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LinkedIn Live Critical conversations

Ten take-aways from this session:

  1. You don’t have to move forward with everyone
  2. Challenge assumptions
  3. Frame the problem appropriately
  4. Are you asking the right questions?
  5. Solve the right problem
  6. Understand what it is that you’re trying to do
  7. Slow down in your attempt to rush to solutions
  8. Use outsiders to problem solve
  9. What are your non-negotiables as a leader?
  10. Do you know what you stand for?

***The following transcript has been automatically generated and is presented here unchecked***


LinkedIn Live Critical conversations

Thu, 8/18 6:15PM • 1:00:04


people, happen, jeremy, leaders, question, school, feedback, teachers, education, context, conversation, problem, fascinating, podcast, bit, staff, leadership, started, situation, transformational leadership


Nadine Powrie


Nadine Powrie  00:01

And we are live. And we are Thursday the 15th of April and very good afternoon to you. My name is Nadine Powrie. I’m an executive and leadership coach and I’m a workplace mediator.



Hello, my name is Jenny Lynn. I’m a leadership development consultant inspector. I do some QA and develop leaders in schools mainly.



I’d have my name is John Danes. I’m an education consultant based in the UK. And we have a guest today. Jeremy,



my name is Jeremy Williams. I am a CEO and executive principal for to private schools in Dubai with gems education. Great to be here.


Nadine Powrie  00:41

Jeremy, it’s a real honor to have you because you and I and we must declare that you and I we have history because we met. When was that about four years ago? Yes. In Abu Dhabi, I was a lead inspector for your for your school when you were you were a principal. And then we have kept in touch. And we’ve worked together again. And I’ve seen you evolve in your career. And I’ve seen you evolve in finishing that PhD this year during COVID. And it’s done. And now you’re Dr. Jeremy Williams. So well done. And you’ve also recovered recently from from an operation. So it’s good to see you here, Jeremy with us to talk about critical conversation in transformational leadership. So I want to start by asking a first question, because I talk a lot about difficult conversations. And you, you said you talk about critical conversations. So the first question I’m going to ask is, what do you think is the difference between a critical conversation and a difficult conversation when we talk about transformational leadership?



Yeah, it’s a great question. And again, it’s really nice to be here this evening. I think for me, difficult implies that the conversation may require heavy lifting, or that it may be taxing for the people involved. And for me, I look at it as critical because maybe it’s critical to one of the members of the conversation. Maybe it’s critical to the organization on the whole. Maybe the conversation itself is critical in nature. It’s not necessarily or it’s handling something that may not be easy for someone to hear. So yeah, I would say that they’re probably pretty closely related.


Nadine Powrie  02:36

Jen, Jen and Jenny, do you want to say something?



Yeah, no, I immediately thought I thought it was fascinating. I immediately think so. So difficult conversations could be critical. Can critical conversations. Also be difficult? Yeah. I think so. So so the depths of the difficulty, isn’t just because these are because people are going to be challenged when we raise these issues. There are other things making them difficult. Yeah.



Yeah, I mean, I think that the conversation could be maybe critical in nature, but not necessarily be difficult for either of the people involved. It may be something where you’re seeking to improve the organizational outcomes are seeking to help someone improve their performance. And maybe for either of the two members involved in this conversation. It’s not particularly difficult in the content itself isn’t difficult, but the nature of it is not. It is aimed to improve and sometimes for some people that may not be necessarily easy to participate in.



Okay, so that so that critical element then refers to the thing that conversations about So, as in guys, if we don’t get this sorted, we’re going to be in a difficult situation. It’s critical. Yes. Yeah. Okay. Right. So that distinction between Okay, that’s, that’s, that’s very interesting. Yeah. Okay. I mean, have you got a couple of examples, obviously, without going into, first of



all, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting, because, you know, the, the situation that I’m in now is I’m leading these two schools through ACC merger and acquisition. And so you have two schools in one building. And now it’s about one of the two schools will be closing, the other one will continue on. And so now we’re trying to blend staff across different curriculum together within the same school and sort of begin to start to create a fused community that strong out of two distinct, totally different schools with different names in different uniforms. So there’s a lot of conversations that are happening around trying to figure that out for everyone. And, and unfortunately, when you’re in a situation like that, it’s there are conversations that you have to have where maybe you can’t move forward with everyone. And so I think it’s it’s one of those scenarios where in this contract Stan, this work in particular, I feel like there’s been an awful lot of those recently.



Yeah, this is fascinating. So have you uncovered some key key principles which you apply to a variety of situations which drive you and guide you through through these processes?



