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Emotional Intelligence – leading, with the heart in mind

Knowing how to lead your team effectively whilst keeping their
emotional wellbeing at the forefront of everything you do.

*Image created by Ritesh Patel

Understanding what keeps people afloat…
Working with a range of different people always brings about fresh challenges, however these challenges are what makes us more effective and dynamic, within our leadership role. Something I’ve reflected upon and learnt quite recently, is that no- one has the same outlook, perspective as you. They may well have similar ethos’ and work expectations, but everyone you meet has been through a range of different challenges/situations in their life time, that has altered their thinking. So when you communicate to each individual in your team, it is vital that they understand your point of view, but more importantly that you understand how they have interpreted or received the information.

Questions that I ask myself are…  

Have you considered how they are feeling at that moment in time?

Is there a situation in their personal life, that is affecting their processing skills?

Are they exhausted, on edge, due to workload?

Once this has been reflected upon…

What do they thrive upon, what is most likely to ensure they are enthusiastic and feel happy about the task in hand?

Are they a perfectionist and want to alter plans to suit their particular working style? This I encourage, as being a perfectionist myself, I’ve always tweaked ideas in the past – to make improvements and so I feel comfortable with the standards of the learning outcomes.

The main reason for these reflections, of course, is so that my team remains positive, motivated and pro-active.

You can have strong characters in your team but equally you can have vulnerability. It is vital to keep an eye on both, as dynamics within a team are everything.
Once something is said or received in the wrong way – it can be difficult to rewind, as opinions/judgements have already been formed.

Also it requires the leader to apologize if they get something wrong but also apologize if another member of the team has misinterpreted the information, as potentially this information could have been clearer or delivered in a more effective way.

Showing empathy but maintaining high standards…

It’s important to recognize that there are always going to be outside influences and this can get in the way of the heavy workload of school life. Being aware of your team’s emotional wellbeing is high on the agenda- however it is important not to let standards slip. If you need to be flexible – do so. If it is taking a colleague slightly longer to complete a task, don’t pile on the pressure by creating a rigorous deadline but meet them half way. Trust them- after all, they are professionals!

Pick up on the silence. Read the words that are unsaid. Silence, is a form of communication.

If an individual is unhappy, feeling the pressure or feel that they are not listened to, their standard of work will automatically slip. Catch them, communicate and let them know you are available, before this happens.  Ideally you would have developed a strong rapport previously so this doesn’t occur.

Unfortunately, kindness and empathy can be viewed as a weakness by other leaders or staff in your school. It is not a weakness, if anything it is a strength. Being empathetic does not mean you have lower standards, it means you are willing to be flexible to achieve those high standards. I know this because I maintain high standards when working with my team, alongside being empathetic and caring, therefore I know it can be achieved.

Breaking down those barriers…

Barriers are a person’s way of protecting themselves against anxiety, hurt, high expectations, new ideas etc. As a leader, you will need to break down many barriers to succeed in your role. This takes time and plenty of effort and it can be exhausting at times but it really is worthwhile! Once you’ve managed to get that person/ or people on side, the interactions and working alongside them, becomes so much more manageable. Whilst helping break down those barriers you also build that sincerity of trust and once that is developed, it should be maintained.

No-one likes change, but sometimes it’s necessary. A natural human response to change is ‘no, no way’ or ‘jog on!’ which is why leadership roles (or any role) that encourages movement and change, can be mentally exhausting.

I have had recent experience of having to break down many barriers as I joined a new school as head of year 5 and SLT, last September. It took a few months, but eventually I was able to reach those members of staff that had originally not warmed to me. They soon realized if I said I was going to do something, it would happen and that I had their backs if they needed to discuss anything with me. They also knew I was there for the children and that for me, being part of SLT was not a power trek. It was because I wanted to see/ encourage change for the better.
Status doesn’t matter, the type of person you are and how you treat others, does!

Leaders that put others down, micro-manage or try to push things under the carpet – should not be leaders. It causes anxiety, restlessness and quite frankly is bullying – as they are using their power against others that are powerless to do anything about it. I’ve had personal experience of this.

For me, emotional intelligence has always and will always be high on my list. The amount of challenges we have to go through as humans, let alone as teachers, always makes me think about an individual’s perspective.

I’m still learning and always will be, as you can never entirely understand someone else’s world, unless you climb into their brain and see it with their eyes. I’ve learnt so so much over the last academic year and will continue on my leadership journey, when I return to teaching in September 2019.

I’ve often thought about moving forward, becoming assistant head or taking on a promotion but for me, it’s about the children. They keep my mind young, my enthusiasm fresh and make me smile daily. I am going to miss time with my little girl come September but knowing that you are helping these children towards a brighter future, is very much worthwhile. Ember will also grow up knowing her mummy has worked hard and so will hopefully follow suit and have an impact on people’s lives.

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The author

Niomi is currently a year 5 teacher, SLT and Head of Science across the CHANGE partnership academy. Having been teaching for 7 years Niomi has just recently moved to a new school to develop working in a different setting. Niomi’s passions include perseverance, pedagogy, emotional intelligence and well-being.

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