When I began our organisation I researched everything I could on high performing teams, both in business and in schools. I was so intrigued about why some schools saw continual increments and growth in student performance and staff development and why others stayed the same or in some cases went backwards.
I looked at the academic peer reviewed research, I read every book I could get my hands on, I looked at blogs, feeds, quotes, anecdotes and I talked to leaders – so many leaders! When I look back now the first 6 months were a blur – so much data, so much to consider, so much to review, so much to question and so much to action.
After countless hours, days, weeks and months and many sessions with school leaders, educators and administrators we settled on the high performance characteristics.
- Feedback culture
- Professional trust
- Embrace inclusion and diversity
- Clear purpose and direction
- Approach challenges as opportunities
- Collective efficacy
Now, I know you don’t see the word perspective on this list, but before you dismiss its importance, let me explain where it is hidden, why we know it’s important and where it fits.
Each of the characteristics above require a person or team to shift from their personal viewpoint to gain traction or be successful. Our perspectives are shaped by our personal experiences, values, current state of mind and many other circumstances.
In my work, it is very common for conversations to quickly lead to, “I just don’t think they are reflective, self-aware, or they understand the impact on others.” This has meant I have learnt a thing or two about guiding school leaders through perspectives and here is some of what I have discovered.
- We need to learn “Perspective Taking” This is the ability to understand another person’s view point, and done well it means that it can help understand situations that have happened in the past and circumstances that may happen in the future.
- We need to get better at “Perspective Seeking”. This is willingness to stay curious, ask questions for clarity and seeking understanding. It means you have to decide there isn’t a right and wrong, rather just a different idea or way of looking at something.
- Once you have mastered “Perspective Taking and Perspective Seeking” you need to master “Perspective Coordinating” As a school leader this means you need to decide on what to do with all the information, using it to make informed decisions and addressing any gaps to help staff shift in their thinking.
- We need to monitor self-talk; What are we telling ourselves about any given situation that impacts on how we behave and react to decisions? School life is busy, and it means reflecting on the way we engage with others is sometimes difficult because we don’t feel we have the time to stop. My encouragement and suggestion is that as a school leader you can’t afford not to. Not taking the time to understand perspectives can limit your growth as a leader, and therefore stunts the growth of your team.
Our students deserve brave leaders, willing to discuss, converse, be curious and generous. If we don’t take the time to take, seek, coordinate and reflect on perspectives then we don’t have the ability to give the people that matter our very best.