Yeah, I posted something on LinkedIn about this a while ago, maybe a couple of weeks ago, that what I’ve discovered is I have a tendency to jump into solution mode, when there’s a problem before me, instead of really getting some clarity around what the real essence of the problem is. So I’ve been working with all of my leaders around sort of reframing the problem and spending, even if it’s just a little bit of time to challenge assumptions, or, or think or think more deeply about, you know, what it is that we’re actually trying to do, because as, as my educators on this esteemed panel know, we’d love to throw initiatives and money they try to solve problems immediately, and often, is that we don’t end up solving anything we we solve, we, you know, we solve the wrong problem, which I would say is probably similar to, you know, solving the right problem and correctly in it. So I think that’s one thing for me just getting clarity on what it is that, you know, I’m trying to achieve with the person that I’m about to interact with, and being deliberate and spending some time to just make sure I have that tight. Because that’s gonna guide a lot of the conversation.



Yeah, and that, and that would be step one, I guess, or even step zero. Yeah. And I



just pick up on that step one, because I actually read, I presume is your post, I didn’t kind of join the two dots that I did. I did see the post about, are we asking the right, the right question. I thought it was fascinating, because I’ve been involved in change management and problem solving and all sorts of things for years. But I’ve never heard it phrased in that way. Are we are we look, are we looking at the right, right? Question. So I went away and started reading up on it, because I thought this is fascinating, because we spend so much time trying to solve problems that we never actually asked that question. So just to say thank you for raising that in my consciousness, because I think that’s a thread that’s really interesting to pick up on what to do. What do you do? What so I mean, I’m also a great one for models of learning and people being very interactive. And so how would you say you’re you were having leading a session with your staff and the one that you thought that they’re going along the wrong alleyway? How would you frame that? How would you carry out that workshop to actually find out what the right question might be?



Yeah, so this is a, you know, the transition in which, you know, my, my work is gone this year, and is needing mentioned, actually had four surgeries since the end of November on my spine. So it’s been, it’s been an incredibly challenging, yes, in the middle of a pandemic, while leaving the merger of two schools in a totally new environment. It’s been a lot. And, you know, one of the things that’s happening now is, as we’re starting to sort of now that we know where we’re going, we know that the two schools are emerging, we know that we’re going to be together, I think now, it’s shifted to meeting with leaders and getting them to understand this idea, first of framing the problem appropriately questioning assumptions that we may have, in getting to some real, as much certainty as you can have in any complex situation about trying to understand what it is that we’re actually trying to do here. And I think that we had a second session on this today, actually, we had the spring break, we did it before then we did it after. And the homework was that they had to put one of the strategies that we read in the in the two articles that we digested as a team on their laptop, so when they were looking at work, or they were looking at a coaching conversation with someone that they would have this in mind, and we were sharing our examples, and ironically, half of the examples that were shared today had nothing to do with school, and they had to do with life and how they’re handling complexity, you know, within their own just sort of normal day to day existence. So I think like, it’s the first step for me in my sort of change management right now and change leadership right now is to have these conversations with the leaders, the leaders that I’ll be working with going forward and making sure that we’re on the same page because, like in education, it is so urgent in the inspections are always coming. There’s a you know, there’s new ones coming and there’s, you know, there’s lots of change. It’s the only constant as people like to say, but I think what I’ve figured out is, I’m I’m, I have a tendency to be very urgent, and I need to slow myself down. And when you think about all the decisions that we make in a given day, I think there’s a lot there to take away and to really be more effective and successful in our work regardless of position.



Conversation, what does this conversation look like? So you said you’ve just had a meeting today with your leaders and they have this on the laptop? So is this people sitting around laptop talking? Or Are they doing something? What does it look like?



So, so first workshop was really focused on getting them to understand. And so I described a situation where my wife and I, my wife is Mexican American, I am American, and we were going to a bridal shower, baby shower, and it was co ed, and we’re both gonna go in my thing was my wife with her culture, it’s very common to show up a little bit late to things with me, honestly, I’m the type of person that I made a movie 90 minutes early to see every trailer that could possibly, you know, it was this time that we were going to really nail it, and we were going to land it, and we were going to be there, right, you know, right at the right time. So, you know, in terms of handling the kids getting up getting moving, getting them dressed, like getting, we did it, we crushed it, we were right on time, we showed up, and we were there the wrong day. And so we had solved the problem we did, we didn’t manage to be at this place at this time, but we were not there at the right date, thus, not really correctly, solving what we set out to do. So I set that as an example to start with them of just trying to get them to understand what I’m talking about, which is well intentioned, hardworking people, sometimes out of their own good nature, just blindly flaunt into solve problems that they’re not really intending to solve in the first place. And then from there, we digested some articles. And then we talked about some of the strategies that were listed in the articles, they kind of gotten to small groups discussed, which one of these would be something that they might particularly want to try. And then we set off on our own for a couple of weeks to try them. And then we met back up today. And what did you Sorry? No, no, no, you go?


