect on lessons learnt, people can find themselves repeatedly making the same mistakes.  The lack of space also limits avenues to explore and process the emotional aspects of the role.

As a result, life as a leader can feel mentally, emotionally and physically intense.  This level of intensity, which most school leaders experience, usually brings exhaustion and too often leads to ill-health and burnout.

Increasingly, ill-health and stress-related issues have made us more aware of the need to protect the mental health of our young people, our teachers and school leaders. We have come to realise that time and space are important conditions for a healthy life and sustained hard work.

With time and space, individuals are able to process their thoughts and feelings, develop a more compassionate approach to looking after themselves and find new ways for sustaining a healthy emotional equilibrium. Various contexts are available for school leaders to attend to these things.  One of the most effective we have found is to offer what we call:

– A space to think

– A space to be

– A space to feel safe

– A space to understand and be understood

– A space to map the way ahead

Some may feel that devoting time to such a space is nebulous or indulgent but on the contrary, we have seen how having Headspace is an essential part of a professional and personal ‘infrastructure’.  I certainly know I would be less balanced, self-aware and available to others if I didn’t have such space. To be responsible for helping so many others to be OK means taking responsibility for making sure we’re OK ourselves!

Since I’ve been creating such spaces for myself and others for over fifteen years now, I thought I would reflect on the experience and try to explain what this space gives me. It helps me to remember what really matters, let go of negative habits of mind and renew and reinforce some positive ones.

Given the space to think and reflect, one thing I remind myself of is the balance between making things happen and letting things happen.  Our life journeys are always a blend of these two ways of relating to events.

As a Head, I used to pride myself on making things happen.  Since I stopped, I have become much better at understanding how much that happens is beyond my control and governed by the extraordinary system of humanity and nature that I am a part of.

When I forget this, I usually become frustrated by things I could never expect to anticipate or control.  I learn again to notice and appreciate the effects and signs of this interconnected system of exchange and interaction, between humanity and the world we inhabit.  I notice that I attract to myself experiences and relationships, whether joyful or painful, exquisitely tailored to what I needed to learn, on my journey towards awareness and wisdom.

I also remember to get back in touch with a quiet, loving, vulnerable but honest, clear and healthy ‘inner me’: a surprisingly strong but wise and patient self, that I keep too well defended when I’m tired, over-stretched and have forgotten all this.

 

What do I let go of, that’s negative?

The most important things I stop doing are worrying and over-reacting.  Getting away and slowing my pace, expanding my consciousness by reflecting with the help of a group, I’ll stop worrying about:

– Things that don’t matter as much as I think they do

– Things that will sort themselves out more quickly if I don’t interfere

– Things that I can’t deal with yet because they haven’t happened

– Things that have happened and I can’t change

– What other people think of me.

I understand that worrying about all these things has led me to overreact and often made them worse, not better. With this space, I renew habits of mind that I know are helpful, but which tend to lapse over time and under pressure:

– Listening to what Parker Palmer1 calls my ‘inner knower’: that instinct for the right response, that I need to trust in order to make rapid decisions with integrity

– Experiencing and allowing my feelings to flow more freely, letting them overwhelm me if they’re that strong. (This I don’t usually feel safe to do in everyday life, but it is immensely cathartic in a safe space and helps me to empathise more authentically with other people.)

– Reminding myself that everything passes and changes as long as I let go

– Trusting myself to lead from a place of passion and compassion, letting what I do and say flow more naturally from who I am

– Trusting others to be inspired by me, as I am by them, when we are truly open and ready to learn.

When I return, I carry the benefit of these changes, I know I am more tolerant, a better listener, a wiser decision-maker and easier and more engaging to work and live with, than I was before.

I am sure there is more congruence between what I say, what I do and how I come across, making it easier for people to know and trust my integrity.  I believe these are important qualities of effective and sustainable leadership.

Finding Chance to Reflect on our Developing Headspace Programme

One of the most essential aspects of sustainable leadership is having regular opportunities to reflect on one’s leadership, re-energise, re-connect with what drives them, and above all, focus on how they are going about to achieve their vision.

