Intentionally thinking about mindsets, behaviours and feelings is critical to leadership growth.
Find out what leadership mindsets - and their associated behaviours - look like in practice and how they help shape you into the leader you want to be.
Delivered in partnership with Genos International, this recording will explore an appreciative inquiry process that will help you to reflect on how you lead others and identify how to move forward in your career.
This resource was developed by the former Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership.
KATE MORRIS: Hi, everyone. Kate Morris here from Bastow. Welcome to the webinar today on Leading Self. We're delighted to be joined by Dr Ben Palmer, our expert today. He's joining us from Genos International and will lead us through the learning today, very ably assisted and led actually with Natalie Grieve from Mount Waverley North Primary School welcome, Natalie and David Sutton from Maryborough Education Centre. So thanks for joining us today. It's fantastic to have our expert principals with us. As you join us, if you could just pop into the chat room, introduce yourself, your school, your role, who you're in the room with, and we're really looking forward to working with you. It's great to see our friends here from St Helena, Ben.
DR BEN PALMER: Yes. A big shoutout to anyone from St Helena Secondary College or Yallambie Primary, where I spent my school years. I love reflecting on that and thanks for joining us.
KATE MORRIS: Great. Thanks, Ben. We've got the Bastow team with us today Maria, Irene and Peter, as you can see on the screen all recent past principals and working with us around the co design of the workshops with Natalie, David and Ben, ably assisted by Lova. Thank you for being with us today. There's a machine behind this to provide a seamless experience for anyone and a great opportunity for us to reflect on the extraordinary work that you've led in schools across the term.
DR BEN PALMER: We are expecting at least over 150 people to join us tonight so we might just wait a couple more minutes for your colleagues to join us all.
KATE MORRIS: Thanks, Ben. Great to see people from all around the State, the diversity of schools across our system, the contexts and communities that you all represent and the incredible leadership you've demonstrated across this period. We've also got one of our colleagues here from Wales Julie. Good to see you in the room again. Julie works with us around the talent management framework and it's great to have you with us today, Julie.
DR BEN PALMER: While people are waiting, one of the things we always say, Kate, is about the chat box and how great it is to see people's contributions coming in to that. One of the things you might not know about the chat box is you can select to broadcast a message to everyone. I think it sometimes defaults on just broadcasting messages to us as the panellists. So when you're down in the chat box, just click and make sure you're going out to "All Panellists and Attendees" so that everyone can see all the comments because that's what really makes this come to life for everyone, doesn't it, Kate?
KATE MORRIS: Thanks, Ben. Great to have some of our students in their final year of their teaching degrees, which is fantastic. I can see you there shouting out and talking about your experiences in schools, which is fantastic. Thanks, Ben. Will we get started?
DR BEN PALMER: Yes.
KATE MORRIS: Great. Welcome, everyone. Kate Morris here from Bastow. If you missed our earlier introduction, we're joined today by Ben Palmer from Genos international. Thanks for working with us on this webinar series, Ben, the final one today around Leading Self, and a great opportunity for you as school leaders in all the roles and guises that you undertake in your work. This is an opportunity to really think about and reflect on the experience you've been through but also a great opportunity to really consider how you can enhance and build on the work that you've done this term and really celebrate it and consider the diversity of sessions and the way you've worked together across your leadership journey this term. It's a critical point to consider where to next.
In order for us to really think about that, we've got two principals in the room also: Natalie Grieve from Mount Waverley North Primary School hi, Natalie and David Sutton, who's with us from Maryborough Education Centre. I'm going to hand over now to our Deputy Secretary for School and Regional Services, David Howes, who's going to begin and introduce you today. Thank you, David.
DAVID HOWES: (Pause). Thanks, Kate. You'd think we'd have sorted out the unmute by now. It's only been 10 weeks! Thank you, Kate. Thank you, everyone, for joining, making time this afternoon. Can I begin by acknowledging that we are meeting on a whole range of lands for those of us in Victoria anyway and they are all lands of traditional owners and Elders, and I pay my respects to the Elders of the Kulin Nation here in Melbourne and on your behalf pay respects to Elders right across Victoria and to Aboriginal people who are joining us today.
