Review by Naureen Khalid

Chair of governors and trustee, Connect Schools Academy Trust

16 Oct 2021, 5:00


Naureen Khalid’s blogs of the week, 11 October 2021

The People Principle


In this blog, Kat Howard reflects on decision-making in people-orientated organisations. She argues that as people are at the heart of what happens in schools, planning and effectively implementing change requires all stakeholders to be invested in the outcome and the process.

But Howard goes on to reflect that placing people at the heart of our decisions is more likely to lead to making mistakes. That’s because the effects of our decisions often go unseen. We learn of them through our interactions with people, who bring their biases to bear.

Then there are our own biases; Our beliefs and our previous experiences shape how we respond to events. And all these decisions are being judged against a metric of consistency that may not even be very consistent itself. All of which adds up to a simple truth: people-centred decisions are subjective. Which means accountability is first and foremost highly personal.

Howard concludes that, rather than beating themselves up about their decision-making, they should instead focus their leadership improvement on the way in which decisions are “engaged with, considered, implemented and returned to as an example”.

A wise argument for creating a positive culture of feedback.

Taking feedback well


And on that note, this blog sees Joe Kirby consider exactly that. His starting point is that in order to be of use, feedback needs to be honest. And this can be difficult if staff feel they are jeopardising their livelihood by saying what they think and feel.

Kirby uses the mnemonic RESET to describe fives things to keep in mind to receive feedback well. Leaders should Reassure staff that feedback is welcome, Enquire to learn more, Summarise to ensure they’ve understood the feedback, Encourage staff to continue giving feedback and Thank them for their honesty. Not all five are necessary, and they don’t always have to be in that order, Kirby explains, but this technique will help avoid counter-productive defensive reactions.

Kirby goes on to discuss two ideas he has learned from the authors of the book Thanks for the Feedback. The first is giving yourself a “second score”, ie a score for how you received the first score, the feedback itself. The second is to draw boundaries to filter out unhelpful feedback.

All of which makes for a very useful blog for all school leaders – from head of department to headteacher, and right through to the chair of governors.

Happiness is not success: a personal journey in mental wellbeing

Ben Sprague for @AiimiLtd

Finally, creating a positive and honest feedback culture isn’t just a matter of school improvement and effectiveness. Last week saw World Mental Health Day, a reminder that mental health is still stigmatised and requires all of us to be part of improving the way we care too.

This blog by Ben Sprague is the kind of brave personal account that helps to normalise talking about the subject. He explains that from the outside he appeared successful. He had a beautiful family, friends, a good job and a lovely house. But something didn’t feel right to him. He started getting increasingly worried and stressed. He thought it was his problem and tried to hide how he was feeling. Then one night, something snapped and he drank until he blacked out.

With his wife’s support, he went to counselling, which helped him realise that he had seen happiness as a prize that he could get only when he was successful at school, on his career path, as a husband and parent, etc.

Sprague concludes with the sentiment that he wants his children to know that “being honest about who you are and how you feel is a great thing”. As school leaders, we should want that for all our pupils, and all our staff too.

So it is our responsibility to foster a culture where that can happen. We are, after all, people-orientated. And it’s OK sometimes for people to not be OK. What matters is what we do about it.

Support is available for readers affected by the issues discussed in this blog. Talk to Mind, Samaritans or Time to Change

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