That’s why we offer our “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.

The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.

Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.

Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…

Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.

Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.

Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.

A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.

Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.

If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more about the Programme

The post What Happens When Leaders Find Headspace appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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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 serve to add to your feelings of isolation and loneliness. Headship is not a role that can be survived in isolation, as isolation can lead to two very serious forms of detachment.

– Detachment from yourself: so that you are not in tune with your emotions and feelings and what they are signalling to you

– Detachment from relationship with others; Your relationships with others become fragmented and you are no longer able to communicate to others just exactly what your support needs are.

So what are the answers? What can you do to help overcome loneliness from life at the top? Here are three quick tips, which if acted upon could make a big difference to how effective you are in dealing with the loneliness of headship.

 

Three quick tips for overcoming loneliness

1. Talk: Find someone to talk to, someone who won’t judge you, but will give you the freedom and space, to talk confidentially about the issues and challenges that you face in your role

2. Network: Find other like minded headteachers, with whom you can truly be yourself and help each other to problem solve. Very often you’ll find that in sharing your problem with others you are not alone and the very act of sharing opens up new perspectives for addressing challenges that you might be facing.

3. Remember you have a life outside of school. If you have let friendships or other close relationships slip, make a concerted effort to invest some quality time in being with those who love and care about you.

Being a headteacher doesn’t have to be a lonely job, if you take the right steps today, you can bring a greater sense of joy and fulfilment to your role.

Building Supportive and Collaborative Networks

 

It is my belief that in order to tackle the isolation of Headship, our Heads need supportive and collaborative networks that can allow them to connect and share experience with other school leaders.

That’s why we offer our “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.

The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.

Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.

Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…

Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.

Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.

Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.

A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.

Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.

If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more about the Programme

How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership was originally published on Integrity Coaching

The post How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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“Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realise your own potential”

 

Warren Bennis

This is one of my favourite leadership quotes as more often than not, when I use it when I am delivering training with Heads, I get somewhat of a quizzical look, when I ask, “What development needs will you need to have met in order to realise your own potential?”

If I ask them about the development needs of their staff, the responses are usually fast and furious. So accustomed are they to coming up with solutions and strategies for meeting other people’s development needs. But when it comes to the meeting of their own, they are often stumped. This shouldn’t be the case. Every Head teacher, whether new in post or well-established needs to understand that above and beyond courses that support the operational and strategic aspects of running a school, there are a myriad of other leadership development needs that must be met to facilitate a holistic approach to their own growth and development in the role.

Of the many types of leadership development needs that Heads, there are 3 that are absolutely fundamental…

1. Leadership development that increases Emotional Intelligence

 

If you are familiar with the work of Daniel Goleman, you will be familiar with his four components of Emotional Intelligence:

1.  Self-awareness – This is the ability to read your own emotions. It is a competency that allows people to know their strengths, limitations and feel confident about their self-worth. Effective Head Teachers use self-awareness to gauge their own moods accurately and they intuitively know how they are affecting others.

2. Self-management – This is the ability to control your emotions and act with honesty and integrity in reliable and adaptable ways. Effective Head teachers don’t let their occasional bad moods seize the day. They use self-management to leave their bad moods outside the school gates or to explain their source to people in a reasonable manner, so they know their origin.

3. Social Awareness – This includes the key capabilities of empathy and organisational intuition. School leaders with a high level of social awareness do more than sense other people’s emotions, they show that they care. In addition, they understand the ‘politics’ of their schools and the wider context. Thus, Head teachers understand how their words and actions make others feel, and they are sensitive enough to change them when the impact is negative.

4. Relationship Management – This includes the abilities to communicate clearly and convincingly, disarm conflicts and build strong personal bonds. Effective Head teachers use these skills to spread their enthusiasm and solve disagreements, often with humour and kindness.

These are the four components that all successful Head teachers need if they are to survive and thrive. If you have been in Headship for a while and have attended various leadership training programmes, I am sure you will have completed some sort of emotional intelligence assessment or undertaken a workshop or two.

