8 Tips To Develop Effective Leadership Teams

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Paul Ainsworth

Paul has been writing for the Teacher Toolkit website since 2012 and is the author of 'No Silver Bullets: Day in, day out school improvement'. He is a system leader supporting primary schools, secondary schools and MATs currently with with Infinity Academies Trust as Education...
Read more about Paul Ainsworth

We spend a lot of time supporting teams across the school but what about your leadership team?

A major challenge in all schools has been ensuring that middle leaders and senior leaders form effective teams to promote improvement.

Tightening finances has meant senior leadership teams are becoming smaller which means we are trying to achieve more with less. The Education Inspection Framework (EIF) approach also means middle leaders play an ever more key role in shaping the quality of education in a school.

It is often easier to form subject teams in a secondary school or phase teams in a primary school because colleagues are naturally grouped together, whether for a particular subject or year group.

Teams of middle leaders and senior leaders bring together colleagues with diverse prior experiences who then have roles with vastly different challenges. It is vital that these colleagues are united in forging improvement in a school. Here are eight tips which you can use and encourage others to use to form strong teams.

1. Understand each other’s roles

It is important that there is clarity on the distinct roles in the team and how colleagues have to complete work streams at varying times. A leader with responsibility for safeguarding will have a vastly different pattern of working to one who leads on standards. It does not mean one does more than another, instead, each will have workload pinch points at contrasting times in the year.

2. Share additional duties equally

As well as the specific demands of the leadership role there will be a range of additional responsibilities from break/lunchtime duties to being on-call to attending evening events. Share these equally as colleagues can quickly resent them if they feel there an unfair demands. Ensure it is clear which are an expectation of the role and which are optional.

3. Hold regular one to ones

Line managers could meet individually with senior leaders weekly and with middle leaders fortnightly to discuss the current challenges they are facing and what support is required. This allows leaders to be vulnerable in private rather than this taking place in team meetings. Line managers need to be skilled in recognising how much challenge is appropriate and when this needs to be reduced.

4. Stock-takes of School Development Plan targets

Timetable stock-takes of school or subject targets into leadership team meetings so that there is a discussion in the team about each target and how they can help the colleague who is leading in the area. There are times when progress on a certain initiative is rapid which needs to be celebrated. Equally, there may be log jams which leadership teams need to work on together to unblock. It is a good idea to take a couple of targets each time rather than trying to tackle the whole plan in one meeting.

5. Ensure everyone contributes to meetings

It is important to try and draw out contributions from all attendees at varying points in a meeting. There will be colleagues who are quiet and others who will be more vocal. Ask appropriate questions of quieter colleagues so they feel that their points are valued. Equally, ensure that you are not railroading only your views on the team. In this case, it is not a team meeting, it becomes a briefing and the potential in the team is not unlocked.

6. Find opportunities for humour

Leadership at all levels is not easy and we do tough jobs. For many colleagues, it is laughter that brings us together. Even in the darkest days of school leadership, it is important to share those moments that have made us chuckle. Children can bring many smiles so share those moments with your colleagues and laugh together. This can be the best antidote to the stress inherent in many leadership roles.

7. Share reading

Teams need to keep developing together and understand that there is a plethora of solutions out there and plenty of research to draw upon. We do not need to solve everything from the first principles. Try and get into the habit of sharing articles, blogs, sections of books or summaries of whole books. Some teams read the same book over a half term. It is important not to overdo reading with too many pieces. We do not want this to become a chore. Instead, we want to read with an open mindset with a view to implementing ideas.

8. Be clear on the expected culture

All schools will talk about the culture they wish to create in their school and have key points recorded as to what this looks like in practice. One definition of culture is how colleagues behave when no one is watching. It is important to discuss with leaders regularly the expected culture of the school. Then to highlight publicly, behaviours that show the culture in practice. Equally to challenge leaders in private when they are not doing so.

Forming effective teams of leaders can be a hugely rewarding part of any role and we all play our part in doing this. Think about the eight ideas above. See if you can promote those which you agree with in your school.

If you have further leadership team ideas why not share your thoughts by leaving a reply below.

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