I'm sure you feel like this more than anyone: it does feel like it's been a very long not just 10 weeks but really three months, when you go back to last term, and, of course, for some people, that has been on top of managing the trauma and the disruption of the bushfires as well. It's one of the reasons why it's so difficult but so important to take an hour or so out of a day like today. So thank you for doing that because the opportunity for today is to really turn the internal monologue, the interior monologue, that I'm sure we've all been experiencing in an external dialogue with colleagues who've been through the same kind of circumstance and the same experiences and to determine out of that what is it that we can glean, what is it that we can take forward from probably some of the unexpected things that happened over the last two months that we now want to capture.
So I'm not going to talk anymore. I want to reiterate my thanks for you giving up your time, Ben. Thank you. These circumstances that we find ourselves in have been extraordinary and there are not many people who have the expertise that you do, so we're very fortunate to be able to draw on that and it's important that we do. Kate, thank you for Bastow stepping in and being able to facilitate this so quickly. Natalie and David, you must be pretty wrecked at the end of the day, so really appreciate you making yourselves available. But, most of all, thank you to people who are joining this. You've done an absolutely extraordinary job over this term and even more so now that you're prepared to give an hour or so looking at how we capture some of the things that we've learnt about ourselves and the way in which we work with our colleagues. So on that note, Ben, I'll hand over to you.
DR BEN PALMER: Thank you very much, David. Thank you for that warm introduction to the session. Alright. Well, without any further ado, let's get moving. If you want to follow along, I'd invite you to turn to page number 3 in the workbook. You've been through an historic event and you've been history making. Indeed, your leadership has helped facilitate new approaches to instruction and assessment. Your leadership has helped facilitate stronger collective partnerships around student learning, bringing staff and parents and teachers all together more tightly, and, indeed, your leadership has helped improve relationships and trust within and between schools. Indeed, I know a lot of you have also been playing the Chief Wellbeing Officer of your school and indeed, in some instances, your community.
So it would be remiss of us, wouldn't it, not to get up on the balcony and to view our dance floor, and to use this metaphor to think about and to identify: how can we carry this fantastic momentum forward? Indeed, that's the objective for our session today, thinking about how we can take the best of ourselves forward and help carry this wonderful momentum.
Indeed, this objective came to us from the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education. You might remember seeing a talk of thanks that he gave you all just before the return to school. In it, he acknowledged some of the challenges that you faced and some of the wonderful outcomes that you've produced over the last few months, and towards the end of it, he posed a really poignant question. He asked us: "What lessons can we learn from this? I would love you to think creatively about how we can capture and maintain that success." And today our focal point, of course, is going to be you and leadership. That is the 'why' frame for this session. Carrying the momentum forward is important.
If you look into the research on crises, you will see that it's easy for old ways that don't serve us to come back. Simon Breakspear calls it the 'snap back', to come back later. Indeed, for example, in community, communities often strengthen their relationships in a crisis and then old community tensions can come back once the crisis is over.
So we're going to use some of the principles and process of appreciative inquiry to take a look back at when the lockdown began and to think about our leadership, our mindsets, behaviours and feelings from that time through to now so that we can project into the future, so that we can think about that: how can we take the best of what has been, what is now and carry it with us into the future to help keep this momentum moving?
As I have been saying and as Kate introduced, the focus for our session is you and your leadership. Indeed, there are three big questions that we're really going to focus in on today: what leadership attributes do you want to keep and deepen to carry the momentum forward? Are there any leadership attributes that you need to now intentionally leave behind? Are there any leadership attributes from the past that actually you do want to bring back as we project into the future? So these are going to be our three big questions for today.
There are three salient positions and three approaches that you might take with the material covered. Some of you might have been going flat out and haven't had time for much reflection yet, and where that's the case, we're going to invite you today to think about and perhaps commence that process. Some of you might have already been doing some of this reflection, and I know Natalie and David definitely have, and I'm going to bring them in for a moment just to give us a quick minute of reflection to help kick us off. And where that's the case today, I'd really invite you to deepen up. Some of you might have been doing deep reflection, and where that is your starting position today, I'd really invite you to share. In fact, we want all of us to share, whether you're commencing, deepening or indeed have done this sort of deep work, to really let us know in the chat box, put your comments and your questions and your thoughts into the chat box as we go through because that's what helps bring these sessions to life.
