Archive for April, 2012

Maximising Relationships with … #1: Your Senior Leadership Team

April 23, 2012
  • How strong is your relationship with your SLT?
  • Could it be even better?


Successful leadership and management of a school (or other organisation/business) relies in part on a leadership team which is strong individually and collectively.

The size of the SLT will usually depend on the size of the school and how staffing is structured (and the budget!) I’ve worked with SLTs ranging in size from 1 (the Head of a small school) to a team of 8, in a larger city school. As with any team, the larger it is the greater the potential for a richness of ideas, strengths and experiences … as well as a greater risk of conflict and power struggles.

A range of factors contribute to an effective team, one of which is a positive and productive working relationship. Heads new to a post can come into a school with an already established SLT, which can create its own challenges.

To build and maintain effective relationships with the SLT, there are several things that I’ve found in development work with Heads…

1: Clear vision – shared with (or developed alongside) the SLT

It’s important that each member of the SLT knows how they contribute to the vision. Teaching staff can lose sight of the big picture (which the Head tends to hold), as they deal with the day-to-day tasks. This is why the vision needs to be revisited and reviewed on a regular basis.

2: Role clarity

It’s also important that each member of the SLT knows his/her role in the leadership and management of the school.

– Which parts of their role are leadership and which management? 

– Do their combined leadership roles (I’m including the Head here too) provide appropriate coverage of all development areas within the school or are there gaps?

– How do you know?

– Are tasks appropriately distributed and is there fair delegation?

Lack of role clarity can lead to staff losing focus and direction, resulting in feeling demotivated. Staff who are externally motivated will need more direction and feedback on how they are doing, otherwise relationships could break down.

3: Building rapport

Building rapport is easiest with people who are similar to ourselves; it’s a subconscious thing. There’s a saying: People like people like themselves. This is fine when choosing your friends but can be limiting when choosing staff to be part of a multi-skilled and dynamic team, where complementary expertise and experiences are key.

Having common values helps build rapport, as does speaking the same language. (A focus for a forthcoming blog!)

4. Maximising strengths

As a Head / leader, how well do you know your SLT’s individual strengths (and your own!)? Not just curriculum strengths or a wide range of experience; I would also include here leadership and emotional intelligence strengths (e.g. optimism, initiative, building bonds, conflict management).

This is not an exhaustive list – so what would you add to it? 

How do you maximise relationships with (and within) your team?

(Photo credit: renjith krishnan)

Planning for a stress-free summer

April 16, 2012

As we embark on a new term, the last of this academic year, what are your thoughts about how it will unfold?

Are they filled with excitement, enthusiasm and energy?

Or do you start like this, then the enthusiasm wanes when an excess of external (or internal) pressures arise?

The school summer term is often a very busy one, usually packed out with  last minute exam preparation and administration, teacher assessments, school performances, trips, sports days … not to mention report writing and parent’s evenings.

When I taught full time, I’d start with great enthusiasm but this could often wane.

So how do you ensure you don’t burn out before you’re even half-way through the term? Here are some ideas that I used to see me all the way through to the end of term:

1. Pace yourself

An obvious one, and perhaps easier said than done. But with a little bit of planning and foresight you can ensure you have maximum energy at key times. As a starting point, on a term planner identify the weeks where you’ll need most energy. Aim to expend less energy in the previous week(s) to build up your reserves.

Also, tell yourself that it’s OK to not be working flat-out every day, all day!

2. Know your limits

This is about knowing when you’ve reached that tipping point where – if you continue – you’ll become ill/stressed. (NB Stress = excess pressure that affects emotional, physical or mental wellbeing and will be different for each of us.)

Address these moments by avoiding any default ‘saying yes to everything’ setting you may have!

3. Create great resilience

How quickly do you bounce back from exposure to sources of stress?

Resilience isn’t something you’re born with, you can develop a capacity for resilience given the right work conditions and attitude.

Practise techniques to de-pressurise situations, establish realistic expectations of your role, and take advantage of challenges – turn them into personal growth opportunities – this will help to make future similar situations more tolerable.

More on this topic in a forthcoming blog.

4. Adopt a healthy approach
  • Eat food that gives you the most energy
  • Ward off summer colds/viruses by keeping up the Vit C
  • Avoid caffeine late at night as it’ll inhibit a restful sleep. For those nights where you’re working late, go for caffeine-free instead
  • Avoid dehydration – I’ve found that putting a bottle of water somewhere that I pass regularly helps as a reminder (on the desk, by the door …) Take a sip each time you pass (or as often as you can!)
How do you ensure a stress-free (or stress-reduced!) term?

(Photo credits: farconville and Paul)

De-cluttering tips

April 11, 2012

Easter is another one of those times in the year when people feel the need to set goals / make a fresh start. I’ve recently been having a clothing clear-out, although with the weather extremes lately, it’s difficult to know whether I still need my winter wardrobe!

I know it’s one thing to think about de-cluttering and something else to actually do it. But thinking about what’s going to motivate you to do it is a start.

For me it will be about having the end result in mind – what will the wardrobe (and the recovered space under my bed!) look like when I’ve finished? It could be this for you, or perhaps it’s about other spaces in the house. How do you want the bookcases, the spare room, the garage, the kitchen or your desk to look when you’re done?

Here are some tips I’ve found useful when de-cluttering:

1. Know what you’re aiming for. Create a visual image if this helps, and be realistic.

2. Don’t try to do it all at once. Whilst coaching several people towards de-cluttering their households, small steps have usually worked best. Perhaps go for one room per week.

3. Enjoy the new space you’ve created for a while. Rather than immediately fill up the space you’ve created with new things, think strategically about adding new stuff if that’s what you want to do.

4. Think of productive things to do with the stuff you don’t want. Recycling or charities are a good start, but you may have other ideas. This way, not only will you have cleared your “clutter” but someone else will benefit too!

Are you having any spring cleaning or de-cluttering urges yet?

Do you have a plan or any useful tips you can share?

(Photo credit: nuttakit)