Nadine Powrie  11:49

No, no, because then I want to ask another question.



Yeah. And then by now, I was forgotten what I was gonna say, you know, what?



You said, what did we what did you find is what you said? Yeah, yeah.



What did we find? What I found is that everyone’s slowed down. Every everyone was able to indicate that they were able to slow down a bit in their attempt to rush to the solution. And were a little more fully present. And actually, the problem space of defining what the problem was challenging assumptions was a big one. And then another one that came out, which is suggested, and I think it’s the Harvard Business Review article that I posted, and I’ll post it again. So if people are watching they can get access to this was talking about utilizing outsiders to, to problem solve, and looking at people who aren’t necessarily directly emotionally attached to something but understand enough to be dangerous, I guess, would be the phrase I would use about



rotating really, isn’t it? Yeah.



Yep. To try to generate some some really clear focus on the problem before we jump in. So this is something that is going to be a sort of foundation in our practice going forward. Because I believe that we waste a lot of resource human capital in time. You know, responding, sort of half cocked to, to things that we think are urgent, urgent issues, and we don’t really necessarily try to diagnose really what’s going on. And when you think about that, in the medical context, that’s not something you would ever do, you know, you will never treat the symptom you, a doctor would work, wait to find the root of what’s going on. But I find in my work that because the work is so urgent, and there’s so many decisions to be made, we’re all trying our best, but we’re all flying around solving the wrong problems.



Right, thank you so much. That’s really


Nadine Powrie  13:35

so Jeremy, it’s very exciting, because you are, in effect, shaping the future, the future of this new school. Okay, through a merger and acquisition, what are the challenges in terms of transformational leadership when you when you lead a merger and acquisition?



It’s interesting, it’s, it’s trying to really understand the context of where both of these separate entities are, and then trying to figure out where the future lies and who needs to be and who should be involved in that going forward. And that sounds simple. But when you realize that this new school that’s being created is neither of the two, it’s a totally new entity, it you really have to spend time trying to figure out how you can incorporate as many of your effective, brilliant people as you can into this new operation. And that’s not easy to do. And, you know, there’s only so many seats on on the bus. And it’s, you’re hoping that you’re making the right decision with the information you have. But I think, you know, trying to be as open and honest with people as you can is probably key and you’re you’re, you know, no one really trusts you yet because you’re the new person who’s who’s quote, unquote, shaking everything up, you know, and so building trust and relationships with people is really important also.


Nadine Powrie  14:52

And I guess the question I would ask here is, how do you know that you are right or how do You know that the suggestions that are being made? Because you are co constructing with people? Right right now?



I don’t think you do, I think you you, you try to study the situation as best as you can you really try to think about, but I think really, the most important aspect of it is blazing a path forward isn’t really dependent on either of the two, right? It’s not really dependent on the either of the previous schools as much as it is the vision that I have for the school going forward. And I think, trying to bring people to fit that, rather than think about how these currents these current organizations fit within what I’m, it’s a different sort of mindset. And I think that’s probably the most helpful.


Nadine Powrie  15:41

And how are you going to support those staff who are creating something completely new? When they come from two different places? Do they forget about the past? Because actually, they’re emotionally attached to the past?



Yes. And it is tough, because, you know, you’re, you’re really trying to work and figure out what the you I have a general idea of what the vision is, for this organization, I want to lead this school I want to lead I, I could explain it to you, and you would get it. But I need the the people who are involved here currently to help fill in, fill in the cracks and actually come to a common definition of what that is. And once I feel like and we’re starting that work next week, actually, and once we have that, I feel like then when you’re trying to test if a certain initiative is worth pursuing, you kind of have this this this vision statement that’s a litmus test to determine if we should be doing this or not. And, and it’s obvious to everyone why you’re doing something or why you shouldn’t be doing something.



Fascinating. Gemma critical question that maybe will take us off at a slight angle. But just before I ask that, I just want to say thanks, Nicola. And chatter for for joining and popping in the comment that this is this. I don’t know if you can see that. The comments, Jeremy. But you know, Nicholas, saying it’s an interesting topic, and you have to be sensitive, very insightful. I mean, I, you know, so to be honest. No, I’m gonna say I’m absolutely fine. In the same way. If there’s others listening or finding the same, please let us know what your what you think because that, you know, your, your comments, we genuinely are interested to know, so that we can respond. But But I find this I find this absolutely fascinating that you’re setting your school, when was the time period here? Is it this is? Yeah, gone?



will be a new entity from the next academic year.



