Daniel Esteve, one of SEC’s new Accredited Members, offers some thought provoking points from his experience he uses his experience of working with school leaders and CEOs.
Management is good management and leadership is… good leadership. This should not make a difference whether you are a CEO or a primary school head teacher. But it does, and understanding why will help SEC management consultants provide better support to our head teachers.
CEOs and head teachers experience the same management and leadership processes but from radically different time frames. CEOs grow their success organically and according to their self-imposed timeline. This is not the case for head teachers. Bearing this issue in mind might help the SEC management consultant when proposing innovative coaching support to their client.
CEOs can literally build from small scale success to slightly bigger success. One step at a time. They can do that in more or less their own time. They are able to jump into action thanks to their flat organisation which has minimal in-built bureaucracy as processes are mostly the result of on-the-fly decisions. In their will to strive for scale, CEOs soon get in touch with larger stakeholders. These often have a different agenda. Whilst they strive for agility and innovation, large companies expect their potential smaller partners to engender trust. They require identifiable quality systems. This of course creates a tension as the growing CEO is actually encouraged to, apparently, focus energy and resources away from the primary goal of selling. In a way, their world is not broken yet they are asked to break it. This is where CEOs need help to navigate the world of quality.
For a management standard to be deployed effectively, some early coaching is often needed. When a CEO strives for the badge as a marketing tool, they often see the standards as a side project. This approach of ‘what do I need to do in order to get that’ is often counter-productive. However, if the conversation can start on management systems, the systematic ‘do-review-think-plan’ rule can quickly bear fruit. So CEOs running a growing company have to increasingly learn to integrate quality systems in their day-to-day working in order to thrive. The world of the CEO is a world where walking happens before running. As a result you do meet old CEOs who have kept their passion.
The head teacher faces the same challenges as CEOs but the order in which they face these challenges is fundamentally different. This is key. Understanding this and reflecting on the CEO’s experience will enable us to help head teachers push their best School Development Plan foot forward
Most Head teachers’ success is predicated on the extent to which they are able to survive the initial heat of battle. The educational world is structured so that head teachers cannot grow into their job. Unlike CEOs, they do not have time to grow a set of skills whilst living in an increasingly complex reality. The reality is complex from day
New head teachers are first faced with a plethora of external pressures. Health and safety? Safeguarding? Meeting with the Local Authority or Academy Chain representative or challenge adviser? Doing the work requested? Selfevaluation document? School Development Plan? Training? Engagement? Latest ‘new idea’/ ‘possibly innovative idea’ from the local expert? Inspection? Extended writing? Independent learning? All this has to be ‘done’ and be ‘seen to be done’ before the head teacher can actually get to grips with the job in hand. It is how they deal with this that, ultimately, shapes them into who they are.
At the same time, the existing management systems are often underused and this creates problems for later on. Unlike the CEO who will create systems in his/ her image, the head teacher already has these systems in place de facto. Unlike the CEO who grow s into finding-out there is a wider world out there, the head teacher is first hit by everything the wider world can muster. Some fall to their knees and never really get over it. Others ignore it at first and are then pole-axed when it finally catches up with them. Along the line, passion never disappears. This is why head teachers work such long hours. But you understand if passion is, at times, stifled. This is when helping the head teacher design a pathway to success, like a normal CEO path, can help SEC management consultants to be really transformational.
Rather than aiming for a plan, the first step is to coach the head teacher to commit to delivering on his/her passion. This is about anchoring their moral compass as their first non-negotiable criteria.
The second step is to audit and map the gap between what the head teacher thinks is happening and what is actually happening. Judicious coaching will lead the head teacher to identify the work which is being done and does not need to be done (external pressure). Pet projects with dubious impact (being done efficiently but in reality should not be done at all) can also be identified. Expectations then need to be nailed to the mast: teachers, managers and leaders will be expected to be adaptable (to ‘crack on’ in military parlance) and to work in teams with... humility.
The third step is to kick in the tall grass the idea that to be better one has to do fewer things. This is a nice idea but does not take into account that heads, unlike CEOs, do not control their environment. The focus must instead be on growing capacity within the school to face up to it. Head teachers call it distributed leadership, CEOs see it slightly differently and see it as Bench Strength.
The last useful step is to spread the concepts of deliberate and immediate actions. When managing the huge number of external pressures, heads must take decisions. If it is an immediate problem then they require an immediate action. Take a punt, review at a later stage and learn from it. You are allowed to make mistakes. If the issue is more long term, then you need deliberate action. This involves the whole team, change management techniques and a project management tool. The data systems will be such that the head teacher will know in real time what happens in order to rectify the approach if need be. The head teacher cannot get this wrong.
At this point, they will be in an involving fun business which requires creative solutions. Any CEO will wonder what the fuss is all about being a head teacher. When the head teacher retires and starts his/her own business, the first challenge will be to answer this question: What requires immediate action and what requires deliberate action?
School Improvement Service Cymru
Members can contact Daniel Esteve at firstname.lastname@example.org