Prepare, reflect and grow
This is my first article and I'll be upfront...it's not supposed to be a high-level essay. More of an easy read that shares what I consider to be important. These are my views only and I understand that there may be different views and that is OK. It's also important to know that a view that I share might not be read in the way it is intended, so feel free to ask questions and to unpick any statements made.
Preparation is key
A surgeon before surgery will scrub their hands and arms; an athlete will perform stretches and practice their start and a hairdresser will make sure that their chair is free from hair and that their tools are clean. Preparation before anything is important no matter what you do for a living. Now the examples I've mentioned are quite obvious ones, but ask yourself this question...how do you prepare for a regular task that you perform? Now ask yourself this question...how often do you not prepare for that regular task?
I think we can all be honest that from time to time we trust in our own ability and due to a lack of time, we don't prepare to our fullest. If that is the case and we know that preparation is key, then are we performing to the standards that we know we are capable of? Let's move forward a little, and think momentarily about the consequences of not preparing properly for that regular task. The quality and the outcome are clearly impacted. Therefore, never underestimate the importance of preparation, regardless of the size and importance of the task.
Reflection - aim for balance
I'm my worst critic. I will teach a lesson and will know in the moment how it could have been improved. I will have a meeting and will instantly pick apart the words and phrases that I've used. I will carry out an assembly and will adjust my questioning at the moment to increase engagement. However, am I my best advocate? When it comes to reflection the focus can be narrow and it can take on a negative perspective and tone. Not always - I'm sure - but it can. The danger here is that if we are not our best advocate then who will be?
Quite often reflection (and preparation) is informal. This informality can still be effective and have a positive impact, but if we gave ourselves time to reflect formally I think we can agree that our reflection would have better balance and greater impact.
How do you grow?
Listening to Steven Bartlett's, The Diary of a CEO on audible and one chapter discussed how the companies who are not afraid to fail are the ones who can succeed the most. I loved hearing about this mindset shift that it had on the employees and for me I believe that it's completely true.
As a headteacher, my key message to both children and staff was that 'mistakes are the best form of learning...and...I want to see that learning journey of what has been crossed out and what has been added in.' By having this philosophy, children felt safe to commit pencil to paper and to give it their best and staff felt safe, trusted and happy to think outside of the box.
Recently, I had a phone call with a friend and he was commenting on my leadership style, he said, 'The teachers in your school knew that they could come to you for anything...speak honestly and as a result, they would walk through brick walls and over hot coals for you.' It was lovely to hear and that feedback for me was a direct result of me entrusting my staff to grow by not fearing making mistakes.
What are your preferred methods of growing? The challenge that I see with growing (I'm referring to growth in the professional sense) is that the time pressures on the daily tasks restrict our real opportunities for continued professional development. In some professions, you may have supervision, but many professions don't receive supervision but would greatly benefit from it.
You might have opportunities to attend meetings with other colleagues or even training sessions, but a lot of the time, the mind is preoccupied. Perhaps you have an important meeting afterwards? You start doodling which turns into a long to-do list. Your mind switches off and starts replaying a difficult conversation that you had recently. We have to ensure that what we choose to do to support our continued growth is effective, meaningful and practical.
How to ensure effective preparation, balanced reflection and maximised growth
Coaching. Ask your workplace to invest in you. Safeguard your time so that you can attend regular coaching sessions. Take out the noise (the distractions) and focus on you. Make sure that your talk is resourceful, healthy and productive. Develop and work on that positive attitude. We don't improve by chance. Yes, we can do well by working hard and applying our skills, but you can't work hard and be productive without the vital ingredients of preparing, reflecting and growing. The biggest enemy of being able to prepare, reflect and grow...is time. However, if coaching is built into your schedule (weekly, monthly or 6-weekly) then you can address the challenge of time.
What is coaching?
In brief, coaching is setting a goal that is important to you. Together, we develop a vision map. You talk and I listen. There's no judgement. I will ask you questions and your answers will give you clarity. You will discover by yourself, how best to achieve your goal by reviewing the options available. By carrying out different exercises (not the physical ones) you will learn more about yourself and what you need to do. In essence, you will grow as a person and that will change your life.
There are always different solutions to any challenge, but let me share with you 10 reasons why coaching could be the solution for you:
- Coaching is an independent, non-threatening and safe space to work through your ideas.
- We will develop a strategic plan that is ambitious and concise as the quality of preparation and reflection is increased.
- Our personal productivity levels will be improved as you understand better what your next steps need to be.
- Your leadership capacity and/or your ability to do your job grows and is focused as you work on your abilities to organise, prioritise, communicate and manage your time better.
- Through the vision map and your increased self-awareness of your next steps, you will achieve your goals with a sense of pride.
- Instead of solely focussing on an ultimate aim e.g. schools aiming to increase pupil attendance or a car showroom increasing their sales, you will have a holistic and wide-ranging approach that adds significant value to everything that you do.
- The work environment is fast-paced and although you are good at your job, working in isolation because you have to reduces the effectiveness of your work. Even if you are the best at your job we all have areas to learn and to improve. Through coaching, you will unlock your potential.
- Everyone says that it's good to talk but talking without questions and solutions can be ineffective and unhealthy – coaching changes this.
- You know what you mean by something you’ve written or said but not everyone reads with the same understanding. Improve your communication skills by considering other perspectives and broadening your understanding of the pitfalls of not being specific.
- I'm saving the best till last…mental health is imperative and an investment in coaching supports positive mental health. This increases your happiness which then spreads to your team, which increases the quality of outcomes and results, as well as improving staff retention.
Whether it's coaching or something else, take time to prepare, reflect and keep growing. This is my first article and the first time that I've written for a public audience. I will take time to follow my own advice to improve my writing and how it is presented for the next article.