Friday, 12 September 2008

My colleague Liz Talmadge sent me a wonderful paper called 'Leading through Adversity: What to do when 'failing' becomes the latest fashion' a Hay Group Viewpoint publication. This is a little bit of the common sense from the paper...

"How then do schools persuade talent from walking when the going gets tough? Hay Group believes in focusing on the basics:
  • Provide clarity of strategy direction and pace.
  • Instil trust and confidence in the most driven, focused staff.
  • Address fundamental concerns – everyone needs to know what is expected of them, what their objectives are and the behaviours they should be exhibiting.
  • Put staff in roles most suited to their skills and ambitions.
  • Provide the resources for people to do their jobs properly.
  • Act quickly – the longer a school waits, the more they create a vacuum, leaving employees to worry and draw their own conclusions about what the National Challenge means to them.

Leaders must set the tone and model the behaviours around honesty, telling people what is known and admitting what is not, explaining why, how and when things need to happen. For the National Challenge, this means collaborating with a broad group of people and inviting them to share their concerns and ideas.

At the same time, healthy levels of stress and pressure are important levers for change. Honesty about the direction of travel and the expectations of staff will provide the school with a way of monitoring and addressing performance. Poor performing staff should be held to account. It may even be the right time for some of them to part company with the school.

Local solutions are the answer. Doubtless the National Challenge will be an ongoing and complex initiative. However, we should not lose sight of the opportunities it creates for schools and local authorities to solidify their partnership. They should adopt broad strategies to harness the emotional resources within their workforce, get the best performance from their staff and ultimately deliver better outcomes for children. Authorities must assess leadership capacity across all schools in their region and consider which leaders could make a system contribution beyond their own organisation by offering support for schools involved in the National Challenge."

Everyone should read this paper. You can download a copy at the Hay Group website at It sits in the organisational effectiveness section.


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