How many school leaders plan how they are going to lead? What they will do or say to get the results that will make a difference, make an impact on pupil outcomes?
They often know all about different leadership styles and bout how EI contributes to effective leadership, but how many have a personal leadership plan? Teachers have lessons plans, so do school principals or headteachers have leadership plans?
Some might argue that they are called School Improvement Plans (SIP), but a ‘school’ is an organization or a building – an inanimate object, not an individual. How can a school improve itself? At best it’s a collection of individuals, so maybe the SIP should be a collection of individual development plans that all contribute to the one vision?
So what about the School Leader’s plan? If you don’t have a destination, how will you know when you’ve got there? How will you know where you are going and the steps you’ll take to get there?
How will you know what you have to do to make an impact and to be the person that leads others in the journey towards that destination?
1.As Stephen Covey said; start with the end in mind – and make the vision of that end destination staff and pupil facing. What do you want to see your staff and pupils doing? What do you want to hear them saying? What do you want them to feel when they come to school? What do you want them to believe? What values do you hope they’ll have? Who do you hope they will be?
2.Work out where you are now – what’s the information in front of you telling you? What are the pupils and staff saying – to your face and behind you back? What are they doing? What are they thinking feeling? And how will you find this out – talk to them, ask them, spend time with them, watch them, notice what’s happening and notice how you feel around them. Be an observer. What’s the feeling in your school? What are you feeling and what are they feeling?
3. Work out what the difference is between where you are now and where you want to be. What are the similarities and differences, the strengths and the areas still to be developed? What can you as a person do to close that gap? What can you say, how can you act, how can you behave to get the school to where you want it to be? What will you have to be thinking to do this? What do you have to believe about yourself, your pupils and your staff to behave like this? Who will you have to be?
4.Work on one small step at a time. Will it be something you say? Will it be one specific phrase or word that you commit to using or deleting from your vocabulary that will make a difference to how you make others feel? Will it be a behavior? Will it be how you walk, or how you sit in meetings or the pitch of your voice? Will it be something that you do each hour, each day, each week that will change how others see you? Will it be a change in thought pattern? Will it be reframing situations to take in different perspectives? Will it be changing your mindset in certain situations from ‘judger’ to ‘learner’? Will it be identifying your beliefs about yourself and others so that you can start to think about how you live your beliefs – how you can walk the talk?
5.Who can help you? Ask others to support you. Identify something that you want to work on and ask someone to help you. Choose someone who will encourage you in each step of your learning and who won’t let you ‘off the hook’; a personal ‘learning’ trainer or a coach, who will ask you the questions you won’t ask yourself, and will give you honest feedback.
6.Experiment and practice – and reflect. Try out new ways of speaking – listen to yourself and choose your words carefully. Try out new ways of behaving, new ways of thinking and new ways of being a leader. Fail and learn – work out why you failed. Seek feedback from yourself and others. Ask people if they have noticed a change? What have they noticed? How has it made them feel? Have you noticed a change? How are you feeling? What’s different about being a leader now?
7.Evaluate – is this getting you and your staff and your pupils closer to your destination? Is it closing the gap? What’s the difference in other people? What are you noticing? What are you feeling? What’s the impact?
So before you write your next School Improvement Plan, remember: a school is an inanimate object – it can’t improve itself, only the people in the building can do that – the teachers, support staff, and the leaders. What might they do to improve themselves to improve the school? And before you start planning all the CPD that you think they need to make your school even better than it is today, think about you – as leader of your school, what might you do? What would your staff choose for you?
You can’t change other people you can only change yourself, so how can you “Be the change you wish to see” in your school?