However, I am sure you will also testify that an assessment or workshop is only the beginning. My experience has taught me (and perhaps yours has too) that developing our levels of emotional intelligence is often a very personal and private process. We develop these competencies and strengthen our ability to use them, only when we engage in leadership development that enables us to understand how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours impact upon the vision that we have for ourselves and our relationships with others.

 2. Leadership development that builds resilience

 

Resilience is something that every Head teacher needs, but many are poorly supported to develop the habits that will sustain them through the toughest of times. Below, are some key resilience building steps from an Integrity Coaching Associate, Mary Evans;

1. Have time each day just to “be” –the chance to experience silence and stillness, and to be in touch with nature in some way. Some people find Mindfulness practice or meditation useful.

2. Know what restores your energy battery and how to build up some spare capacity so you are not running on empty when the unforeseen demands hit!

3. Have a sense of internal purpose that gives your life meaning – this strong commitment to an external goal, which is in line with your own values, is certainly important for school leaders to remain resilient.

4. Be open to learning about yourself. This includes developing self-awareness, accepting who and how you are, having a sound belief in your own judgement and developing the ability to be objective and to step aside to reflect.

5. Work with others and ask for help, also delegate, but have sufficient independence to hang onto your sense of OK when you meet personal challenges.

In addition to these five things, seek to be both optimistic and pragmatic, moving on rather than dwelling on things, taking responsibility rather than blaming others and having a sense of humour. In summary it is important to check in regularly (probably daily) with your own energy level and how resilient you are feeling and what you can do to shift things in the right direction.

3. Leadership development that nurtures greater self-understanding

Head teachers that pursue this type of leadership development understand that change begins with themselves. They recognise that their own personal lens through which they observe and interpret the world, may have a whole range of flaws. They recognise that our growth into adulthood, has meant that we have often had to make adaptations to fit in. They recognise that in order to fulfil their potential, they need to review what these adaptations may have been and whether they have promoted their growth or stunted it. Familiar adaptations show up in our relationships and in how we lead ourselves and others:

– An inability to say “No” can be an adaptation where growing up the individual ‘learnt’ that if they said “Yes” they were seen as being more pleasing or agreeable to others

– An over pre-occupation with detail can be an adaptation where growing up the individual ‘learnt’ that if they got things ‘right’ no harm would come to them or they were seen as being ‘good/worthy”

– Internalising of emotions can be an adaptation where growing up the individual ‘learnt’ that they were safe if they didn’t express their feelings or rock the boat.

And there are many more. The point is leadership development that seeks to raise a Head teacher’s self-awareness, can help to uncover blind-spots, that if left uncovered may seriously damage their leadership.

Such support involves;

“Not denying, distorting, exaggerating or ignoring private knowledge, internal experiences and externally based information”

(The Leadership Quarterly – 2005)

Quite simply, this form of leadership development that supports the Head teacher to have both a honest relationship with self and with others is crucial.

Every leader needs opportunities to step back and reflect on this and their own leadership, as when they do so they become more adept at learning lessons from experience, leading themselves in more supportive ways and refining the way they go about their roles.

What’s more by giving themselves a chance to stop, pause and reflect, they create invaluable opportunities where they can re-energise, re-focus on what they want to achieve, re-connect with what drives them and above all, plot how they are going about to achieve our vision. Particularly amidst the growing emotional cost of leading, the complexity of the role and heightened pressure of being a school leader – this is essential to sustaining high levels of leadership effectiveness and staying in Headship for the long-haul.

A Chance to Stop and Reflect

In the frenetic life of a school leader time and space are increasingly rare commodities. With a constant flow of meetings to be held, problems to solve and fires to put out – it can be very hard for leaders to find the time and space to be still and think.

As a result, it can feel though there is rarely any time for you to take a step back and reflect on one’s leadership and more widely on the issues you’re facing. However, without this chance to stop and consider what’s working and what isn’t – many leaders find themselves repeatedly making the same mistakes or simply leading on “autopilot”.

