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  • Writer's pictureAndy Hind

The Impact of Professional Culture on School Success: A Closer Look

The professional culture of a school plays a critical role in its success by influencing teacher morale and engagement, collaboration and teamwork, pupil performance, retention and recruitment, parent and community engagement, innovation and continuous improvement, and school climate and safety. Therefore, fostering a positive professional culture should be a priority for school leaders seeking to promote pupil success and overall school effectiveness.

If you are REALLY serious about building a strong, dynamic professional culture that significantly impacts on pupil outcomes, you need to start by being prepared to ask (and answer) 3 key questions...together with a few subsidiary questions.

How confident are you the your SLT functions with collective coherence around:

  1. If we had achieved our ideal, with regard to the professional culture of our school, what exactly would it look like?

Here we are talking about VISION. It's ok for leaders not to be certain, but it's absolutely NOT ok for leaders not to be clear. Senior leaders MUST be confident and capable of creating and communicating a vision that motivates those they lead. So...how clear are you regarding your vision for your ideal when it comes to the professional culture of your school or team? Can you confidently answer these additional questions?

  • If we had achieved our ideal, how would the staff in our school be behaving?

  • If we had achieved our ideal, how would our staff be thinking and interacting, with each other?

  • If we had achieved our ideal, how would all staff be communicating with each other...especially around their professional learning?

  • If we had achieved our ideal, which professional learning and development processes would be embedded throughout the school?

  • If we had achieved our ideal, what would accountability look like?

These are significant questions and will only ever be answered, with confidence, if leaders are prepared to devote the time and space to really get to grips with them.



So...you have created a crystal-clear vision for the professional culture of your school and you are confident in being able to communicate this to the staff across your organisation. Now what?

Next comes the really challenging part of building a strong, vibrant professional culture!

You have created your dream...your ideal...your vision. Now there is the need for senior leaders to answer, with absolutely, the next simply-worded (but highly-complex) question:

2. Right now, how do we measure up to our ideal?

How near are we to our ideal and how do we know?

To be able to accurately answer this question, it requires leaders to be prepared to analyse, evaluate and measure the current state of the professional culture of the school AGAINST the ideal. In other words, senior leaders need to carry out a rigorous deep-dive into the professional culture as it is right now...not as we wish it to be. Leaders must be prepared to face the brutal truths with honesty and to go DEEP into their analysis so that they are able to accurately identify strengths and weakness. Think ICEBERG...only 20% of any professional culture could be accurately evaluated by walking around and observing the daily goings-on within a typical school. Often leaders make decisions regarding the future of the school or professional culture based on the 20% that is more visible. Invisible forces that lie below the water’s surface are the ones that shape the culture of any organisation. Most of what motivates actions, goals, behaviours, attitudes and interactions is hidden, operating at a far deeper level than anyone consciously considers. When we should be thinking about these invisible components constantly, many times these are disregarded. Without comprehending the invisible forces guiding them, none of the visible components can ever make any kind of true sense.

So..the challenge for you, as senior leaders, is to design a deep-dive process that enables you to uncover those hidden truths that are shaping the professional culture.

Perhaps you could be thinking about employee feedback processes, observations around professional interactions, continuous improvement in performance or lack of, cultural values alignment, team dynamics, retention and turnover rates, employee morale and engagement, employee sense of belonging and inclusion and diversity.

Finally

If leaders have approached the evaluation and deep-dive into the professional culture with the rigour it deserves, they will then be in a confident position to accurately answer the third key question:

3. What should be our next specific priority for closing the gap between our answer to No 1 and our answer to No 2?

Just one, single, specific priority for further increasing the strength of the professional culture. This priority needs its own clear vision... a clear description of what success will look like once you have reached 'the end in mind'. It will also need a thorough strategy as to how leaders will achieve success.

Prioritising is an essential component of successful leadership...especially when it comes to building a strong, vibrant professional culture.

If leaders are not careful, prioritising can be more of a random practice rather than as the result of a thorough analysis and evaluation into the current situation...the 'true self'.

Once this next priority has been identified, all leaders should be able to function with collective coherence around:

  1. Why do we believe that this should be the next priority as opposed to anything else we could have chosen?

  2. Once we are successful with this priority, what exactly will we see going on throughout the organisation?

  3. How will success with this priority directly influence the professional behaviours, attitudes, interactions and professional learning and development of the staff across our school?

  4. What are the possible interferences that might stop us from being successful with this priority?

  5. How thorough is our plan/strategy for achieving success with this priority?

The professional culture of any school is the number one influence on pupil outcomes. When teachers are enthusiastic, motivated, and supported, they are better equipped to meet the diverse needs of their pupils, provide high-quality instruction, and create a nurturing learning environment that fosters academic growth and success.

Be passionate about the professional culture of your school, and remain positive because it inspires others.


*** If you are interested in finding out more about how senior leaders build and maintain a strong professional culture, please contact us for a free, virtual consultation...no strings attached.

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