So, Natalie, I'd like to bring you in now just for a quick minute of reflection on those outcomes that we were talking about and then, David, we'll turn to you. Hi, Natalie.
NATALIE GRIEVE: Hi, Ben, thanks, and hi to everyone online this evening. I know it's probably been a busy day for everyone but I think looking at the reflection of what has been and what is now, it's really important, I think, just to mention the growth curve that we've all been on. It's been exponential, but I think for me, the things that I've noticed in myself is that it's about prioritising people over tasks and, as a principal and a leader within the school, getting that balance right. That really came to the forefront of everything that I'm doing currently and when I was also working from home. So it's really important, I think, when we are reflecting back, that it's all about the relationships now that we have, not just with our staff but our students and also our families and communities. So for me, they're the big reflections.
DR BEN PALMER: Thank you, Natalie, and indeed we hear the mindset prioritising people above task and some of the behaviours that are there that have come through with that. Thank you. David, some reflections from you?
DAVID SUTTON: Thanks, Ben. Like, Natalie, it's a great privilege for me to come on to this webinar and share some of our experiences here at MEC. I think for me, the reflection is at a stage where for me how the job has changed, the job of principal, and many of the workshop participants will understand how broad the role of the principal is and how you've got to be across so many things from burst pipes in the morning to problems on the roof, to teaching and learning, to family issues and so on. It's quite an endless list and such a broad role but I've found during this crisis that the role for me has really narrowed and that with NAPLAN being put aside for a year, with attendance figures not being as important, our whole AIP was sort of shot in one afternoon. So the focus of the job has narrowed and all that's left when the sort of edifice has gone is the people, and the people that we've got and our relationships and our connections. So, for me, that's been a big learning, and I'm interested in exploring together about how we can grab this learning about what's important and hold on to it as a system.
DR BEN PALMER: Fantastic. Alright. Let's take that and start going a little bit further. If you'd like to follow along, I'd invite you to turn the page over in the workbook now to page number 4. Before we get into our questions, I thought it might be useful just to ground ourselves on what we mean by these leadership mindsets and behaviours so that we're all working, if you like, from a similar page. When we hear the word 'mindsets' in education, some of the times we go quickly to the wonderful work of Carol Dweck on fixed and growth mindsets. Today, I want to narrow that down a little bit and more simply think of mindsets as ways of thinking that guide your approach to situations, prioritising people over tasks by way of example.
Of course, with any mindset there are behaviours that go with it that help us enact that mindset, if you like. For example, I have up on screen here the mindset of curious. Curious is a really great mindset when you're working in ambiguity and leading in ambiguity, where you don't know really what the right thing to do is. You can see some of the behaviours there that help to enact curious: being open, asking questions, inviting thinking, checking assumptions for accuracy indeed, in times of ambiguity we can have assumptions going up exploring new ways of doing things. So this is what I mean by our leadership and our behaviours, and you can see that scaffold if you look into the workbook around the questions that we're going to ask.
So in a moment I'm going to bring Natalie in first to give us some of her reflections around these leadership mindsets and behaviours, and I've put these in the workbook and I've got them up on screen here as a bit of a thought provoker, if you like. The actual definitions of these have been left off purposefully to allow you to define them for yourself, to allow you to get on the balcony, if you like, and look at your dance floor. These are here as our thought provokers and stimulators.
So, Natalie, with that balcony view of your dance floor, let us ask you: what leadership attributes do you want to keep and deepen up to carry the momentum forward? Are there any you're leaving behind and are there any that you want to bring back? Would you share with us on some of the leadership mindsets and attributes that you see as important in the times?
