Posts Tagged ‘communication’

What’s the Team Vision?

February 19, 2013

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It’s quite commonplace for a school or organisation to have a vision, and previous blog posts have discussed why this is useful and how you might go about creating and implementing one.

But what about the teams within the school? The Key Stage teams, for example. What is their vision – if, in fact, they have one?

Personally, I see no reason why teams within a school shouldn’t have their own vision, provided it supports the school’s overall vision.

Here’s an exercise that you can do with your team to develop the team vision.

Developing the smaller team vision

  • Split into groups of 3 or 4
  • Ask them the question: “What do you want our team to achieve by the end of this term / school year?”
  • Alternatively, ask: “What do we want the children in our team to have achieved by the end of this term?”
  • Tell each group to prepare a news report that will outline the team’s success at the end of the given time scale.
  • Encourage them to be creative and think wider than they’ve done previously
  • Remind them it’s not just about numbers/results!!
  • Encourage them to draw on team members’ strengths and aspirations when considering what can be achieved

Share and compare the news reports. This can prove quite interesting, as you could get lots of different reports! But what’s most useful is that ideas & strengths will come from it that were previously untapped or unknown.

This then opens up the discussion within the team about what your vision could be. At this point, you may decide to share the whole school vision and see how the team vision could support it.

I’ve had some interesting outcomes when doing this exercise with teams, as well as a lot of fun! It’s a great collaborative exercise to bring teams together, as well as build relationships with new teams.

If you try this – I’d love to hear how it went!

Thinking of developing your school teams?

Call me to find out more and discuss your options

The 12 Stress Less Days to Christmas: Day 9

December 21, 2012

Day #9: Use your strengths to see you through this busy period

SWOT analysis, strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat words

Are you good at organising people?

Can you solve problems relatively quickly and efficiently?

Do you possess good communication skills?

These are examples of the kind of skills/strengths that can stand you in good stead in the lead up to Christmas.

When you use what you’re good at it can make the holiday period less stressful because these skills come more naturally to you.

 What are your strengths, and how are you using them at the moment?

Communication: speaking the same language as your team (Part 1)

September 3, 2012

Have you ever been in a situation, either as a team leader of team member, where you feel the person you’re speaking with just isn’t really listening? … They don’t get it … They can’t see what you’re trying to show them.

Or, do you often feel misunderstood by one particular member of your team? 

What may be happening is that they are hearing you, but the way they are responding seems to be changing the meaning of what you’re saying.

For example …

Sue: “James, I’m really keen to show you how I’ve organised this data in a way that’s easier to understand. It demonstrates clearly how we’ve achieved our targets in the last few months. I think you’ll notice how the colours I’ve used highlight each team member’s contribution.”

James: “Sounds useful. Tell me more.”

Sue: “If you look at this page, you’ll see each team member’s value added data, which I think will be helpful when looking at their next targets.”

James: “Listen, I really like the sound of it … I hear what you’re saying. It would be a good idea to tell the rest of the team what you’ve done at our next team meeting.”

At this point, Sue may be feeling a little frustrated! James wasn’t looking at all Sue’s hard work. He wanted her to tell him about it instead. 

This is a classic example of someone who is more visual talking to someone who is auditory. We all have our individual preferences for learning and remembering things, and we give this away by how we speak.

In the example above, Sue is using lots of visual language:

  • show you
  • demonstrates clearly
  • you’ll notice
  • colours
  • highlight
  • look
  • you’ll see

James on the other hand is using more auditory words and phrases:

  • sounds useful
  • tell me more
  • listen
  • like the sound of it
  • hear

You may not get as many examples as I’ve given in such a short dialogue – I’ve included lots to make the point.

Do you recognise any of the phrases above as ones you use on a regular basis?

Visual and auditory are just 2 of the main styles of learning. In a future blog I’ll continue this discussion by looking at a different one.

In the meantime, pay attention to the phrases and words others use to describe events / situations.

What would you say their preferred style of communication is?

(Photo credits: Master isolated images and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

An INSET day to get the year started

August 29, 2012

My memories of the 1st day back in September …

  • Quick catch-up with colleagues; sometimes relaxed, but usually more hurried than if we’d met during the holiday in school  … a general sense of purpose in the air
  • Whole school staff meeting; taking the form of a Welcome Back from the Head, welcome to any new staff, and a sharing of key diary dates & time tabling information … planned to be 1 hour, but usually ended up being 2!
  • Key Stage meeting; often included sharing some last minute planning, but usually relaxed
  • Individual time; prep time for all staff to put the finishing touches to their rooms / their planning / backing display boards / making resources, etc.

… Plus the photocopier would be working to capacity, and there’d usually be a queue!

In terms of a positive start, most staff would be upbeat about the term and about generally making a fresh start … “This year I’m going to do ‘X’ better!” Although this sometimes depended on which class you had, and whether a tight budget meant that class support would be thin on the ground.

