Today I am going to buy a pedometer. Apparently every day we spend more time sitting than we do sleeping!!
The idea comes from a couple of articles I read in the Harvard Business Review last term. I have a long-term back injury following a poor warm up during my ‘big chance’ whilst playing football for Durham County under 18s (1988 – 89 season) at the mecca of football, Bishop Auckland’s stadium! Every now and then normally when my kids get to a certain weight and still enjoy me cuddling them rather than using the legs they were given I will tweak it. This happened last term (again) and it forced me out of my chair and up and about at work. Sitting was too painful so during my line management meetings I went for a walk instead.
I’m not sure I like the phrase line management meetings but as a member of four senior teams in four different schools I now fully understand the value of sitting down and discussing how things are going with the people I work with. But do I need to be seated to enjoy it?
In my first term of senior leadership, at the start of the last decade, I was sent on a course with the local authority where two practising deputies explained their working days (one in a diary format – very entertaining) and the LA rep running the afternoon explained a little about our new roles from his perspective. Both sessions were very good and made me think (and still do today – thanks Rhea), but the most important ‘nugget’ (thanks Chris), which has stayed me for all of those years, involved seeking clarity about my role from my line manager – in this case my the headteacher.
Mr R, the LA rep, suggested that on our return, if it hadn’t happened before, we should ask our boss what it was they wanted us to do. Quite a simple idea really but quite often overlooked. Mr R was the king of the rhetorical question and I would subsequently understand what he didn’t know about schools on his patch wasn’t worth knowing. A proper inspiration.
The importance of clarity of roles in teams is something that I return to on a regular basis. In primary school I was introduced to left back and centre half jobs by Mr A. He spent time explaining what I should do. I also watched football and read about it. I lived in Holland for a year aged 11 ¾. This time the village team I played for (D1 Vorschten) was made up of entirely Dutch teammates. Much to my embarrassment most of the players spoke English and my Dutch was limited to, “he is cooking in the kitchen”. The coach explained to me how to play the sweeper role and I watched some more football this time of a slightly different style of play. I also had my dad in my ear pointing out the finer details of positioning as well as providing me with very regular feedback on my performance.
In outstanding schools it is suggested that a common theme of the best teams involves a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities (see the pdf below). Having worked in a variety of schools I have been welcomed to many teams. The introduction to my duty team by the DH in my Leeds school was an eye opener. Mr L knew I was on duty because he would say hi and make sure he did the same for the rest of his team on a regular enough basis I knew it would be a good idea not to forget my duty day. He also explained his expectations at the start of the year but didn’t need to relentlessly remind staff in briefing, an approach I have seen a few take, because he always did his bit for his team during our duty days.
Another proper inspiration.
His timetabling skills were also very impressive and despite the multitude of jobs he had to do he could always give me ‘a minute’.
I have been part of newly formed teams and established teams but each time roles and responsibilities have formed a critical element of how well they functioned. I’m not sure each of my team leaders has spent time explaining what they would like me to do. In some of the worst cases I have been left alone to, “plough my own furrow”. In the most effective teams I have been provided with regular time to catch up, review, plan, discuss and debate (thanks Mrs E for showing me the way).
On my return to school in September I will organise my line management meetings with the teams I will be working with. The slots will go into my outlook diary and I will encourage more staff to use this simple way of communicating (as much as I find it hard to say it thanks Mrs O) and for every other meeting we do we will go for a walk. We will go and visit the teachers and students to see what they are doing. We will do it in a non-threatening way so that our visitors understand that we are the lucky ones who are having a chance to learn from them. I will continue to watch and learn from the experts around me and spend more time listening to their feedback. I will use my eyes to make assessments of how things are going and not create more paper which is killing the love of the job for me. I will instead take 9 pictures of what we see and share them on twitter (#cubedlearning) . I’m also going to put dedicated reading time into my diary to keep me thinking and learning (thanks Mr Waters, Jo and my dad).
I will also count my steps and see if it makes a difference.
Let me know if you want me to set up a league table of steps taken ……..
Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation
by Nilofer Merchant January 14, 2013
Establishing and developing high performing leadership teams – NCSL
Tony Bush, Ian Abbott, Derek Glover, Janet Goodall and Robert Smith 2012
Other walking meeting ideas can be found here;-