Updated: May 8
Are you struggling with making a decision?
Are you thinking about moving schools or going for a promotion and moving into a leadership role? Or maybe you’re even considering leaving education and changing careers?
It’s that time of year when many start to think about the future as the deadline for resignations looms.
Through coaching and in my interactions with teachers and leaders within my freelance work in schools I have many conversations with people about whether or not to go for promotion or change schools.
Questions I am often asked are: Do you think I am ready or how will I know I am ready? What else do I need to do to prepare me for a head teacher role? What will others think? What will my colleagues, or my head teacher think? Is there someone else who’s better than me?
And for those who are thinking about changing schools for a variety of reasons often ask similar questions: What will others think? What will my HT think? What if it’s the wrong decision? How can I start again? Will it be harder than where I am? What if I don’t get along with people there? What if I miss my colleagues?
Making any decision can be challenging and stressful. There’s been times in my career when I’ve had to make huge decisions and it hasn’t been easy.
Obviously in my headship I’ve had to make major decisions about the school and the staffing eg expanding the school/go academy or not etc. But personally I’ve also had to make decisions about changing jobs, going for promotion, changing my hours to part time and then making a decision as whether or not I should leave headship altogether and start my own business. All were not easy decisions to make.
I have often sought advice when I have had to navigate the decision making process and I’ve remembered the wise words of those I have approached.
When I struggled to make a decision about leaving a position that I loved for the offer of an assistant head’s job at another school I anguished over this for weeks. I truly loved the school where I worked and felt there would be a loss at leaving my colleagues and pupils behind.
However, in conversation with my deputy head at the time who had worked in schools all over the world I saw that change was good, and although there would ultimately be a loss, there were many more benefits that compensated for this. He explained how some of his decisions to move on had not always worked out but that he had never once regretted the move as he learnt from every experience. So ‘EMBRACE CHANGE’ became a mantra of mine. I did leave the school and took on the AHT role and eventually became the head teacher of the school, probably not an opportunity I would have had if I had stayed where I was.
Another decision I had to make was applying for the head teacher role in the school that I worked in. I had never considered being a head teacher and enjoyed the role of the deputy head immensely. I certainly never thought I was ready. I now know of course that nothing can prepare you for this role! However, the advice from those I respected at the time made me see that if I did not take this opportunity then someone else would and I would regret it.
From this I trained my brain to think that deciding not to go for an opportunity would haunt me more than failure and so another of my mantras has been ‘Take every opportunity that comes your way. If you don’t take it, then someone else will!’ This has enabled me to make decisions in my role as a head teacher when I have been invited to lead a project or speak at a conference for example.
NOT RIGHT OR WRONG BUT THE BEST DECISION
When I was considering leaving headship to set up my own business, this caused me many sleepless nights. Again, I loved my job as a head teacher and being part of a team and of course the pupils and the families that I supported. And I loved leading change and that feeling of making a difference and I actually enjoyed making decisions about every aspect of the school that I led. However, I really wanted to have a go at setting up my own business, not only to follow my passion for developing others but to create more time in my life for other things other than work.
It was my son who helped me to see that any decision is not permanent.
“What’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work out then you can go back to headship.” Exactly that! Perspective! This helped me to put everything in its place and to see that no decision has to be permanent. I created a backup plan in my mind if things did not work out and this helped me to take that step. So, again, when I coach clients I often ask them ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’
All decisions have a redeeming value and lead to learning and growing. We tend to be fearful of making a poor decision and it being deemed or reinforced that we failed and are therefore a failure.
But few, if any, decisions lead to dire consequences even though our mind tells us to believe it is so. And I also think it helps if you consider the decision that you are having to make as not right or wrong which increase fear and anxiety but what’s best for me NOW at this time?
When making a big career decision there is often a trade- off that we must accept for making the decision we choose. When I left my first school, and then left headship there was certainly a trade-off. At both times, my decision to leave conjured up feelings of loss (leaving trusted friends and colleagues), but It was pain that I was fully expecting and chose to take on, for the betterment of my future and who I was choosing to evolve into.
It was the same when as a head teacher I decided to cut down my hours by a day. I knew I would be giving up an element of control but the benefits far outweighed the disadvantages.
I had the responsibility to fully evaluate my alternative choices and thoughtfully decide that under my set of circumstances, I was making the best decision for me and which would inevitably allow me to be my best self.
And, if there’s a trade off or loss, I found it helpful through the work I did with my own coach to think about how I mitigated the loss through other things in my life. For example, missing the team at work, I set about creating community groups and getting involved in other things outside of work.
USING OUR CORE VALUES
Decision-making requires us to take risks and give up a degree of control because of uncertainty. Challenging decisions often arise when core values that underlie a decision are in opposition to one another.
A simple strategy that I used when thinking about leaving headship was thinking about the main areas of my life: finances, physical well-being, mental health family and friends and relationships, and thought about the impact of each decision on each of these areas.
I then thought about my core values, which at the time ranged from spending time with family and friends to having a feeling of self-worth and of being of value. These core values mattered to me and so I wrote down how the decision would meet the needs of each of these.
Think about which values are more prominent in your particular circumstance and what decision will allow you to be your best self.
Making difficult decisions can be challenging, but taking a structured approach can help you feel more confident in your decision-making process.
If all else fails, then you could use the tried and trusted voices of wisdom. What would your hero, friend and mentor advise you to do?
However, my advice to you is, trust your instincts and have confidence in your own ability to make the best decision for yourself and others involved.
And, what’s the worst that can happen?
Just some thoughts to leave you with:
· Embrace change and learn from it.
· What’s the worst that can happen? Keep perspective.
· Taking no risks could end up being your biggest risk.
· Don’t reach for anything at the expense of yourself.
· There is no right or wrong decision, only the best decision.
· Regret will haunt you more than failure.
· Don’t rush into anything just so that you have something.
· If you don’t take that opportunity then someone else will.
· Your self-love must always be stronger than your desire to be loved by others so make the right decision for you!
Which thought resonates mostly with you as you make your decision?