Okay. Which is September for you guys? Yes. Where you are? Okay. Yeah. So so what I was getting at, really, I mean, what you were describing about the way you that you’re managing this change? And you’ve you’ve, you’ve, you’ve spent time we talked about sort of ground zero in terms of thinking, and then you did a couple of workshops. I mean, you can’t apply that level of detailed thought and that intricacy of approach to every element of change. So just just take this as a completely crazy question. But you know, for someone who’s who’s got a change coming up, and he’s kind of on the borderline between massive and less kind of significant, what what are the key indicators for you that, that actually, this change requires some specific, a specific kind of roadmap through as opposed to one I can go with this and a bit more of a increased pace? Yeah, I think you can see what I’m getting at. Yeah,



I get what you’re asking. Totally. I mean, I think that it’s, it’s a question of, really, first getting clear what the vision is for what you’re trying to accomplish. In so here, obviously, all of you understand the context within the UAE, in terms of education, you know, that, you know, you you have, you’re assessed frequently on your your progress as a school across six different, you know, performance standards. And so there’s a pretty clear sort of external set of constraints on what you have to do and what you should be doing. But I think the the bigger question is what, who, you know, if you make the school improve by the standards, what’s the point of that? And it can’t, that can’t be the point that doesn’t inspire anyone or anyone to say, we’re going to be rated x, right. So it’s really about what’s that bigger thing that brings us together as a group, and motivates us to do the work because the work isn’t easy,



isn’t it? It’s to quote Simon Sinek it’s, you want the



purpose? Yeah. Purpose. So So on this particular journey, Jeremy, when when did it start? So you’re opening in September? I’m guessing what two years



Yeah, started in August, right? I, it started in August, it was just sort of something where it was funny, funny. Yeah, I was set to meet a different school. And due to COVID, there was just some circumstances that that made that not an option. And this was kind of the opportunity that was that was in front of me. So, you know, it was not something that was, I think it was, in a lot of ways, fortunate with the way it worked out, because I’m really happy doing this type of work. It’s exciting work to do. But it was not something that was planned out for years. And I think with the pandemic, especially nothing, everything is sort of written in sand right now. And everyone is sort of trying to reshuffle recalibrate, and reorganize their, their approach to everything. And so that, you know, this sort of just just kind of fell into my lap, and it’s, it took a good chunk of time to just figure out what was happening and understand the context of the current organizations as they sat. And now I think we’re moving toward action most pretty urgent,



and what an exciting project and particularly given that that time, I mean, I I was I’m amazed that it’s, it’s just over? Well, it’s effectively a year 12 months to do this bit of a bit of work, you’ve referred to a couple of times about slowing down. And I think the phrase that Nadine used in, in a post in LinkedIn was pausing to go faster. I mean, I I’m wondering, so I’ve often thought about, you know, when you’re making a very sharp, steep increase is necessary to create some ledges, which you can turn around. And if you’re scaling a cliff face, it’s necessary to have a ledge that you can turn around sit on, and just have a little look and see where you’ve come. And what is that? Is that the similar thing over there? Or is there something else about pausing to go faster?



You know, I think one of the things it’s become really a sexy term to throw around as well being, and everyone right now is saying, well being well, being students well, being staff well being yet, you know, I know countless leaders that are bombarding their people with emails across the entire spring break, or sending emails at 148 in the morning, are, are not necessarily modeling this, this sort of, of true well being approach. But I do think that right now, the first step, even before the division and the purpose and the iki guy or whatever, you want to refer to it as it’s just making sure everyone’s okay, and we don’t know what’s going to happen with our kids, when they come back, we have a huge, huge percentage of our children that are out of school that are in online learning, and we have no clue what’s going to happen when they return, what sort of supports they’ll need. And I know everyone, you know, especially people who are coming from like a sort of Ofsted or a level background. They’re coming from this from an academic perspective. And I think I, you know, we could have a whole nother talk about what are we going to do for external assessment in a pandemic? But I think the other part would be, what about people’s sort of mental mental health, these children who are coming back in? How are how what type of supports will they need, and I just, I think there’s just a lot to, there’s a lot to not, you could probably write everything in pencil right now. Because we really don’t know how that’s gonna go when 100% of students come back.