This lack of space also means many have very few avenues for exploring and talking through the emotional aspects of the role, the challenges it poses and the impact is having upon them, mentally, emotionally and physically.

In turn, this can (without doubt) increase the risk of emotional ‘burn out’. When this begins to happen, not only do we experience extreme levels of mental and emotional exhaustion that can be debilitating to our ability to lead others, our health and our overall well-being.  Having been a Head myself, I know all too well what this feels like but equally what must be done to prevent it!

That’s why we’re now offering our very first half day “Headteacher Review and Reflect” session on Tuesday 21st May at Mill House in East Soham, Suffolk from 1.00pm – 4.00pm.

This session is designed to be a space where Heads can come together to take stock, review the goals that they set at the start of the year, re-build your emotional reserves and achieve a clearer sense of what you want to achieve across the rest of the school year.

With a mixture of solution-focused questions, reflection on think-pieces and facilitated group work, it is our hope that those who attend the session will come away with…

– A greater sense of clarity about steps they need to take to achieve their goals for the following term

– An understanding of how to be better cope with the stresses of school leadership and stay well in the process

– New connections and relationships with other Heads that they can tap into as a source of support

– Increased confidence in their own ability as a school leader and how to carry out the role in a way that maintains their integrity and authenticity

Learn More

The post 3 Ways to Develop your Leadership Skills appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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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 ‘Where’s your Head at?’… following a series of events, a perfect storm of circumstances that had dried up the last of the resilience in my well.  I made my decision, that in itself is documented and digitised for all eternity.

What of the others?  At the same conference I spoke of the hundreds of other school leaders, unseen and invisible, behind me on the stage.  Those who made contact after the airing of ‘School’ and those that hadn’t, the common denominator being that the system had crushed them and spat them out, left them to fend for themselves, with nothing left but a couple of decades of experience and memories, probably of a time when they were successful and valued for it.

What they also have in common, at least those that I have spoken to, is a strange feeling created by the abruptness of their removal from the battlefield – fighting the good fight one minute and, for a whole range of reasons, no longer fit for battle the next.  Of course, there are also those who fight on, a frightening number of them doing so whilst waiting for their personal ‘hammer to fall’, poor results, OFSTED an unsolvable financial puzzle to solve, take your pick.

So, here I sit in my new office, forging a new career for myself and wondering if I will take the plunge back into headship.  I have never ruled out that possibility, but things would need to have changed, so have they?

No, they haven’t, but let’s just say I have hope, and here is why.

It feels like we have acknowledged we have a problem, as we all know this is the first step to recovery.  Over the past 12 months I have heard more people talking about the problem, we have stopped sweeping it under the carpet and pretending it doesn’t exist.  I acknowledge that this might just be my own awakening awareness, but I believe it is more than that.  I am privileged enough to talk to a lot of people these days, across the whole of the sector and the tone and content of those conversations has changed – we seem more able and willing to say, ‘It’s not ok’.

The Department for Education appear to be listening to the growing clamour in regard to mental health and well-being and in some cases at least trying to take action.  The best example of this is the Early Career Framework but there are other messages drip feeding out into the system from the Secretary of State and DfE civil servants.  It’s a small step but the optimist in me sees it as a significant one.

I believe that Ofsted, in launching the new framework for consultation, have also implicitly acknowledged there is an issue to be addressed.  I am cautious about this, because I have fallen for it before (fingers burned and all that) and because I do not think they have gone anywhere near far enough in their overhaul of the system.  Again, it’s a small step and it remains to be seen if they will be able to get their own house in order to resolve the issues of inconsistency that plague the inspection process – but remember this is about hope!

I also believe that the growing chorus of voices singing about school funding will not be able to be ignored for much longer.  The stock response of ‘more money than ever’ is sounding more and more lame and delivered in such a way that it now sounds even those delivering it don’t believe it.  We must keep pushing this collectively and I think there is an opportunity that school funding will be prioritised in the spending review (I know Brexit still trumps all and the long grass is waiting for the funding football to be kicked into) – but remember…. This is about hope!

