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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How to stay above the line of choice

Books

Have you ever heard of the line of choice? It’s a really impactful tool for leaders and organisations to measure both where you sit, and where your team and organisation sit in terms of accountability, ownership and teamwork.

Below the line thinking usually manifests itself in organisations with cultural issues, where teams or individuals don’t feel comfortable, or don’t want, to accept shared or singular responsibility for the outcomes they produce. There is a lack of willingness to take personal responsibility. This is particularly true where the outcome is less than desirable. It is also really understandable; as Brene Brown explains in her Ted Talk, ‘blame is the discharging of discomfort and pain’ by putting it on to another person. 

On the flip side, individuals and teams who sit above the line are usually in an environment where they as a team and as individuals are happy to accept and be responsible for the outcomes they produce- not just the excellent ones, but the not so good ones as well. In these environments, colleagues usually experience a high level of psychological safety and are able to work collaboratively with each other. 

Antony Maxwell, Senior Leadership Facilitator at WLA, said of the model: “Staying above the line is actually really challenging for most individuals and teams. Personal responsibility can be really challenging. You also see different individuals, pairs and groups working above and below the line depending on the project and the interpersonal relationships at play. 

“For example, you might have two members of your team who work really well together and consistently operate above the line. But when those two individuals are part of a bigger group, they fall below the line due to the interpersonal relationships at play. 

“It is really important to acknowledge that everyone falls below the line, if not every day then certainly most days. It is about psychological safety, personal responsibility and a feeling of insecurity and inadequacy. Leading by example and actively reaching out to support team members who consistently display below the line behaviours can really help to bring the entire team above the line.”

Recognising and addressing below the line behaviours: Below the line behaviours will fit into one of the following categories or personas; Defend, Blame, Justify, Quit, Victim, Deny. These can manifest in a number of ways; for example, if you are in a meeting with a member of your team and discussing a project that perhaps wasn’t managed as well as you would have liked, they might say ‘I could have managed it better except I didn’t get the support that I needed from (team member/department.)’ That’s an example of the employee making an excuse or justifying the outcome, and in the process, blaming the other person or department involved. 

In this example, you also need to see personal responsibility being taken by every member of the team in order for everyone to be working productively; both the team member who is tempted to blame another department and the department that they believe didn’t contribute to a good outcome. 

Some coaching questions can be helpful in this situation; countering that response with something along the lines of ‘Okay. What could you/we do differently next time to better manage that team so that you work better together?’ or ‘What are some things you could do to help them to be more involved or take more ownership of the project?’ Hopefully, this will encourage your team to take more ownership by empowering them to think about how they can take more personal responsibility for the outcome.

Recognising and encouraging above the line behaviours: In terms of recognising above the line behaviour, it is summarised by the acronym OAR: Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility. This can manifest in a number of ways; for example, if you are working with your colleagues on a project and someone in the team has not met a deadline, they will feel comfortable to put their hand up and say something along the lines of; ‘sorry, I didn’t get that done in time. I know this will have an adverse effect on the project. Once it is done I will try to support the team in other ways until we are all back on track.’ That’s an example of an employee feeling comfortable within their team and organisation to take personal responsibility for their actions and the compromised position they have put the team in.

In order for the above to happen, your team has to feel supported and psychologically safe in the workplace. An employee or team who feels they are not valued, that they are in a precarious position in the workplace or that they are not well-liked by their team or manager is far less likely to feel able to take personal responsibility for their actions and the outcomes they produce. It has to be said that one of the most important things you can do as a leader to encourage above the line behaviour is to demonstrate it yourself.

 As good leaders we know that our employees aren’t perfect, and neither are we. We also know that at least once (probably more) we have been guilty of demonstrating that below the line behaviour. By demonstrating to your team your willingness to own your own mistakes and take responsibility for them, you create a culture that makes it easier to do the same. 

Identifying where you sit on the line of choice: 

Antony is a strong advocate for teams utilising ‘walk and talks’ to connect with their fellow colleagues and to identify where they are perceived to sit on the line. 

“I would recommend that you start with people you are close to and work your way out from there. People are far more open to receiving feedback from people that they have a close relationship with and feel psychologically safe around. Focus on identifying one thing you could work on in the next 30 days and then really actively focus on it.

Over time, expand your conversations to other people that you work with, your supervisor and even people in other teams. Knowing where you are perceived to be is really important.”