Three #DigiMeets & PedagooHampshire 2016-2017

#1 Developing and strengthening #Teams 2016

The political events over the last few weeks have certainly served to highlight the power of teams and leadership. There are many facets to leadership; but for me a key aspect is ‘developing & strengthening teams’.

In my professional role, I am part of several teams and I also lead a national team of SEND specialists. These specialists are located across the country, come from different backgrounds and offer an amazing range of skills and expertise. Collectively we deliver evidence-based online CPD across the globe. Our mission is simple: improving outcomes for learners through targeted workforce development.

So how do I manage my team?

1) Choose wisely – in building a team in the first place, I look for people who are not only different to me, but also better than me! I think about the collective dynamic.

2) Clarity – Different people means different perceptions. So, I believe strongly in open dialogue, modelling and harnessing a culture of support & challenge. Nurturing relationships is key.

3) Communication – I invest time in planning my communications and sending timely updates. I get lots of feedback from the regular top tip info-graphic I send out. My team, can also book regular one-to-one time with me and one of my key questions is “How can I support you?”

4) Listen – I am keen for my team to grow in all aspects of their lives. So I listen to what drives them or what they place a value on and make a point to home in on these during interactions. I actively seek out opportunities to support their growth.

5) Encouragement – there is such a joy in seeing someone develop.  I make time to express my gratitude for the work they do. Publicly and privately I honour them for the amazing people they are and not just what they do.

Part of my role also involves liaising with external partners for my team members. Each comes with a different set of expectations; which isn’t always easy.

So, what have I learnt this year:

  • Plan: Investing time in the strategic makes the operational a natural process – forward thinking based on reflective practice is priceless
  • Patience: Recognise some team members need reminders and repetition – knowing the difference between equity and equality
  • Praise: Value what each team member brings to the table – however big or small: it all counts, and diversity is our strength!
  • Performance: When we focus on supported quality input – the output takes care of itself

This year, I also launched the 1st National SENCO Masterclass. My dream is to develop the professional expertise and pathways for SENCOs beyond the National SENCO Award. This has been a different team building approach … but that’s a story for another day!

#2 The Challenging Nature of Leadership 2016

Leadership is not easy. It is not about personality traits but learned behaviours that develop overtime through the synergy of conceptual knowledge growth and experience. Authentic influence is acquired, not an automatic reaction.

In this blog, I seek to focus on 5 aspects around the nature of leadership; sharing some observations and hopefully providing ideas for further development. I do not think there is a single solution to any situation. Effective decision making is born out of open dialogue.

Top tips for success: Use every opportunity to articulate the connection of your vision to your values. Give voice to the direction of travel. Invest in supportive mentors, coaches and friends.

  • Identity

People often talk about leaders being role models. However, this behaviour is rooted in a core knowledge of knowing ‘who I am?’ This identity knowledge is the catalyst for defining beliefs, values and principles – thereby determining character.

Over the years, a number of eminent leaders (including Ralph Waldo Emerson & Stephen Covery) have quoted the following:

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Thoughts speak from a place of who we believe we are.

Top tips for success: Sieve your thoughts, consider options & be open to new ideas.

  • Clarity

Leaders need to not only articulate where they (and others) are headed, but also define the direction and pace of travel. This is about more than communication. It embraces sustainability i.e. not losing track when distractions come along, but equally being flexible and open; responding to changing circumstances.


  • Challenge 4 Change

Ironically, I think this is the one most leaders find a challenge. They want change, but do not want to be challenged. In recent months, I have seen two common responses by school leaders to challenge. The first to take it personally and in doing so lose sight of the discussion. Fragile egos often get in the way of progress. The second is to respond with ‘I know’ – great way to stop conversations. Since more & more conversations take place on social media, we are in danger of becoming an industry that feeds on false empathy.

Top tips for success: Be open to challenge and if you need to challenge 4 change, avoid seeing it as a trade-off for being popular!

  • Enable

Leadership can be infectious and has the potential to ignite thousands of hearts and minds into leadership. Our big stories feed the wow factor but have a short shelf-life. Our best stories help others feel ‘I can too’.

Top tips for success: Invest in others – share you best stories!

  • Hope

It is too easy to criticize, much harder to be a leader of hope. Hope needs to be real and not just a there, there factor.

Top tip for success: Know what you are hopeful for and share it regularly.

Be the best of who you are, because your best is well designed and unique!

#3 Prepare for success: Leadership 2016/7

We all want success. But what does success mean? What does it look like? Do we embrace success when it arrives?

