Leadership: A 100-day plan

Written by: Ben Solly | Published:
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If you are starting a new middle or senior leadership role, Ben Solly recommends having a 100-day plan to help you hit the ground running

If your new role involves a leadership responsibility, it is always advisable to have a plan, especially if you are starting at a new school.

Moving into a leadership position, whether it is part of a middle or senior leadership team brings with it significant responsibility and it is critical to making a positive start.

I was advised several years ago that constructing a 100-day plan is an effective way to prepare for a new role in a new school. Since then I’ve taken it through several iterations and I’ve arrived at a format that I now use whenever I have taken on a new responsibility.

So, if you find yourself in a position where you are fresh into a new role and you haven’t consciously made a plan, here is my guide to making those first 100 days count.

Creating alliterations enables us to remember things more vividly, so my plan follows the five Ps model: Presence, Provision, Principles, Performance, Priorities.

Presence

This is number one in the list of five because making a good first impression with all stakeholders sets the tone for your tenure in this leadership role. Whether we like it or not, first impression count and they stick; therefore make sure yours is a good one.

Students need to know who you are and what your role is if you are starting a new school and therefore you need to be a visible presence at the start of term.

Visibility is a critical aspect of leadership; if you are tucked away in your office all day you will have zero credibility with staff, and students will not know who you are. Get out there, where the action is, role your sleeves up and lead by example right from day one in your new role.

By setting an example for your staff they will see that you are prepared to graft and that you can balance doing all the basic jobs of a teacher alongside the strategic leadership responsibilities you have taken on.

In simple terms, you have to walk the walk and prove yourself in those critical first few months in your new role. What does this look like in practice? Lead assemblies, be a visible presence in the corridors during lesson change-overs, talk to students at breaks and lunch times and visit lessons regularly. Be positive but assertive, firm but fair; make it the norm for students and staff to see you regularly throughout the day.

Principles

Communicating to your team the principles that you stand for as a teacher and leader is a crucial component of making a positive start and it should be a real priority for your 100-day plan.

By articulating clearly the values that underpin your decision-making as a leader, your team will understand the rationale behind any difficult choices you will inevitably have to make in the future.

If you are going to achieve collective buy-in from the team you are leading then they need to get on board with what you are trying to achieve; that starts with understanding what makes you tick and what principles you stand for in education.

If you can bring people along with you, you have won half the battle, so be explicit about these core values very early on. An easy way to deliver this information is through staff meetings and through creating a vision for the school or department that your staff are able to have a say in.

Provision & Performance

The third and fourth Ps are all about understanding the context of your school or department. They are so tightly interlinked that I have grouped them together.

If you are going to be effective in delivering impact in your strategic leadership role then you need to implicitly understand the current position. Provision is concerned with the questions of what we are delivering and how we are delivering it. Performance should focus on the question of what impact our provision is having.

You may have had some handover activities with your predecessor, but this is not always the case and it is not always helpful. Sometimes you might have huge shoes to fill if you are inheriting a happy and successful school or department, other times you might be starting from a very weak and unstable position. Whatever your starting point is, you need to know the strengths, weaknesses and what the priorities for improvement are.

Auditing and evaluating the quality of the provision you are inheriting is extremely important and if you can add an element of external validation to measure the impact, this gives additional credibility to your judgements. By corroborating your self-evaluation judgements via a school improvement partner or peer challenge review you can give yourself the leverage you need to rapidly deliver change, if this is what you need to do. An accurate self-evaluation document should be produced as quickly as possible and from this the strategic priorities for the year ahead can be established.

As a leader you should be focusing on the things that make a difference in your school or department/subject area:

  • The curriculum (rationale and structure) and the quality of resources that support it.
  • The quality of teaching.
  • The impact of teaching on student achievement.
  • Do our pastoral structures ensure students are safe and happy?

Priorities

This is a tricky one for someone new in post. There is always a temptation to try and tackle everything as quickly as possible, but this can be counter-productive. You need to pick your battles and prioritise. If you spread yourself too thin by attempting to address and rectify all the problems you have identified all at the same time then your impact will be compromised.

Instead you should target a small number of key priority areas that you can focus time, effort and resource upon and make these high-profile goals for all of the team to work towards.

Achieving collective buy-in to these goals is also important, so if you can establish these in consultation and collaboration with your team, they are much more likely to be motivated to achieve them.

  • Ben Solly is principal of Uppingham Community College in Rutland. Follow him on Twitter @ben_solly


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