How will you “Seize Success”?

Having just returned from the annual “pilgrimage” to Birmingham for the NCTL conference for school leaders I am challenged with the task of trying to articulate what I took from this in a coherent way. I will try and do this and at the same time offer some links for further reading. At times when you see this in the diary you can feel that you are too busy to do this – maybe this alone is the reason that it is worth making it happen.

  1. Take the time to think about how to get the best out of the team you lead – Susan Cain, author of “Quiet”, spoke about how to look to understand intrinsically how we work, communicate and learn in very different ways. It is equally poignant in thinking about the students in our schools and classrooms. She has a very popular TED talk viewed by over 4.5 million people – if you don’t think about this you may be missing out as between 1/3 and 1/2 of all people are introverts and therefore we may be failing to make the most of their hearts and minds. It also makes it clear that as a leader you need to consciously build a team that has a breadth of personality types, however tempting it may be to look for people just like you!
  2. Schools never stand still – it is sometimes tempting for us to try to bottle success in school when things have gone well or alternatively be blinded as to what to change if we need to improve. Sir Terry Leahy, former Chief Executive of Tesco, spoke about key steps to identify key issues, set goals, create culture and analyse performance. This can be seen as a challenge for us to listen to those that matter most – students, parents and staff if we are going to be truly committed to moving our schools on.
  3. If you want to be happy take time to think about what makes you love the job you do – John West-Burnham talked on “Staying Enchanted with Headship”. To stay enchanted we need to be in our “element“. We need to have a firm commitment to leading learning by having learning conversations. We can do this through modelling this ourselves, risk taking, analysis and clinical review. We should engage in personal growth through research, reading and networking. Thinking and reading is “hard work” so don’t be apologetic about investing time in this. Develop a moral confidence – do what you think is right and stick to your principles consistently. Ask “would anybody die if I don’t do this?” – this will help us have the moral courage to only do what is right for our context.
  4. Take the time to engage in our culture and society – Ben Page, Chief Execiutive of Ipsos Mori gave his annual “state of the nation” review. A key message was to look how to best prepare people for a period of uncertainty – think about the skills  young people need. How does this fit with the current educational obsession about knowledge and facts?! What’s most poignant for you? 
    Mick Waters built on this by talking about “The Learning Life” and how we could use the environment around us to inspire us. He said we only wrote things down so we could show evidence for it to be measured. It was inspiring to hear him speak of a leadership spring when we can grasp the agenda, trust leaders to set the direction, own the tune not dance to it and build practice grounded in research.Y You can find out more in his book “Thinking Allowed“.
  5. How can we challenge the underlying culture in education? – are we at risk of GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) killing education? Pasi Sahlberg talked of how we could focus on collaboration not a standardised approach. He challenged us to focus on less testing and more trust, more prevention and less repair and finally mored evidence-policies and less experimentation with children. It is interesting to note that Finnish system is heralded as an exemplar of best practice internationally without perhaps recognising the core culture which is behind this. Remember young people only get one shot at education and learning so we have a moral obligation to get it right. This Suli Breaks spoken word performance brings this into vivid focus.
  6. Set ourselves ambitious challenging goals – it is at times easy to find reasons we can never achieve something, perhaps deep in our British psyche! Jim Lawless talked about his book “Taming Tigers” which enabled him to become the UK record holder for Free-diving (101m) and ride as a professional jockey within a year.

Far deeper than any of this one underlying fact hit me that the time to stop and think is the most precious part of this all. I suppose as a Catholic Headteacher, and RE specialist, pilgrimage probably is the right word. We need to get out of our normal space “geographically” to find the opportunity to “journey spiritually”. As school leaders I believe this helps us engage in a deeper moral purpose that is not just about “doing” but actually “being”. If we can match the job we do with the person we are I believe we will be deeply fulfilled, successful and happy.

It is this that is of the greatest value:

  • Engaging with thought-provoking discussion with respected friends as fellow Heads
  • Sharing issues and finding solutions
  • Simply finding time to drink deep from whatever the fountain is that keeps you in touch with your moral compass and purpose

I hope you have the chance to do this in some shape or form as I can promise it is worth every minute – however busy you think you might be.

I have added further detail in this Prezi too.

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Some good reads to follow up