NATALIE GRIEVE: Thank you, Ben. I think it's really important when you're talking about mindsets, it's also your beliefs. They go hand in hand with your skills and knowledge but I think in times of crisis, it's that mindset the skills and knowledge are kind of put to the side and it's your mindset that carries it forward to have an impact on the behaviours and actions of the people that you work with. For me, I know I spoke about prioritising people over tasks but it was all about actually supporting my team and not the paperwork side of things. When you are a leader within a school, you always have that to do list and all of a sudden it has to switch to that to be: who is it that you want to be in this time of crisis? And that puts a whole different I think focus on the relationships that you have, not just with your staff but with your students, your community, and the level of trust that has to be there. And to have that trust, you've got to be authentic. Your behaviours that you demonstrate and your mindset that you use have to be really balanced and controlled. I'm sure we've all had those moments over the last few months of feeling overwhelmed and being vulnerable, but I think one of the big things from my own personal mindset that changed was actually showing my vulnerability.
I think as a leader within the school, you always come across that you really want to be the person that always gets it right, and the last few months you haven't been able to do that. You've had to try things, and I did try things. I put things out there to my staff, who very quickly in the next 24 hours came back to me and went, "Natalie, that does not work; what you're asking us to do is just tenfold what we were doing", and basically having those vulnerable conversations and saying, "Yes, do you know what? I got it wrong. Help me". And I think by demonstrating that, it really led to my staff being able to take risks and try things because you're still leading by example by showing that vulnerability, and I think that was really, really important for me. That power of vulnerability creates feelings, and feelings connect people, which then leads to the collaboration and that enhanced work that you do as a team. So for me, that was really important.
The other mindset that was also a real shift for me was when I talk about caring about my staff, I would look at: are they getting the APT time, how much yard duty have they got, the workloads, and I actually found a real shift in that. It was more about letting them rise to the challenge was actually looking after my staff. Giving them that autonomy to make decisions was huge. I think as leaders within the school, we do micro manage. We all say that we don't, but we do. You always have that one finger on the pulse of what's going on. But I've actually been able to allow my team to rise to the challenge and really give things a go and make mistakes and be vulnerable but do it collaboratively that has been the power and the strength that has really driven our school through this pandemic positively.
DR BEN PALMER: I think in your reflections there, one of the things you said was: who is the leader you want to be. That reminded me about not only micro learning sessions like we're having now but micro moments for one's self just before you go into meeting, that little bit of self talk or that little mindset catch, "Who am I going to be in this next interaction?". Setting intentions really helps bring out these mindsets that you're talking about. So thank you for those reflections. We can see some reflections going on from people in the chat box, which is great.
In fact, now it's your turn. So in a moment I'm going to play a song and that song goes for more or less three minutes. While that song is playing, I would like to invite you to reflect on the questions on page number 5 in the workbook: what leadership attributes do you want to keep and deepen to carry on the momentum? Are there any leadership attributes that you want to intentionally leave behind or bring back? Once you've finished, I'd love you to let us know about one of those reflections in the chat box a leadership attribute that you might want to keep to carry the momentum forward. After that has occurred, I'll bring David in for some of his reflections on both your input in the chat box and indeed some of his reflections on this question. If music distracts you, turn your volume down. If you're like me and need to work in silence, I understand that. If, however, music is a stimulator and you find it enjoyable, then leave it running as the three minutes of personal reflection plays. Thank you.
Okay. Well, I hope you enjoyed that song and got a moment to reflect. I saw some great messages there, David, and some great reflections coming in from people. What resonated with you?
DAVID SUTTON: Well, I must comment that Karen had said that Natalie might be Brené Brown in disguise, which I thought was interesting. A good way to get started and a real compliment to Natalie. It actually reminded me that I got lucky at the start of the pandemic on Twitter. I saw a little video of Ben Crowe talking about in uncertain times the importance of acceptance and accepting things that you can't change as being the way, and in moments of great upheaval, there are many things that we just have to accept as the new given. I think that was a real gift for me at the time. Then he went on to speak in this short video about the importance of gratitude. I think some of that was coming through when Erin wrote in the chat about work life balance. I think that's been a great learning for us all. For me personally, through this I've looked back and thought of the craziness of the time before and the hours worked and all of those sorts of things, and I'm going to look for ways to lessen that and hold on to what we've got.