If you’re a Head / School Leader / Principal, what would make that first INSET day a really positive start for your school?

Ideally, some time spent with all staff together is a good idea. But if this needs to be kept to an hour or two, how best could you use it?

Here are some thoughts …

  1. Use to re-group, welcome new staff, and remind staff of successes from last year and next step targets for this one
  2. Communicate changes in curriculum / leadership / key stage roles – so all staff are aware of roles and responsibilities of their colleagues. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked – either as it’s not felt to be important or it’s assumed people already have this information. The clearer staff are about each other’s responsibilities the less the opportunity for misunderstandings later along with wasted time spent sorting them out
  3. Remind staff of the school vision (unless you are using this INSET time to create the vision) and provide a few minutes for discussion in pairs on how their individual roles contribute to it. It’s a great way of getting that whole staff feel of “we’re in this together” from the start of the year.

So how will you be using your INSET day this autumn?

What needs to be included to ensure it’s a positive and productive start?

Photo credits: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and nokhoog_buchachon

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 3)

August 27, 2012

In this 3rd and final part of the current ‘Taking on a leadership role …’ series, the focus is on confidence.

3. Confidence

So, how ready are you, and how confident do you currently feel about your upcoming leadership role? Give yourself a score out of 10, with 10 being most confident…

In a previous blog  – Want more confidence in the workplace? – I suggested some tips to give yourself a confidence boost at work. In addition to those more general tips, for a confident start to your leadership role, I add the following.

I often find that confidence comes from knowing what to do and from experiencing the ‘do-ing’! So …

  • Know what you want to do with your role (get clarity)
  • Know what you expect from others and communicate this clearly
  • Know what others want. What do your team members need to do their job effectively?
    • Ideas / resources / time to talk through their concerns?
    • Mentoring / coaching / training?
    • By setting aside a few minutes each week in the first few weeks to identify staff needs, you can address these quickly. Even if you aren’t able to provide for everyone’s needs, you can at least tell them why, and they’ll hopefully respect you for it. It shows you’re listening and doing what you can.
  • Know how to create opportunities for early wins, for yourself as well as relevant stakeholders. Building on this success helps build confidence – both in yourself and others’ confidence in you!
  • Know that it’s OK for things not to go according to plan – you can make adjustments and get back on track. Learning from these types of situations increases experience, which builds confidence.

If you scored yourself less than 7/10 earlier, try some of the confidence building strategies suggested above.

These are only a few suggestions.

  • What others can you think of?
  • If you have some leadership experience already, how have you ensured a confident start to that role?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 2)

August 26, 2012

So how’s your preparation going for the start of the new term (if you haven’t already started!)? And does it include prep for a new leadership role?

In Part 1 I introduced the first of 3 key areas that will help to ensure a successful start. This blog looks at the second.

2. Communication

Once you’re clear about your leadership role, what’s expected of you, what your goals/targets are, and what their achievement will look like by the end of the year … what’s the 1st thing you’ll want to communicate to your peers/team(s)?

  • Your plans for the term/year?
  • Your expectations of all those involved with your leadership area?
  • Targets and deadlines?
  • Ideas, hints & tips, expertise sharing?

What you choose to communicate first may depend on your circumstances, what your leadership role is for, and your style of leadership.

For example …

1. If you are new to the school and taking on leadership of a Key Stage, you may decide to ask lots of questions – for information gathering purposes – before you decide how you want to develop this area of the school/the staff.

2. If you are leading a curriculum area and you have already established expertise and experience in that area, you may want to offer help/guidance to other staff as part of the planning or assessment process.

3. If you are taking on a new headship, you may already have a clear vision which you want to communicate from the start (or open up to discussion and development with all staff).

As you will have clarity for yourself about what you want to achieve, help others be clear about what you need from them…

  • When telling other staff what they need from them, it’s easy to forget that people have preferences for learning and retaining information; most common ones are Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic styles (more on this in a couple of weeks). For the moment, remember to include showing as well as telling them what you need, and where possible provide opportunities for staff to learn by doing, experiencing or trial & error methods.
  • In order to meet your own deadlines, if these involve relying on others for data, policy input, work samples etc, it makes sense – where possible – to provide them with a deadline that is about a week before yours, to allow for any unforeseen delays.

What do you think is the most important thing to communicate at the beginning of a leadership role to ensure a successful start?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Implementing a school vision

July 23, 2012

In this 3rd and final blog in the current series on school vision, I turn my attention to implementing the vision.

So the vision is set and you know what you’re aiming for. What’s next? Let’s look at this in 4 parts:

1. Communicating the vision

How clear is it and how easy is it to communicate? A common response to this is to simplify it in the form of a strap line: e.g.

‘Excellence for all and from all’

Where do you display it, as part of your communication strategy? In the school vision survey I carried out last year, the most common place was the school entrance (40%), with the Head’s office second (33%) and in classrooms third (24%). Does this reflect your current practice? Other places included: the website, the staffroom and school headed paper.

