A new leadership team - online

"I am a member of a very new senior leadership team in my school .................."

Like many, I am deeply suspicious of self-described ‘team-building’ activities. I can certainly understand their value, or at least the goal they want to achieve, but in my experience they can often feel overly prescriptive or contrived and in so being, lack any hope of achieving what they set out to do.

Despite this, the need for team-building activity has been very much on my mind of late. I am a member of a very new senior leadership team (of 4) in my school, formed only the week before the Christmas holidays. Having been a member of this team for 3 years or so and experienced the challenges of working in a team going through frequent change, I was anxious that this new, settled team needed to set aside some time to work on actually being a team – on how to work best as a team.

Events, as we have all seen, conspired against my hopes before I could come up with something that wouldn’t be overly prescriptive or contrived when schools were closed on 12th March.

Being a Deputy Principal can be a fairly isolating job sometimes, even when part of a leadership team as big as ours. In ‘normal’ times, while naturally we meet regularly to discuss our various briefs and ongoing activities and events, there is a certain loneliness built into the job, working away by oneself in the office – and it’s hard to be lonely working in a building with 1,100 other people.

People – and maybe more precisely, relationships between people – are the real fabric that schools are built with. Take away that fabric, as this crisis has forced us to do, and the already extant feeling of isolation is massively amplified.

So while in the first couple of months of our new team’s existence, it was becoming clear that ours was going to be one that supported each other and made decisions collaboratively, at the outset of this crisis, I was nervous about how such a new team would be able to work as a team in such unique circumstances when we had only just begun to start feeling each other out.

But I needn’t have been. Since then, something fairly extraordinary has happened. Working together during this period of unprecedented national crisis has turned out to be better than any team-building activity!

We don’t meet everyday, but often. And in between, we’ve developed the habit of checking in regularly – running the things we’re doing by each other, asking for input when we’re stuck with something, making sure we’re all on the same page when decisions are being made.

So, despite all the challenges of running a school during an unprecedented national crisis, for me one of the really positive outcomes has been how well and how quickly our new team has developed and adapted, and how, really, we’re finding that the situation has made us a much more supportive, much more collaborative team than we were before.

 

John McCarthy, Deputy Principal, Ratoath College


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