A man of faith has a dream one night. In it, the Lord appeared before him and said, “Whatever happens, I will be there for you, I will help you”. He awoke felling safe, secure and protected. A few weeks later, his town was hit by floods. The water was up to his knees. The rescue team knocked at this door. ‘No, no, no the Lord will save me!’ He declined their help. The water level now filled the first floor, a boat came by and offered him a ride to safety. ‘No, no, no the Lord will save me!’ He declined their help. Finally perched on the roof, a helicopter flies by and offers to rescue him. ‘No, no, no the Lord will save me!’ He declined their help. The man drowned. When he met his maker he asked why the Lord had not helped him. To which he received the reply, “Who do you think sent the rescue team, the boat and helicopter?”

Sometimes we are so caught up in striving for success, we don’t recognise it when it arrives. Other times, we have fixed views on what we think success ‘should’ look like, we miss out on what it ‘does’ look like. Each of us is unique.

My leadership pledge: to prepare for success; embrace it and enable others to the same!

Success involves change. If it didn’t we would be stagnant! There is a positive synergy between learning and change that accelerates success. Success breeds success. So in effect our journeys are from success to more success! That might be big leaps or small steps. It doesn’t matter. Without the journey, there is no destination. Without the destination, there is no journey. Where to start? Gratitude. Being grateful, I find, helps me to align my thinking. It stops me being distracted by the day-to-day mundane issues and focuses my attention on the bigger picture. So do we really prepare ourselves for success? Do we engender a culture (devoid of jealousy and comparison) to say it’s ok to be successful? Do we allow success to be part of our identity? Are we comfortable in celebrating the success of others? Do we choose a joy-filled lifestyle?

Since I was 14, I have been continually refining my dream on what I want the educational experience to be like for children and young people, in this country and around the world. It’s in my DNA. It takes collective effort and will plus a sustained commitment. Along the way, I’ve taken risks, I’ve made mistakes … and I’ve embraced opportunities when there was a knock at the door. The successes came in all shapes and sizes – they still do!

I wish everyone optimum success in the coming year in all areas (work, relationships, goals, dreams or just doing life).

Have the courage to answer the door and celebrate! 

PedagooHampshire 2016-17 (see photo above)

Simplify: 4Cs + 4Es

Reflections often (not always) include a rewind. So this my Rewind << of #pedagoohamphire16:

As a previous senior leader, I would habitually probe my staff after CPD on not just what they had learnt, but what that would change in the classroom/for pupils. Face-to-face and with established relationships, this was easy to do. So as @vivienne‍ led the final keynote, I was heartened to hear her remind us of the distinction between professional learning & professional development. In recent years, as I have delivered more CPD externally, I have asked attendees what they will do as a result of my input. Too often, the reply was a to-do list! That’s not change. In my field of SEND, I started to shift into strategic planning evaluations. Whilst this had stronger mileage than to-do lists, I still wasn’t hitting the right chord for professional development. Vivienne’s presentation was erudite and energising; hitting the right balance between challenge and support. We were asked initially, what in our thinking has changed?

Successful schools for me, have three core elements:

1) Practitioners have a model OF learning, which they use to identify and address barriers to learning

2) There is a shared language FOR learning, which serves to ignite meta-cognitive dialogues

3) There is an appreciation of the ‘joy of learning’ and the development of #JoyChampions (more on this at a later date)

Working in many schools, as I do, I see a variety of models of learning. A recent one, that caught my attention was: Collect (knowledge/info) – Connect (make links) and Create (apply what you have learnt to develop something new). The children in the school found this easy to grasp, discuss and deliver.

So, what shifted for me?

Rewind <<

The first keynote speaker Patrick @ottleyoconnor mentioned his recent participation in a conference in Vietnam. The focus of the conference was the three Es: energise, engage and empower. Awhile back, I developed the 4Es to support the SEND Reforms. This for me combined the learning and development, we would need to deliver the changes ahead. I still stand by these

What struck me about the Vietnam experience though, was how they mirrored the same conference theme for students and staff simultaneously. So in the same vein, surely the 4Cs above (revised model post #pedagooampshire16) could be used for staff and students. I have already drafted a staff template; which I will use at a CPD in October – watch this space for feedback. Any thoughts, in the meantime – much appreciated. This (as am I) is a work in progress!

Sandwiched between the two keynotes were a number of well-paced thought-provoking sessions and of course lunch! Grateful to all involved.

Rewind <<

That takes me to the start of the day and the night before, both marked by fun social interactions, generosity and encouraging banter.

And that’s where I think I will begin my Monday back at work … socially engaged with a new paradigm. What will I rewind on Friday?

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