I wanted nice ladies leather gloves … I got huge furry mittens!
Aged 10, I asked my dad to buy me these lovely grown-up gloves I had seen in a TV advert. He gave me ‘the look’.
When he came home, I nearly wet myself with excitement when I saw the C&A bag in his hand. The disappointment was crushing as I took out the biggest, ugliest, faux fur MITTENS I had ever seen.
Grief, they were terrible.
Then, my dad (who never sewed anything in his life), actually sewed them onto my coat. Not on an elastic and thread them through the sleeves, he just sewed them onto the end of the sleeve itself. I looked ridiculous.
Was it what I wanted ? No
Was it what everyone else had? Hell no
Was it what I needed?
Did it serve the purpose?
Was I warm that winter?
Absolutely yes, yes, yes
I felt I knew better, I was sure I knew the way, in this instance my young mind put style over substance and an elder stepped into my situation and turned it round the right way.
Sit at the feet of an elder, someone who has been there and learn.
Allow wisdom to come into your situation and support you.
Click here and come to dinner, we have mittens to fit everyone!
Random thing to say for a woman from a Nigerian household where anything with fur that could lick its own bum was considered with great suspicion; but I have this idea that if I had a dog then my life would have been better.
I would be slimmer, dog and I would go for daily walks in the countryside (I grew up near Peckham, South London, but if you imagine hard enough!)
I would be less stressed, dog would let me stroke it to calm me down in the evenings (my dog is the obedient kind that does not scratch furniture, leave hair everywhere or smell)
I would have married either Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt or George Clooney, we would have become entwined as we walked our dogs in the in the park (yes in Peckham… keep up!) and naturally fallen in love.
I just think that if I had someone back then (or a dog) it would have been so much easier for me. What is it about having networks, support, coaching, mentors or a listening ear that makes the difference to your journey?
I have read many inspirational stories about leaders who make it to the top and achieve greatness and call themselves ‘self-made’. I’m skeptical about that. Everyone needs someone at some stage even if it’s only the dog.
If you want to go fast…go alone
If you want to go far… let’s go together
I write this sitting in a hall at a conference surrounded by over 1000 school leaders being bored to death by a key note speaker.
He is obviously a man with a brilliant mind, an experienced skilled expert in his field; but grief he is no public speaker! Whoever booked him assumed that as a professor of education he would be adept at engaging like-minded colleagues in discourse about our profession.
It is clear he assumes we are sat here; engaged with his monologue, listening keenly and increasing in our understanding. WE ARE NOT!
I look up and down my row of 13 colleagues
- 6 are on their tablets and phones
- One is genuinely asleep
- One is resting her head on her ample bosom trying not to sleep
- One is writing her blog (me)
- 3 are trying to actually stay with the speaker and nod politely in the right places
This patterns repeats itself in the rows before and behind me…so what is my leadership thought?
Don’t assume that your title, years of service or status equips you for all the aspects of your role.
Being a senior leader does not automatically make you an accomplished public speaker
Being a senior leader does not mean you automatically understand the nuances of managing multiple staff teams.
Being a senior leader does not automatically mean you can carry the mental and emotional weight of leadership when your school community is under pressure.
All of these you should do, but you may not excel at.
As a leader you need to be an excellent orator, able to speak to multiple audiences and articulate vision or procedure; but you are also aware that this may not be your strength. Don’t cover it, don’t skirt around: do something about it.
Covering flaws in a fundamental area is a false economy, believe me EVERYONE ELSE KNOWS and it simply detracts from your credibility when you think you have cleverly hidden it away.
What do you need to learn?
- Public speaking
- Dealing with confrontational staff
- Strategic planning
- Maintaining your composure under pressure
Give me a call…let’s talk.
The man at the conference is still wittering on with no understanding that he lost the audience in the first 5 minutes. He has read multiple power point slides at us (obviously he forgot that 1000 school leaders can read)
There is no end in sight; he is scheduled for another 30 minutes and I have finished all my gummy bear sweets…
Grief, will someone please set off the fire alarm so we can go home?
There is something genuinely exciting about being a school leader; distilling this into a few sentences can be tricky as it really depends on what floats your boat.
I loved the salary… come on be honest, so do you! Leadership in teaching is well paid and after years of scraping by and having a tutoring job in the evenings to help pay for a wedding, I was looking forward to being able to buy the car I wanted and increase the shoe collection.
I loved leading the top team in school; there is so much to do, so much to accomplish and when you have a great team, absolutely anything is possible. Tackling and solving issues as a collaborative became our speciality.
I enjoyed the status….yes I’m being honest. Once I lost the fear of the sentence “the buck stops with me”, I relaxed and found a satisfaction in the sentence instead. I chose to spend time developing the leadership in others throughout the school and watching them flourish was fantastic. I decided that the buck stopping with me could relate to so many positive aspects of school life and not just the constant worry that year 11 were not going to do it that year and the GCSE crazy season was going to be tough.
Making the choice to enhance the “positive bucks” tipped the balance of stress in the job and led to some positive outcomes for me personally and for the school community. It softened my working week helped make that cliché of it’s the best job in the world become more of a reality.
Genuinely distributing the leadership; giving competent staff responsibility and letting them get on with it, including an in-house associate assistant head program
Designing and implementing a staff well-being program, from discounts at local restaurants to health services on site
Promoting exit plans! If someone wanted to leave and get a promotion, it was my responsibility support them in their ambitions. This is not counterproductive, change is a good thing; I have never regretted helping a colleague pursue their next challenge.
So, what floats your boat? Take some time to think about a positive buck you can develop over the year, if you would like some support developing this or other positive areas of leadership get in touch. Let’s talk.
In all honesty I was not sure about writing a blog at all; life is too short for…
Choosing between the same shoes in two colours (buy both and save time)
Counting calories/ eating celery / beansprouts or anything else with no taste.
I’m in my mid-forties, I have never used Twitter (or Instagram or snapchat) and blogging about leadership really did not seem like something fun to do on a Sunday evening whilst watching my beloved Inspector Morse. But apparently this is the contemporary (hip / cool) way to communicate your thoughts and offer advice to others.
So here goes….
(Updated monthly…truly, life is too short to do this more often)