Books

How to be a trauma informed leader

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by the education system, is truly one of the most pressing challenges schools have ever faced. Many school leaders are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of their staff and students’ challenges.

Books

Leading through disruption and into the future

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by the education system, is truly one of the most pressing challenges schools have ever faced. Many school leaders are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of their staff and students’ challenges.

Books

Leadership renewal for women in schools

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout amongst teachers, school leaders and staff was at an all time high. As we continue to navigate the impacts of the pandemic, it is important to find opportunities to reflect, reconnect and refocus.The Australian Schools Women’s Leadership Summit provides a unique opportunity for women at all levels of school leadership to connect, share their experiences, build their leadership capacity and prioritise their own wellbeing.The summit, facilitated by Dr Janet Smith and Dr Debra Kelliher, will cover these three key themes:Where to from here?Guiding our schools through the coronavirus pandemic and continuing to prioritise patient care has placed extraordinary demands on school leaders across Australia and the world. This critical juncture presents a timely opportunity to reflect and learn from our recent experience and rethink the way we have done things in the past.Relational agencyHigh functioning teams are essential to the busy work of schools, yet as a team leader in a school do we know why effective teams work and why there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’? We’ll look at what makes a healthy team, the concept of ‘relational agency’ and the characteristics of trust – the essential foundation of a team. Useful for both team leaders and team members in schools.Inspiration and insights from inspirational women leadersDuring the summit, participants will hear from several inspirational education sector speakers about their leadership/career journeys and the key elements that have contributed to their success.Speakers include:Tanya Plibersek MP, Shadow Minister for Education, Shadow Minister for Women, Federal Member for SydneyDr Briony Scott, Principal, Wenona SchoolKristen Douglas, National Manager & Head, headspace SchoolsDr Jessa Rogers, First Nations Senior Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology; Managing Director, Baayi ConsultingAnd more! The pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on school leaders, who have been on the front lines dealing with unprecedented disruption for over two years. This summit will provide opportunities to be inspired by experts, connect with other school leaders, recharge leadership strategies and envisage and plan for the future. You can find out more and book your seat here.  WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOUYou’re here because you know that great leadership enables better teaching and learning. We’re here to help you be a great leader within your school community. For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list. SUBSCRIBE NOW

Books

Understanding and increasing your Social Capital

Our Wellbeing with NESLI series brings you essential wellbeing tools and downloadable resources that enhance the wellbeing of teachers, school leaders and school communities. In this edition of Wellbeing with NESLI, we look at Social Capital.Social Capital is an important factor when considering the wellbeing for your teachers, school staff and school leaders. A school community that enjoys robust social capital for everyone will lead to better student outcomes and boost morale across students, teachers and staff alike.There are three critical dimensions to social capital in the school community. These include:Bonding Social Capital: the day to day, interpersonal interactions that you and your teachers and staff have with each other. You can see this by looking out for friendly conversation, shared interests and a genuine connection and conversation between individuals.Bridging Social Capital: the social interactions and cohesiveness experienced between teams – not just the individuals in a team, but in inter-team cooperation and cohesion. You can see this by looking out for teams that work well together to support the outcomes of the other teams, and are able to identify opportunities for collaboration.Linking Social Capital: the social interactions that occur between different levels of seniority in the organisation – for example, the rapport between a junior member of staff and a member of your school’s leadership team. You can see this by looking for open collaboration and communication between different levels of leadership teams and individuals.This Social Capital poster provides a handy summary.To delve a little deeper, download the Social Capital Dimensions resource here to find out about three other types of social capital to look out for, and to complete a self-assessment of your own social capital.NESLI’s Staff Wellbeing Toolkit builds social capital within schools through a flexible, self-paced program. Find out more here.Downloadable resources:Social Capital posterSocial Capital Dimensions resource WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOUYou’re here because you know that great leadership enables better teaching and learning. We’re here to help you be a great leader within your school community. For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list. SUBSCRIBE NOW