In terms of our messaging and how my own leadership attributes that I wanted to spread at this time I went really much with the two words of 'kind' and 'gentle'. In all my communications with staff and families and students, I just went with those two words and I sort of framed it up around: "We are going to be kind and gentle to ourselves and others", and that's sort of how I've tried to carry myself through this whole thing where I'm being the best I can be. I think crises bring out the best and the worst in people, and through self talk and reflection, I just tried I didn't always get it right but I tried to be the best I could be and being optimistic at all times. I think when you're in the midst of a pandemic, which is something we haven't done before, treating that with the utmost importance it deserves but you can't be alarmist as a leader at the same time, so you have to be calm, yet focused and serious. They're my reflections.
DR BEN PALMER: Great. And there's so many more that are coming through. Some excellent contributions from people. So thank you for doing that. One that stuck out for me, I saw Russel just putting down some of the mindsets and I took note of them, thank you, Russell: empathy, clarity, connection and curiosity. I think a lot of us would be nodding with you. Tammy has also reminded us of the power of humour, life humour, and certainly I think that's a great thing to be thinking about here, to lighten the mood and lighten the load a little bit. It can be heightened doing the motions and so some humour is really great. Lots of people commenting on communication and empathy, courage and vulnerability there's Natalie a lot. So thank you, everyone, for that first reflection. It's been fantastic.
Let's deepen this up now and go a little bit further. Let's think about the feelings we've been experiencing during this time. I'd invite you to turn to page number 6. I'd like to set the scene just a little bit around this. Feelings, if you look into the science of it, really serve to connect us, to help us build and cultivate strong social bonds with each other. One of the things that a lot of people are talking about, particularly in education, is the enhancement of a relational trust both within and between schools. I think it would be remiss of us not to deep dive a little bit on feelings.
Up on screen here, I have a screen grab of singer Archie Williams, who recently delivered an unforgettable performance in 'America's Got Talent' this year, and I'm sharing it with you as a metaphor, if you like, to think about the power of emotions and how they connect us. You might have seen this. Indeed, five million of us have. And if you have, I'd like you to revisit and look at it through the prism of how emotion connects us. Archie's performance was by no means the best technically. There's a lot stronger singers in 'America's Got Talent' this year but his performance was unforgettable, and it was unforgettable because of the authentic emotion that he was able to bring to his performance, not only in his story but also in the actual delivery of his performance in and of itself. So if you haven't seen it, go and have a look at it through that pair of binoculars, if you like. If you have seen it, go back and have another look at it and use it to help get on the balcony and think about how you can intentionally use emotion to really connect and carry on this wonderful momentum that's around relational trust.
Indeed, this power of emotions comes from their authenticity. . It's authentic emotions, like what Archie really demonstrates for us in that performance, that create connection, trust and understanding. Inauthentically expressed emotions create mistrust and misunderstandings. This is all good in theory until there are situations, which happen to all of us sometimes, where there's a context that requires certain feelings to be expressed and a bit of a gap between that context and the feelings we're actually experiencing. For example, we often talk about the need to project, if you like, calmness and confidence in our leadership, and often we can be trying to do that when we're feeling stressed, tired and anxious.
With those thoughts as a bit of a backdrop, I'm going to bring David in in a moment to give us some of his reflections on the feelings that he's been experiencing, when there's been a gap between those and perhaps what you might have felt has been needed, given the context what you did about that, what was the approach and indeed what approaches to expressing feelings do you want to keep and deepen up to carry on the momentum? So we're going to hear from David around some of his thoughts around this, and if you want to see the actual questions, of course they're on page number 7 in your workbooks. In a moment we'll stop and do another song for another three minutes where we'll ask and invite you to be doing the same sort of thinking. But let's hear from David first to just stimulate some of our thoughts for a bit. David? Don't forget to hit that unmute button.
DAVID SUTTON: The primary feeling I've had through this experience, particularly early on, was around the uncertainty and people will remember were schools going to close, were they going to open, how much was this pandemic going to get into the community and so on. That uncertainty I have found really taxing and exhausting but then I had other moments where I felt the calmness and the confidence that I had this and we've got great teams here and such a committed staff. So I was waxing and waning between those things and I found that quite tiring. In order to get through it, when I did have that gap and had those moments where I felt like we're standing on that precipice, I actually went into a bit of that self talk. A lot of my self talk is around gratitude and optimism. We as a community have a lot of challenges around the socioeconomic make up of the community and lots of families do it really hard but the flipside of that is we've got a lot of strength in the community, so I really tried to take that strengths based approach and feed back to the community about how well we were tracking. So I think around self talk, looking for moments to be grateful and asking the staff to do the same, to find moments in their day to be grateful.