Do you stick to displaying your vision in word format (73% of schools from the survey) or in pictorial format too? (22%). Could you get the pupils involved in this process, or even the wider school community?

2. Delivering the vision

A strap line is a useful concise way of stating the vision, but all stakeholders need to know what it means.

What does it actually mean on a daily basis?

Regardless of who is involved in the initial creation of the school vision, it needs to be owned by all stakeholders. This can be achieved by identifying how each group contributes to the overall vision.

I don’t think it’s necessarily about telling stakeholders what their roles are. You can ask them how they think their roles contribute to the overall vision; a useful group task as part of an INSET / staff meeting on this topic. It helps to encourage ownership and accountability. If they can’t see how their roles contribute, perhaps some guidance is needed or their roles need a revamp.

A good vision helps people at all levels make more informed decisions because it is clear and they know their part in it

3. Supporting the vision

A few questions to consider with this part:

  • What practices, if any, need to be different?
  • What role will the SLT have in driving and maintaining it?
  • What new teams need to be created?
  • How will the School Improvement Plan support the vision?

Part of supporting the vision may involve behaviour changes, which come from having different expectations (of pupils, the curriculum, each other …). It’s important that staff are supported in making sure this is a success.

How will you build this into your INSET / staff development strategy?

4. Monitoring the vision

As with anything that is implemented in school, some form of monitoring needs to take place. So who will be involved in monitoring the vision? What format will this take, and how often will it be done?

54% of respondents to the vision survey felt it should be reviewed annually. Do you agree?

Once you’ve decided on frequency and format for monitoring, a final couple of points to consider are:

  • How will the outcomes be shared / communicated?
  • What will your next steps be?

I’d love to hear your thoughts / experiences on revisiting, creating or implementing your school vision. It’s always useful to share good practice!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Practising the art of leadership

August 19, 2010

Last week I suggested the top 3 features of an emerging leader were the three I‘s of Influencing, Inspiring and Ideas.

This week I’m looking at the next stage of leading from the middle, where practising leaders develop their skills.

Firstly, I think it’s worth saying you don’t stop influencing, inspiring and having ideas. You continue to build on these while you develop other skills / qualities.

So where is “the middle”? Roles such as team leader, manager, key stage leader …. could all fit into this category. With these positions come demands from at least 3 areas:

  • your team members
  • your line managers
  • other team leaders

The nature of your relationships change, especially if you’ve been promoted from within the organization, and you are now leading and managing staff who were previously on an equal level.

Effective leaders at this level will therefore be developing and honing their relationship skills, as well as showing they can continue to manage day-to-day activities, projects, etc. Several leadership features linked to developing relationships come to mind here, but I’ll give you my top 3….

1. Communication

Seems an obvious one, but I am including here the ability to communicate clarity of thought, which means you need to have clear focus and direction for your particular leadership role, as well as be able to effectively communicate your ideas.

When communicating with others, it has greater impact if you can do it in a way which suits their preferred learning style, as it builds rapport well.

If they are more visual – use visual language… “you’ll see what I mean when I show you how this works in practice”.

If they are more auditory, try phrases such as, “when you hear my idea and listen to how I think it could work ….”.

More on these 2 here

Similarly with people who are more kinaesthetic, try ….”you’ll be able to get to grips with it when you use the resources like this….”

To know what preferred learning styles people have, extend your listening skills to include listening out for specific visual, auditory or kinaesthetic phrases they use when talking.

2. Empathizing

The ability to put yourself in someone else’s position is highly valuable when suggesting changes or considering how a new policy or procedure will impact on the current working environment. Knowledge of other’s roles is naturally helpful here, so talking to them about their work (including successes and issues) on an informal basis is a good strategy.

If you can empathize with your team members, peers and line managers, it gives you a head start so you can consider their reactions in advance and think about how to address any issues and minimize potential conflict.

3. Building “followers”

Being a leader implies that you have followers, and I believe you can develop a following in several ways, including:

a) leading by example – I seem to remember having respect for leaders who weren’t afraid to “get their hands dirty” when necessary, and could walk the talk!

b) empowering others – knowing when to give others the space and time to develop their skills, thus building a more effective team. This is often about taking a step back, even when you think you can do the job faster / better, etc. yourself. It’s also about showing you trust them.

c) delivering on your promises – I think this is also linked to building trust. When you say you’re going to do something for someone, ensure you do it. There will be instances when circumstances beyond your control get in the way, but if you are consistently delivering on your promises, those rare times when you can’t shouldn’t be an issue.

So what are your top 3 features of relationship development for practising leaders?

Think about middle managers who’ve inspired you. What was it about them?

I welcome your comments and experiences on this topic.

(Images courtesy of Feelart & digitalart /FreeDigitalPhotos.net)