Stuff nobody tells you when you get promoted #1

How underperformance can be about a variety of factors. This will be a sporadic series of things that I wish I’d known when I first got promoted to various leadership positions. Mistakes I’ve made and learnt from (394 words). 

I don’t have many regrets in my working life but one often comes back to me. As a young Head of Maths I was newly promoted and had been teaching for 3 or 4 years. I was passionate about improving outcomes for the kids in my hectic, underperforming, inner city school and had high expectations of myself and my team.  I’d noticed one teacher, H, consistently delivering poor lessons, missing deadlines and I felt that the kids in his classes were getting a bad deal.  It was especially frustrating as the kids looked up to him, as a young good-looking guy from their own community background, and I knew he had potential.

I tackled H in a way that I’m ashamed of now and haven’t done to any member of staff since- it was from a place of wanting the best for students but wasn’t respectful to him as a person. Luckily my deputy challenged me on it and I reflected and changed but the damage had already been done to our working relationship. There was bad language and  lot of stick rather than carrot.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight and more life experience I realise that H almost certainly had issues going on in his personal life over a prolonged time period. Amongst other things, he was quiet and withdrawn and often checking his phone, often disappearing to use it during lessons. I spotted the behaviour, which affected his teaching, but didn’t think to ask about the reasons or how he might be supported. In fact it didn’t occur to me what the reasons might be, I was so used to the deficit model prevalent in some schools that I automatically assumed it was just laziness.

We get a lot of training about kids and how their personal lives may affect how they present and act in school but less so about staff.  We learn signs to flag up safeguarding issues for students but not for the adults who we are also responsible for in our schools and teams. We don’t get taught the stuff when we are promoted to manage others. It comes with experience but in the meantime the mistakes are made in real time with real people.




How managers can build relationships

What can line managers do to build trust and make people feel valued? Take a genuine interest in them. (244 words)
Do you line manage people?
How many of the following do you know about them?
  • Do they have kids?
  • Do they have a pet?
  • Do they have a partner?
  • What are the names of the above?
  • What are their professional hopes for the future?
  • What are their personal hopes for the future?
  • What keeps them awake at night?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • Have they done anything recently at work that was really good and had an impact?
  • Have they done anything recently at work that they were disappointed about?
Once you’ve found out the above do you ever ask them about it again?
Do you care?
Do they know any of the above about you?
Do you treat this information sensitively and confidentially?
How do the answers to the above impact their work?
How can you use your knowledge of the above questions, or others like them, to show then that you value them?
I can be pretty driven but I’ve learnt that it’s relationships that really matter in life – personally and professionally. People want to be seen. People want to be valued.  People want to feel special. People want to feel acknowledged. If it’s genuine, it’s so much better than a great big stick.
This is the stuff that happens when nobody else is watching. This is the stuff that builds relationships.  This is the stuff that builds trust.