We had, like other parts of Australia, the most divine autumn up here in central Victoria. It's normally good but this year was very special, and the incongruity of the pandemic against this beautiful weather, I tried to shift to look at what we've got to be grateful for.
DR BEN PALMER: Absolutely. Fantastic. And what we heard there from David was not only sometimes when there's gaps but the strategies you took to try to close that gap and to bring that authenticity to the feelings that you've been expressing. We also picked up, of course, when you were talking earlier about projecting kind and gentle, being really intentional around those particular feelings, which sound to me really fit for purpose. So thank you.
We're going to go to another song. I'd really invite you now to take the next three minutes for yourself to really reflect on the questions on page 7 there, the feelings you've been experiencing, when there's been a gap, what's been the approach that you've taken to it and what approaches to expressing feelings do you want to keep and deepen to carry on the momentum? Again, when you've finished, I want to invite you to give us some of your thoughts and reflections in the chat box. It would be wonderful to hear from you because after the song's finished, I'm going to bring Natalie in again to reflect on some of your comments that you've made in the chat box and indeed to share some of the way she's been approaching the expression of feelings. So let me put the music on and we'll get going.
Okay. Thank you very much. Well, Natalie, we've had some wonderful contributions that have come in through the chat box, haven't we, and I'd love to get some of your thoughts on what some of those contributions have had you thinking in this space.
NATALIE GRIEVE: Yes, there's many recurring themes throughout. I just wanted to pick up one that Erin has said about understanding what we can impact and what we just have to roll with. I think that that's true feeling of and as a rollercoaster, as many have said, or holding on to things and letting go of the things that we can't control. But Matthew also spoke about when you're listening to others, seek first to understand, and I think that's really powerful. We are so used to sometimes, as leaders, giving the answers or solving the problems and we were probably for the first time not able to do that and we had to seek to understand and ask those questions. Justin picked up on that when we actually said that feeling of helplessness, when you have a student struggling at home and you couldn't connect with them, and I know that I certainly felt that at times, when you had students who weren't online and weren't connecting with us and aren't answering calls, and that was a real feeling of helplessness that I know that many of us had, just looking at the chat box there.
I think as well one of the other things Leanne mentioned about continuing to show that confidence and continue to show the empathy, not just during the crisis but after it, to make sure that we still use those feelings and emotions to create more positive behaviours, and I think that was really important as well.
DR BEN PALMER: Yes, absolutely. We're sort of out of the health part of it but we're nowhere near out of the financial part that's really got a lot of potential still in it to cause a lot of harm. So I think that this carrying the momentum I think the Deputy Premier and Minister really got that right in setting that up for us to think about because I think there's a lot to go on that. I would just echo some of the things that I picked up. I definitely wrote some of my own comments down from Erin there being gentle with yourself, allowing space for others, this self talk. It's great to hear the investment that you're making in the emotional side, not only of yourself but on others. So thank you.
It's funny Jane should have mentioned that perhaps another example that we could have used to illustrate the power of authentic emotions was from the monologue that the young actor on 'Q+A' recently gave us. I'm not sure exactly how to pronounce his name. David, do you know how to pronounce his name? No. You might be able to go and find it on iView though. I'm pretty sure it's still there. And Jane, you're right. In fact, why that's so powerful, Jane, is we indeed want to encourage you to replicate this process and I thought the first step we might take in doing that is just deconstruct this webinar a little bit and the method, if you like, in how we've designed it to help you think about how best you might do something like this back in your school, and you could replace what I used there with Archie, of course, with something like what Jane has mentioned, and you'll see that in the chat box, if you want to go back and have a look at it.
