Perspective is power

Welcome to the first 2022 edition of our #Leaders5aDay Blog.   I hope you have had the opportunity for a mental break as well as a physical one.   If not, consider booking yourself a day’s retreat with one or more of your loved ones.  My wife and I had a 1 day (child free) visit to the Lake District a couple of days before Christmas, only an hour’s drive from here.   It helped us step off the materialistic Christmas culture train and put our week into a healthier perspective.  We walked along the base of a mountain and enjoyed a drink alongside Lake Windermere as the sun was setting before we traveled home.   Not an expensive trip but immeasurable in getting our minds in sync with nature and this amazing country we live in.   I cannot tell you how much I needed this shift in perspective, but I’m guessing many of you understand that after a tough school term.

So, this left me thinking, how can I help my teams find their healthy perspective at the start of the Spring term.   Here’s a starter for ten for you to try and consider cascading through your teams a healthy but structured dialogue around perspective.  

This is Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, ‘The Café Terrace at Night’ (1888).  

‘The Café Terrace at Night’ (1888).

Where would you say is the focus of the one-point perspective in this picture is situated?  (don’t cheat but for the answer visit Perspective Drawing – Using a Central Eye Level (  

This time of year, we sense and see the contrast between dark and light, as can be seen in the painting with the diagonal sections between the starlit and the lamp lit street.   I wonder what your eye is drawn to at first glance, in the same way I wonder what our team players are drawn to at first glance of each day, each challenge, each interaction with their colleagues.  

As always, the culture starts with how we as leaders set the tone.  Are we planning to launch straight into highlighting how dark the season is, how challenging our School Improvement goals are, how far away our pupils are from the results we believe OFSTED will be looking for? (#TMOS) Or will we be able to help ourselves and our teams start off on the right foot with the right perspective (which in the case of the painting is NOT at the end of a dark alley – there’s a clue for you!)

John C. Maxwell in his book, ‘17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork‘ highlights several hints that will help you put your goals for this season into a lamp lit perspective point.  This month let’s focus on one, the Law of significance – the key here is that we all need to feel we have significance. 

[1] Write down the things that you know provide you with value and self-worth.  Repeat for each member of your team and help them understand the significance they play.  The painting has a lit curve in the drain that leads your eye to man in white in the café.   Your role is to help create that path for your staff to be drawn to the lit focus and away from the dark shadows. 

[2] Make sure to connect the shared  vision and the short term goals you have.   Together we can put people into space and together we can find a path through, even when the predicted results seem out of reach.   If you or anyone else does not appear to be part of the team right now, consider why that might be.  Most common reasons I have from teachers recently include:

  • A desire to never return to the pre-COVID ways of working.  We’ve all experienced a work life shift, and many want to hold on to the pros of working from home at a different pace without weighty performance targets.   Work with your teams to find the most effective systems that will help move into a new way of working rather than assuming we must somehow find our way back to previous unhealthy habits.
  • Fear of the unknown.   Most of us have commitments beyond school, as partners, carers of elderly relatives, as parents, etc.  As well as being on the front line working with people most likely to spread COVID variants, we have worries about how we manage our own health and protect those we love at home and at school.   This is the reality.  We need to have open dialogue with our teams about this.  Use the painting as an analogy of working in the light we can find whilst acknowledging the dark alley is still there.   Remember, in the 1600s an estimated 30% of the entire world population died off due to pandemics and climate change, in 1918 20-50 million people died from the Spanish Flu, and yet in the UK we have been offered 3 jabs within 18 months free at the point of access.  
  • Consider utilising the exercise around mind mapping our fears and then identifying those that are within our sphere of control, those we could influence with action and those that are beyond our control at this time.   Focus our next steps for action on those things we can do well now and begin to influence the things that seem just beyond our reach.   The number one thing here for each and every one of us is the quality of practice in our classrooms.   Let’s focus our time and resources on high quality inclusive teaching strategies.   This will ultimately improve all measures of success we need for any measure of accountability. 

[3] Have meaningful 1-1 dialogue with your key team leads to clarify where they are at in relation to the above and light up their pathway with clear support and focus this Spring term.

For the next steps on this journey in spreading light through your teams get in touch with Team ADL for your own 1-1 and look out for part two of my blogs ‘Perspective is Power’ due in February 2022.