Lastly the biggest and most significant reason I have hope is forged around the people I meet on a weekly basis working in and around schools up and down the country.  The sincerity, determination, clarity of purpose, morality and values of those school leaders I get to meet regularly is the single biggest reason I have hope.  Most work diligently changing the world for young people in their setting, aware of the impact it takes personally but battling on regardless.

It is easy to look to our political leaders to seek out and plead for solutions to the situation we are in but to rely on them to do so would leave me feeling hopeless. I don’t, I feel hopeful, and that is almost entirely down to the brilliance of those I see doing the job I still regard as the best job in the world.

If we are going to repair the broken pot of Education and make it more beautiful, then we will need to be the gold that does it. The hope comes from knowing we can do it.

That is why, I will continue to fight to ensure that the appropriate coaching support is made available to each and every headteacher, to ensure that the unseen ‘disappeared’ do not continue to grow exponentially.

I fight alongside an increasing number of others, too many to name here, who all share my determination to ensure that whilst challenges remain, we should at least make sure our headteachers are adequately supported to address them.

And who knows, when this battle is won, maybe then I’ll step back into the other battlefield, the one I was trained for!

Working as a coach with school leaders I’ve witnessed first-hand the emotional cost for school leaders when their emotional needs are not properly met; anxiety, self-doubt, poor decision making and a diminished sense of personal and professional fulfilment.

This can’t continue. Active steps must be taken. Our profession needs to change and show that it knows how to best support our school leaders. So that they can not only survive, but also thrive in their attempts to deliver the best outcomes for our children.

Our leaders are properly supportedstrategically, operationally and emotionally to ensure they can keep going even when the challenges get tough.  Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects.

However, in spite of the fact that the business world has now embraced the benefits of coaching for leadership development, few in our education system have been afforded the opportunity to reap the benefits of this form of support.

That’s why I’m now offering completely free Coaching calls to give leaders a chance to experience first-hand the benefits of coaching and the role it could play in supporting both their well-being and their personal performance.

The calls provide a confidential, safe, non–judgemental space to spend 30 minutes exploring ways to:

– Achieve a greater sense of clarity about your direction as a school leader

– Gain a clearer perspective on any challenges that you may be facing

– Identify positive steps for moving forward

Book Your Call

 If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!

The post “Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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Irish poet, David Whyte understands fully what life and work are all about. He says;

“We must have a relationship with work that is larger than any job description we are given. As real work, like a real person, grows and changes and surprises us, asking us constantly for recommitment.”

If you are a school leader reading this, stop now and think deeply about his words. What is it that David Whyte is saying about the relationship that you need to have with your work?

I believe that he is pointing to key essential truths about life and leadership and the deeply personal dynamic that is so often at play, between the individual and their role, but rarely gets spoken about. A dynamic that calls for the individual (particularly if they are in a leadership position) to engage in a constant conversation with their work, about its true nature and what it is asking of them.

Having used this quote with a number of senior leadership teams and heard their deeply personal reflections on it, I have identified five key things that I believe every school leader should know about the role and what is means for their own personal/professional development…

1. Vulnerability will be a constant companion

Because the school leadership role is full of constant ‘challenges and surprises’ which so often catch you off guard, learning to accept your own feelings of vulnerability are an essential part of growing into the role.

Too many school leaders make the mistake of believing that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and therefore never develop the necessary depth of character to work honestly with their own emotions.

However, those that do, soon come to realise that when they engage with their own vulnerability, they develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be courageous in the true sense of the word.

 “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

Brene Brown

2. You must be prepared to dig deep

You don’t really need me to tell you this, you know it already, but I’ll say it anyway! This role that you have taken on, this role that requires you to be a champion for every child in your school, requires heaps of energy!