But in this particular webinar, we started with a 'why' frame and we talked about the metaphor of the balcony and the dance and the power of reflection and using that as a means to carry on the momentum. We then had a point of focus, and for us that point of focus tonight has been leadership our leadership mindsets, behaviours and feelings. We've had some questions, and so that it wasn't a blank canvas, we've had Natalie and David and I'm so grateful for them come in and give us some of their thoughts first, and that has indeed very much stimulated us, and I can see that in the chat box. So if you're running this, you could be coming to your staff with some of your examples first as a way of helping them get their thinking going. And, of course, we've had the music there to help reflect and some time, and, of course, if we had more time, there's a lot more time that we could bring to something like this. What's important too, of course, is the discussion around it and that we capture it.
So that's kind of the process, if you like, that we've been through. How might we replicate this process? What I'd invite you to do is to turn to page number 8. There's some questions there that might help you think about how to make this the best session and fit for the context for you. So for the first question, I'm going to bring Natalie in to give us some thoughts on this. Natalie, what topics would you like to have your staff reflecting on?
NATALIE GRIEVE: Well, we've started reflecting on it. A lot of the areas that we've started to look at are around the thinking and questions, not the answers, and how we continue to drive the questions around what we do. With our routines, with our communication, with our collaboration, it's been really important to do that and it's about building the language of curiosity to continue to do that, and that's something that we've really reflected on as a staff because without even knowing it, we've actually been speaking the language of curiosity for probably the last 12 weeks, without all the professional reading behind it, but it automatically came to the forefront for us and it really started to, I suppose, peel back the assumptions that we have about what we do on a day to day basis, and that's been a real eye opener for us. It's about our communication and the collaboration but it's that language that we need to continue to use and to make part of our every day to make it the culture within our school, and that's something that we are just not willing to let go of as a staff and it's not as a leader. My staff won't let it go. I've had more questions in the last few weeks being back at school than I ever have before and I just hope that that continues.
DR BEN PALMER: Thank you. David, given the context that your school is in, I think it's important to really contextualise this. Have you been thinking about what might the best time be for a conversation like this?
DAVID SUTTON: Yes, we've given it a lot of thought, Ben, and for those unaware, we're a prep to 12 and special school with about 150 staff, and while we as a leadership team have done a lot of reflecting as a team and personally I'm aware the staff have in their communications with me, but I have been really reluctant to ask the staff to do any more. We're sort of still, I guess, in recovery mode, which might be speaking more about me than the staff, but I just feel we haven't been ready yet to explore this as a whole group but we'll certainly be doing that next term and we're going to use a similar frame to what we've used this afternoon.
DR BEN PALMER: Fantastic. Thanks for sharing. It is so important. Timing can be everything. Natalie, thinking about how you've been capturing some of this, would you like to share with the audience just some of that?
NATALIE GRIEVE: Sure, Ben. We started to run a lot of surveys just with our staff when we were off and we've continued with that as we came back. But I think they give you the snapshot of the day they're having sometimes, as I'm sure you're aware. I think for me, one of the really most powerful things I did was I had a one to one with each member of staff, all the way down to the maintenance guy at the school, and we just had a coffee, obviously social distancing happening and we brought our own cup, but for us, that was really an important moment to let them understand that I was still listening and that I was still empathising with them. I think there has to be real clarity around not sympathising but empathising because that's a more authentic emotion for me, as the leader that I am. We actually have a wonder wall up within where we have our staff meetings and what we call it is those magnetic questions that are up there. We've got communication up there at the moment and staff can just put up a wondering question around it: "Why do we always have the briefing at this time?". Just those little things. Or "Why can't we have the virtual meetings at a certain time so we can get home?". And for me, that's really challenged me but it's probably been the best way to be able to really capture the things that have worked well and to continue using them and having that courage to continue to push forward, even though it's so different from what the old norm used to be. This is the new normal for us and it's worked really well.
DR BEN PALMER: Fantastic. We hear both the formal and the informal methods coming there, and it reminds me that sometimes these discussions can be best had on a walk around the school or down to the local coffee shop or whatever or they can be done very formally around the board table or around the staff room table, that sort of thing. So thank you for bringing that to us. That's been great.
