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.