Books

Understanding and using the Ladder of Inference

Our Wellbeing with NESLI series brings you essential wellbeing tools and downloadable resources that enhance the wellbeing of teachers, school leaders and school communities. In this edition of Wellbeing with NESLI, we look at the Ladder of Inference. Do you ever jump to conclusions without carefully considering all the facts? Sometimes, it is easy to take a raised eyebrow, pause in conversation, email or a glance at a mobile and immediately assume that a fellow teacher doesn’t support your suggestion, or isn’t interested in your pitch for a new activity in the classroom. However, this isn’t always the case.The Ladder of Inference model, created by Chris Argyris, gives you a framework to examine the conclusions you draw from everyday interactions at school. To strip it back to the basics, the Ladder of Inference reminds us to use all the data we have available to us to draw a conclusion – not just the data we immediately notice. The example below gives a summary of how you may move quickly up the Ladder of Inference without considering all the information available.There are four steps on the Ladder of Inference: See and hear: you see a parent looking at their phone while their child does a presentation at assembly.Constructing a story: you might quickly assume that the parent is not interested in their child’s work and effort because they aren’t paying attention.Think and feel: you could feel frustrated or angry with the parent, and sympathy for the child who is being ignored. You might think that the parent does not care enough about the child’s learning.Say and do: you might communicate less openly and positively with the parent, or even ask them to look away from their phone and give attention to their child. You might give the child extra feedback and attention.In this scenario, the information you might be missing is that the parent also has a sick child at home, who needs assistance. The parent may also have an urgent work-related matter to attend to, or an elderly parent who needs something. Therefore, what you have inferred from their actions (that they aren’t supportive of their child) is unfounded, and your subsequent reaction is not proportionate.It is easy to move quickly up the Ladder of Inference – most of us do it subconsciously, and in seconds. Taking the time to recognise when you are climbing the ladder, and to then come back down to examine the data before coming to a more rational conclusion is an important skill for leaders in school environments.Here are some questions that can help you unpack your assumptions and reactions: How many times have I leapt up the ladder in the last week?What were the beliefs I held or the assumptions I made?Were the assumptions I made fair and accurate?Do I have all the information I need to know what is going on here?What impact will my actions or words have in this situation?How can I be more curious about the situation, and mediate my response? You can find out more about the Ladder of Inference by downloading the Ladder of Inference poster. Sharing this model with your team and colleagues can create a shared language and understanding, and can be a helpful prompt for team building. WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOUYou’re here because you know that great leadership enables better teaching and learning. We’re here to help you be a great leader within your school community. For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list. SUBSCRIBE NOW

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A new way of thinking: Systems thinking for leadership

Books

As leaders, we need to look at the big picture to identify challenges and support our team to find productive solutions. We sat down with Paul Larkin, Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach at NESLI, to discuss how systems thinking can allow us to strategically address issues for our teams.

What is the difference between systems thinking and systematic thinking?

Paul uses a frog analogy to explain the difference to the leaders he coaches.

“If you wanted to understand a frog systematically, you’d take it to the lab, put it to sleep and methodically dissect it, learning about each part of its makeup in a linear, structured fashion,” he explained.

“If you want to understand the frog’s system you’d go to the pond where it lives and observe how it interacts with its environment, what it eats, what eats it, how the nearby farms that fertilise their crops affect the ecosystem in which the frog lives etc. We see the bigger picture of the frog, how it is interdependent with other parts of the system in which it lives and how small changes can effect big change,” Paul concluded.

So, rather than following a set process to look at individual parts, looking at something using systems thinking allows you to take a broader view, and identify the interdependent and external influences that can have an impact on the system and its parts that we want to understand. It’s about observing the environment – ecologists and economists are examples of professions that engage in systems thinking.

Why don’t I already use systems thinking?

As leaders, we are often thinking and problem-solving systematically. Taking action to resolve an issue is usually praised and seen as an indicator of positive influence and performance. There is nothing wrong with solving problems in a systematic fashion. But some problems are more complex and cannot be dealt with as readily.

Systems thinking affords us an approach for working with complex problems in creative and sometimes counter-intuitive ways.

How can I use systems thinking to create positive change in my organisation?

By using systems thinking, you can step back from day-to-day problem solving, and consider the root causes of problems. You can identify interdependencies and understand the bigger picture.

Paul uses the example of an IT department in a big corporation. Their team set KPIs around how quickly IT issues were resolved (90 percent of issues being fixed within a day). While this was an important measure, the team was focusing on ‘fixing’ problems, not on ‘eliminating’ problems – that is, addressing the causes and preventing the problems happening again.

By taking a systems thinking approach, the team was able to shift their mental model and improving their performance. The team’s KPIs switched from the percentage of problems fixed to the percentage of problems eliminated, and within just a couple of months achieved a 70 percent reduction in problems and associated cost.

This example highlights how a shift to systems thinking can increase productivity and solve recurring issues.

How can I move into a systems thinking mind-frame?

Taking a wider look at your organisation or team is the first step towards systems thinking.

“Mentally stepping back and observing what is going on is crucial,” Paul explains. “Talk to people who are new to the organisation and who are not yet imbued with the culture and mental models that come with it – fresh eyes with different perspectives are critical.

Paul also encourages leaders to have open conversations with teams: “Have a conversation with your team that explores their thinking, beliefs, mental models and values that inform how the team operates. Find out why they do things a certain way. Looking at other sectors and organisations with similar issues can also be a huge help.

“Consider how success is measured in the organisation, as this often determines how people respond to different situations. There is a saying which goes, ’People will do what you ask them to do. Make sure you ask what you really want.’ What gets measured gets done. And over time, it creates beliefs (mental models) about what is the ‘right’ way to do the job.” Paul explains.

What are some tips for systems thinking?

The following, although not exhaustive, can provide some ways into addressing issues with a systems thinking approach:

  1. Identify a recurring problem in your team or organisation – look for patterns in results and people’s behaviour, individually and collectively.
  2. Look for interdependencies; how different parts of the system interact and affect other parts.
  3. Explore processes, performance measures and decision-making criteria to try and surface the team or organisation’s beliefs, values, and mental models (which is extremely challenging, involves many conversations and can prove the most fruitful).
  4. Do not expect easy or immediate results. Systems change usually involves many people, often with different agendas, to engage in dialogue and work together to achieve a common outcome.

 

Is there an issue in your team that you can address using systems thinking? Share it with us in the comments below!