We've got some wonderful questions that are coming through on the chat box as well. Indeed, what we're going to do for our last reflection is I'm going to play another song and, as that song plays out, I'd love you to capture some of the topics and some of the questions in your workbook. There's some examples coming in from the chat box and there's some example topics around learning, relationships and wellbeing and sample questions in the workbook on page 10, but I'd love you to use those and use just a little bit of time now to think about some of the topics and questions you could ask in a session like this for your staff, whether it's on that walk or in a more formal sort of get together like this. When you've finished, let us know a topic and a question for that topic in the chat box because what we'd like to do is collect them all up and make a little resource out of them and we'll send those back to everyone who's registered so that you'll not only have your own questions that you got out of the session tonight but you'll get some of the other people's questions, from your colleagues from right across the State, as they put them into the chat box. So one last song. You're capturing your questions and thinking in the workbook. Then when you feel like you're done, pop some of your favourites into the chat box for us. We'll collect them up and reflect them back to everyone.
Okay. Kate, I'd love to bring you back in here, if we could, and just get some of your reflections on the session, Kate. It's been the last session of a big series and it's been a great session. We've had some wonderful reflections in the chat box so it would be great to just get some lasting thoughts from you. Thank you, Kate.
KATE MORRIS: Hi, Ben, and everyone who's with us today. This is just an incredible opportunity for us all to think about what you've achieved across this period but that focus on self and through self, the community that you represent is incredibly powerful and how the behaviours that you model and the way you be and live and speak and respond create the conditions for success in your school, and you've spoken about that so incredibly powerfully.
But I love some of the examples, Ben, that have come through around the powerful questions that can really assist us to elevate our vulnerabilities, to really highlight how self, leading with self awareness, is one of the most powerful ways of being that shapes our community. But I think what I hear people talking about is how your values live in your behaviours of your students, of your staff and in your community. This is partnership in action. We talk about it, we talk about collaborating, but we've actually been practising it, and I heard that really powerfully through the conversations that you were having with yourself but with each other through the chat and your reflections.
I think my final point of interest is how much better we all know ourselves and each other and our staff in terms of their students and their community as a result of this period of uncertainty and a need to reach out and communicate in different ways. There's great power in that. It builds capability, it builds trust, and out of trust, we build engagement, we have stronger relationships and it impacts positively on learning, both in the classroom and beyond. I heard that really powerfully today. You reflected it in your comments. Natalie and David spoke about it beautifully and you provided stimulus for us, Ben. That was really powerful.
I think David's question: "What have I learned about myself as a leader in this time of uncertainty?" is a great way for us to capstone the session and for people to reflect what is that. I'd really like to see your comments about that: "What have I learned about myself across this time?". I think that would be a great way for us to complete an incredible series. So thank you all for your work.
DR BEN PALMER: Thanks, Kate. Thank you to everyone for coming. We hope you've enjoyed the night. I think it would be great to just get one quick takeaway from Natalie and David and saying thank you to them. So, Natalie, if I could hand over to you, one quick takeaway from the session tonight from you.
NATALIE GRIEVE: I think it's just great that my internal monologue is everyone else's, as I can see in the chat. I think that feeling of being connected and working together, that collaboration, will only get stronger because we know people better, and we know because we've had the connection with our emotions and our feelings that all remains. For me that's so important and it's about knowing yourself as a leader.
DR BEN PALMER: Thank you, Natalie. David?
DAVID SUTTON: I've really enjoyed being part of this webinar. Having the opportunity to work with Natalie and Ben and the team has been a great learning for me. Natalie and I are principals in very different contexts but the similarities are far greater than any difference that we have, so that's been greatly affirming for me, plus all the comments and questions in the chat. I'm very proud to be part of this system and it's just really affirmed what we're doing here in Maryborough is happening at different spots across the State. So it's been a wonderful experience for me.
DR BEN PALMER: Thank you. Well, on behalf of Genos too, I'd like to thank Kate and the team at Bastow for all the work that they've done in helping us design these sessions and bring them to you. It's a privilege as an outsider, or an outside body that consults to organisations like yours, to be allowed in the tent to run a session like that and it's not lost on us at all. So thank you, everyone. Enjoy your evening and best of luck as you move into a well earned break and term 3 and 4. Thank you.
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