Hopes Dreams and Reality

Create your new reality

Welcome back to school/college/settings wherever you are!  Are you feeling excited, full of energy and hope?  Have you, perhaps, had that annual dream where you wonder if the people you lead will find out at last that you are a fraud and just as human and flawed as anyone (or is that just me?)  

Winston Churchill is quoted in 1952 as saying, ““It is no part of my case that I am always right.” True measures of success (#TMOS) in inspiring leadership behaviours must include integrity, honesty, and a good dose of reality; this has to start within yourself. He also wrote in his diaries about his dark moments in life, often when he had experienced professional failure or loss, referring to it as his ‘black dog,’ – a Victorian phrase to depict low mood. ‘Black dog on my back’ is a phrase that we might translate as ‘got out of bed on the wrong side today.’  You will have hopes and dreams about how this year will pan out for you, your family, your school/college/setting.  You have overcome SO much over last 24 months and know that some of those ‘black dogs’ may still reappear in the months to come.   So how can you face the juxta position of hopes, dreams and the realities that work and life are about to launch at you?    

How honest are you really ….? Take my 3-step challenge in creating the healthy culture in your setting to achieve the most effective and productive work ethic among your team than you have ever seen!

Challenge 1

If you don’t already, commit this year to writing a journal for yourself.  It is by far the most powerful method of honest self-reflection and improvement in self leadership, thus, effective leadership of others.   Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln did it so it should be good enough for us.   Keep it personal and private, but let it be a key priority in your scheduled working week.  This is my Friday afternoon when everyone else has gone home, I sit in my office or nip into a coffee shop, hotel bar on the way home and commit to spending an hour in reflective writing, thinking, and feeding strategic ideas onto my to do list for the following week(s) (see previous blogs on time management).  This is no fluffy in the clouds leadership rhetoric; this is rubber hits the road, get gritty with the issues starting with yourself approach to truly shifting the seemingly immovable mountainous problems you face in life and in your workplace.  This IS the place where battles are won, enemies defeated and that budget deficit, the challenging teacher, the poor results, the recovery from an inadequate OFSTED grading ….. are overcome. 

Challenge 2

Tweet / Whatsapp, etc (or whatever is your preferred methods of venting) only positive vibes this year, commit to have deep and meaningful debate face to face, not in texts without body language, tone of voice or the true intentions of integrity and honest role modelling. Use challenge 1 as part of your process in problem solving before you react; remember the adage, ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’. Seek wise counsel from others for those deeper issues, you do not have to have all the answers at your fingertips to prove you are an effective leader. Strategically map out who your go to wise counsel members would be.   For me, I have 7 key people with key skills and credibility around business, finance, mental health, family and of course leadership.   Who are they for you, write down your list and be determined to diary in regular catch-up sessions with them regularly through this year.  Coach others to then do the same …. Achieve this this year and you will see a significant and measurable impact on your team’s impact and outcomes. I dare you to prove this true in your world.

Challenge 3

Encourage a culture of safe honest professional debate to feed your journaling and deeper decision-making behaviours. Replace some of you staff meeting time with Seminar style discussion.   One year I scrapped staff meetings altogether in favour of this approach and I cannot put into words the impact this had on our teams and sense of professionalism.   Get in touch to explore this further and how you might dip you toe into this shift in culture.  To start with some staff were sceptical and confused; particularly those who feel success is ticking the boxes of ‘jobs done’.  i.e., I have done my job well when I have submitted my planning on time, written my subject action plan and filed it away, ordered the teaching resources and planned a staff meeting.   Again #TMOS.   Try these for healthy alternatives:

  • X% teachers appraisals include SMART goals around impact of action-based research project on a cohort of pupils.
  • Targeted subject action plans are based on research/evidence-based teaching pedagogy and direct input from nationally accredited subject leaders (university departments, maths hubs, etc)
  • School improvement plan includes the above approach and the jobs list associated with it are directly linked to #TMOS you have identified
  • If OFSTED is due for you, you will only challenge staff in regard to the above points knowing that they will be the true measures of success that get you the Good or Outstanding grades.

Are you up for any or all these challenges?  If you want to challenge me back or discuss your steps towards these for a truly productive year, get in touch #Leader5aday