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Lessons in leadership for businesses, from a primary school in Tottenham

By Daniel Swann
29th January 2016

Many of us start strategic initiatives relating to long term business objectives but fail to deliver on these or allow them to fizzle out. How can a primary school in Tottenham set an example? Well read on !

Allowing children to miss school sends a poor message to children and parents about the value and importance of education and that’s why most schools set “attendance” as a strategic initiative or target. It is also why the government has statutory requirements. I have seen first-hand how a primary school in Tottenham executes on their strategy, making dramatic improvements. First of all they communicate the importance of attendance and the overall attendance target for the school through notices in the school and communications home to parents. They then employ “door knockers” who encourage children (or I suppose their parents) who have not arrived in school that day to come in as soon as possible, a kind of soft stick approach I would say. At assembly every week, the head teacher announces how the whole school has done the previous week e.g. “96% attendance”. They then award a cup to the class with the best attendance each week and, boy, is there competition between classes! Finally, all pupils who have a 100% attendance the previous week are entered into a draw and prizes are awarded in assembly to five pupils drawn at random. The importance of attendance is in this way emphasised every week in the school. Any visitor to that school and of course all the pupils and parents are in no doubt that the school values its attendance and it has an end to end process for driving through the strategic importance, through strong leadership.

So this has revived some important lessons for me in leadership and strategy as often defining a strategy is easy enough but implementing it successfully is quite another thing. It requires leadership and clear communication:

  1. Be clear on where you are going and how you are going to get there. This is often about having a long term objective that is specific, meaningful, action oriented, realistic and timely and a strategy that identifies the means of getting there.
  2. Get your message out there. Business plans and strategies need to be understood and embraced by your whole team so that actions on the ground are consistent with the objectives and strategy.
  3. Measure progress. Regularly updating your team on progress against the target both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Breaking down the target by week or month or into sub-targets may allow different groups or business areas work hard to make their contribution while retaining an overall target. Identifying those that are making the most progress may help as well.
  4. Sustain the progress, relentlessly. Consistently focusing on the objective by regularly keeping it to the forefront. After all the progress is achieved in bite sized chunks over longer periods of time.

By doing this, we may achieve more of our strategic objectives, just like the primary school in Tottenham.

 

Mark Lyttle
Executive Chairman

By Daniel Swann