- A self-audit and visioning exercise examining how we are in the present and how we would like to be in the future gives us the opportunity to look holistically at ourselves.
- A mentor or coach can be a sounding board for ideas about your practices and can help identify focus areas for your own development.
- It will be necessary to work out what to do to get from the present you to the future you and realise your hopes and aspirations.
The Dental practice manager may have their own section in the practice CPD development plan or may have produced their department development plan outlining what is going to be worked towards over the coming year. What the plan doesn’t tell us is how we are going to lead and manage processes in order to support positive change taking place. How are we going to approach development points so that we create a sense of positivity and belief that what we are doing is inherently the right thing to do for our school community?
During challenging times, when change seems to be moving at a relentless pace, how do we develop our leadership so that there is unity and resonance amongst our teams? The first step we may need to take is to look at our own leadership styles and approaches. The question I would urge people to ask themselves is ‘Why would someone want to follow me?’. This is the differentiation between leadership, where people trust and follow someone under their own volition because we believe in them, and management, which is often highlighted in a hierarchical structure where people have to do what you say because they are above you in the organisation. Please note I am not saying leadership is better than management; I am just highlighting the difference between the two, sometimes we have to manage and sometimes we need to lead.
Let’s start with ourselves and think about why someone would want to follow us (our leadership), what is it about us that would reassure others that we are doing the right thing? Maybe the first step is reflecting on where we are in terms of our own confidence and belief in ourselves. We can carry out a self-audit and visioning exercise examining how we are in the present and how we would like to be in the future. This reflection gives us the opportunity to look holistically at ourselves and identify how we feel about ourselves in terms of skills, knowledge, confidence and competence across several areas.
Knowledge Do I feel that I have the knowledge to help me carry out my role and do others come to me for counsel and leave feeling more confident than when they arrived?
Behaviours How do I behave in different situations? This might look at how you feel after an event and whether you are happy with yourself and your behaviour.
Interpersonal skills This would look at confidence levels when interacting with a variety of colleagues regardless of their positioning in the hierarchy. Are you generally happy when you leave a conversation, or do you wish you had said something different or in addition?
Communication Do you use a variety of mediums when communicating with various stakeholders or do you rely on specific types of communication? Are you trying to lead from behind your keyboard?
Planning and time management How confident are you with regards to planning for the future, do you consider all the necessary steps you need to think about and take or are there gaps in your approach? From your planning and an awareness of what is going to happen across the year are you creating sufficient time for you to carry out the necessary work to get the job done?
Organisation Possibly linked to time management, but are you happy with your level of preparedness when you arrive for meetings? Do you complete work over a period of time or leave it to the last minute so the end result is rushed? This may also look at how easily you can find things within your office or even on your computer (folders for files or everything on your desktop)?
Health Are you taking care of yourself and exercising as much as you want to? This could also extend to your mental well-being and focus on time you are giving yourself to ‘escape’ your job and engage with friends and family.
You establish where you currently feel you are at in terms of your personal and professional development. Once you have a clear and honest picture of where you feel you are, the next step is looking at who you actually want to be in the future. You need to think about how you would want the future you to behave in meetings, the confidence levels you would have in front of a range of colleagues and how you may generally conduct yourself around your organisation.
For each of the aspects outlined above consider what the future you would look and behave like. Essentially, how would you like to be in the future, what will the 'Super You' look, behave and feel like? For example, how much knowledge and wisdom would you like to have so that you feel wholly confident about what you are saying and doing but also that colleagues come to you because they value your insight? Your future Super You may also have been able to establish a better work life balance so that you see more people outside of work rather than sending apologies for having to work late again because of the job.
We have so far established the Current You and the future Super You. The next step is working out what you need to do in order to get from the present to the future. This is going to be the journey that you are going to have to take to realise your hopes and aspirations.
These are some of the things that you could consider that may help you with your journey.
- Shadow a colleague to see how they behave in different contexts.
- Ask for a mentor or coach so that you can have conversations about your practices and identify focus areas for your own development.
- Read more, the knowledge you get from books can present you with more opportunities for demonstrating your new knowledge. (An amazing leader I worked with said the more you read the luckier you might be in the future as there may be opportunities for you to demonstrate what you know.)
- Keep a reflective journal so you can record your thoughts and then go back to them so that you change your behaviours over time.
- Engage in further study, perhaps in leadership, so that you can make more informed decisions about the future, and better understand how to lead change.
- Make lifestyle choices that may help you in the future, e.g. jogging can provide you with a break from work where you may be able to make clearer decisions or put work issues into perspective.
Once you have finished, put the journey map somewhere you can see it. From time to time, when things might get tough, just look up and remind yourself that you are on a journey. You can look at it and reflect what you need to do in order to move from the current you to the future you.
Use the following item in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:
About the author
Kenny Wheeler has over a decade’s experience as a senior leader and acts as a leadership consultant.