If that energy is to be sustained then it is essential that you are prepared to dig deep. Because chances are you will face people and situations that will take you to places inside of yourself that you have never been to before. If you are to grow from these challenges, you have to be prepared to look deep inside and be willing to learn the lessons that inevitably criticism, push-back and conflicts will teach you about yourself.

 

3. Recognise that you are a ‘work’ in progress

Just as your school is developing and growing you are too! There is a parallel process taking place. You need to be aware of this. Just as your school changes from one day to the next, the same is true for you.

If you are alert to this, you will find it easier to adapt and change. You will be aware enough not to get stuck in old behaviours. You will seek help and advice when you notice that it is you that needs to change in order to achieve the outcome/s you desire.

4. Successful leadership begins with leadership of self

For your job description to have any real meaning, you have to be prepared, as stated earlier, to engage in a dialogue with yourself about what the role is truly asking of you. You need to be prepared to reflect on such questions as:

– Who am I as a leader and as a person?

– How do I show up ….? (Particularly when challenged and under stress?)

– Do I know what my drivers are and how they impact my behaviours?

– Do I know what it takes for me to show up as my true authentic self?

I know …. these are not your standard school improvement questions! Yet they are the type of questions that when answered, provide the scaffolding around which school leaders can successfully build their vision and maintain a positive relationship with the work of school leadership.

5. You must keep a strong connection to your ‘WHY’

It can be all too easy when the deadlines are mounting up and you feel as though you are forever chasing your tale, to lose sight of the reasons why you first came into teaching.

Left unchecked, feelings of disillusionment can slowly creep in and before you know it, the joy, the love, the passion you once felt for the role has disappeared.

Which is one of the reasons why Whyte states that work constantly asks us to recommit. He is saying if we don’t consciously engage in a process that connects us back to our ‘Why’, not only do we suffer, but our work suffers too.

Re-Connect with Your Passion and Purpose

One of the most essential aspects of sustainable leadership is having regular opportunities to reflect on one’s leadership, re-energise, re-connect with what drives them, and above all, focus on how they are going about to achieve their vision.

In order to sustain high levels of personal performance, confidence and motivation (particularly amidst the challenges of School Leadership), I believe our leaders need chance to explore the questions that are of real importance to them as a person and in their roles.

They need chance to step back from the daily grind of the role and reflect on the leader they want to be, what inspires and drives them as a leader and what they need to do to keep their hope alive.

That’s why on Tuesday 21st May at Mill House in East Soham, Suffolk from 1.00pm – 4.00pm, we will be hosting our very first Headteacher “Review and Reflect” Session designed to provide school leaders an opportunity to do just this.

The session will take place from 1:00pm to 4:00pm and will be designed to provide a facilitated and confidential space where leaders can reflect with fellow Heads. Those who attend will come away with…

– A greater sense of clarity about steps they need to take to achieve their goals for the following term

– An understanding of how to be better cope with the stresses of school leadership and stay well in the process

– New connections and relationships with other Heads that they can tap into as a source of support

– Increased confidence in their own ability as a school leader and how to carry out the role in a way that maintains their integrity and authenticity

Learn More

The post 5 Things Every Headteacher Should Know appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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This blog comes from Headteacher of Brundall Primary School, Rick Stuart-Sheppard.

Having been in education for several decades now, I’ve had plenty of chance to witness what leadership at its very best looks like in our schools.

In that time, I’ve observed how great leadership often comes when individuals feel empowered from the inside out, are able to take decisions that are right for their own settings and on a personal level, they are emotionally and psychologically ok.

However, I’ve also seen how the circumstances of our education system in the last few years has begun to hinder this, such as the undercurrent of fear that now exists within our profession resulting from an accountability system – that at times, has seemed to be more punitive than supportive.

Meanwhile, there has also been rising stress levels amongst Heads, who are increasingly expected to manage change that is driven by external forces and in a direction that many feel is the wrong one, such as the imposed Curriculum a few years ago and enforced academisation more recently.

The ‘symptoms’ of stress, over-work, external judgments and demands can end up taking up so much space, that it is easy to forget to look at the aspects of life that can help us build resilience, persistence and capacity for learning and growth.

This inevitably has had an impact on our schools as after all, ‘When the Head sneezes, the whole school catches a cold’ as one education guru remarked.

I can’t remember which leader said it, but I think it really crystallises the impact of how the Head conducts him or herself about the school as, if the head is stressed, that stress flows from the Head throughout the veins of the school and circulates.

Equally, a Head attending to their own well being communicates that sense of okay-ness as they move through the school, and everyone moves a little further up the scale of being able to make a positive contribution to the school community and learning.

I believe if we are to ensure that the latter is the case for our leaders and in turn, our schools, we need to focus on two aspects of well-being and mental health that sometimes get overlooked: purpose and community.

There is considerable evidence such as from The Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand, that our connectedness with social groupings helps people to feel happier and more able to take charge of their lives and find solutions to the problems they are facing.

Meanwhile research from Stanford University, showed that there were very real health benefits to our social connectedness, with their research showing that it can help people live longer, recover from disease faster and protect against illness.

Moreover, their studies also showed that those who feel more connected to others, tended to have lower levels of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem and greater empathy and trust for others.

As Helen Keller is quoted as seeing in the recent book “Deep Learning” by Michael Fullan, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much more’.

There is nothing we do in school that stands in isolation, and so the quality of every single relationship in the school matters. Crucially, this should also include the head’s own relationship to self and whether they are looking after themselves to a sufficient degree, so that they can create and enable positive, constructive relationships.

I certainly know from my own experience that the more I can connect with my (moral) purpose, that education is a force for good and for helping ourselves and the world get better, the more empowered, creative and alive I feel.

This, in turn is strengthened by my connectedness to others-my relationship with Governors, my relationship with the leadership team and staff, as well as groups I belong to outside of school.

That’s why I also think events like Integrity Coaching’s upcoming Headteacher Review and Reflect session is so vital, in helping Heads to not just rekindle their purpose, and reflect on their own contexts, but also to provide them a chance to connect with fellow heads.

I know it will be a good way to ensure that I am ‘connecting’ and relating in a way that sustains my well-being and so I’m looking forward to joining this event on the East Coast soon!

A Chance to Reflect

In the frenetic life of a school leader time and space are increasingly rare commodities. With a constant flow of meetings to be held, problems to solve and fires to put out – it can be very hard for leaders to find the time and space to be still and think.

As a result, it can feel though there is rarely any time for you to take a step back and reflect on one’s leadership and more widely on the issues you’re facing. However, without this chance to stop and consider what’s working and what isn’t – many leaders find themselves repeatedly making the same mistakes or simply leading on “autopilot”.

This lack of space also means many have very few avenues for exploring and talking through the emotional aspects of the role, the challenges it poses and the impact is having upon them, mentally, emotionally and physically.

In turn, this can (without doubt) increase the risk of emotional ‘burn out’. When this begins to happen, not only do we experience extreme levels of mental and emotional exhaustion that can be debilitating to our ability to lead others, our health and our overall well-being.  Having been a Head myself, I know all too well what this feels like but equally what must be done to prevent it!

That’s why we’re now offering this “Headteacher Review and Reflect” session on Tuesday 21st May at Mill House in Suffolk from 1.00pm – 4.00pm.

This session is designed to be a space where Heads can come together to take stock, review the goals that they set at the start of the year, re-build your emotional reserves and achieve a clearer sense of what you want to achieve across the rest of the school year.

With a mixture of solution-focused questions, reflection on think-pieces and facilitated group work, it is our hope that those who attend the session will come away with…

– A greater sense of clarity about steps they need to take to achieve their goals for the following term

– An understanding of how to be better cope with the stresses of school leadership and stay well in the process

– New connections and relationships with other Heads that they can tap into as a source of support

– Increased confidence in their own ability as a school leader and how to carry out the role in a way that maintains their integrity and authenticity

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The post Well-being, Purpose and Community appeared first on Integrity Coaching.

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