So the pausing to go faster, just to kind of finish my little sort of, sort of what to call it angle of questioning is about making sure that it’s sustainable, that everybody is okay. And that, then when we then proceed, people are going to be able to better coalesce around the vision, their well being is, is as you’d want it. It’s that sort of thing. It’s not going so fast that your people are being cast off the wayside as you go along. Yeah.



Well, and jump on that even a little further. I would say that we don’t know what’s going to it’s like, you don’t know what’s going to happen when all the children are back. This is the thing that I Yeah. Like, we don’t know what the challenges will be. So rather than focus on solving things that essentially could be totally erased the second all these kids come back in the building. Yeah. What are the things right now that we can control that we can invest time in that we can invest, invest resources in, that we know is going to sort of give us bang for our buck and yield us a positive result as it is to whatever we’re trying to achieve as a team? Because, I mean, I’m looking at what’s going on. And obviously from from my perspective, in Dubai, we don’t really know what’s going to happen for an inspection, when it’s going to come what the focus will be yet, that hasn’t been something that’s been outwardly communicated. But you know, I think because of that, we just know what sort of things schools have to be focused on to serve students well, but I do think there’s this whole subset of unknown in the pandemic that I think is going to provide a real challenge to people who have who’ve sort of built these plans. And I would say like, if you think about what school leaders and instructional leaders are dealing with teachers right now, how many of them have built these robust digital learning strategies? They don’t transfer when they come back into physical school and what sort of ground will they lose in that regard? So it’s, it’s a Really fascinating time to be involved in, in this sort of organizational change. But I do think that it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the kids come back because we’ve kind of forgotten about that. That’s part of our reality right now.



Mr. Mustapha, just clearly in the den Mustapha career has picked up on that. And he’s saying, Well, what what was school leadership look like in the future? And how do we develop that? I mean, you’re just starting to talk about that. Just there. Yeah. So I’m now gonna have to get my head around some comments here. So come on,


Nadine Powrie  25:28

I can ask the question. Okay. Yeah, please. Okay, so Jeremy ally, we had quite a few coaching conversations over the past few years. And I want to ask a question about yourself as a leader, because you are leading transformational leadership. And I want to ask you, what are the critical conversations that you’re having with yourself?



Simply put a dean smiling cuz she I think she already knows what I’m gonna say,



which? Probably she does that. Yeah.



I know, which is, am I in my helicopter? This is I’m asking myself, am I? Am I able to see the full perspective of what’s happening around me? Or am I too mired in in things that I shouldn’t be? Yeah, but you might. And, and that has been the number one thing I keep asking myself, and keep checking myself against. And then finding people, you know, finding people that are willing to, there’s been a pocket of people in the schools that have been very willing to give great, honest feedback about what’s happening, even honest feedback about the way I’m leading, or the way I’m communicating. And finding some of those some those people early on and getting their feedback. And getting them comfortable to feedback to me, is really such a useful information when you’re trying to figure out what’s what, because you’re new, and people are looking at you in a sort of different way. So there have been some early champions of just being really helpful to me and helpful to me is not telling me, great job, nice work. And Pat’s on the back help helpful for me is how can we make this thing better, more quickly? And I’ve found good people in both schools that are willing to help in that regard. And that’s key because it but staying in the helicopter at number one, two, and three.


Nadine Powrie  27:18

Okay, that’s good. It’s good to know that you’ve not forgotten about that. That’s great. But you’re very open minded, because I’ve worked with you. And you take on board the feedback that people give you. Do, would you like to share with us the kind of feedback that people have have given you in that specific period of transformation that you’re leading?



Yeah, I mean, there there was, for a while, sort of leadership vacuum, with some leaders going and me assuming the role where people weren’t feeling like I was communicating enough, and they weren’t feeling like they were getting to know me. And then you couple that with the surgeries, and there was just a bit of time where it was too quiet. And people were were really helpful and giving me that feedback of we need to we need, we need more, right now. We need to know what’s happening, we need to know where we’re going. And getting that was was really helpful. Not that I didn’t know it, but it was just helpful to sort of get people to see that they were willing to say what needed to be said was a really positive indicator for the types of people that were in the schools to begin with.



Very empowering to in for the staff to know that a you want their feedback, and be that you will act on it. Because so often, there’s this chasm between the leadership and the software via you know, while I’m leading from the front, or however you want to do it. But to actually add avert such an early in such a critical stage to invite feedback is really very powerful and empowering. What happens if it goes wrong? So I mean, I know myself that I encouraged feedback, and then I used to get feedback that perhaps I didn’t want to hear. Because it may not come with the way you want to go. So how do you manage that?



I would be lying if I said that, that isn’t something that I still struggle with, I still have moments where you know, something will happen, and it will live in my head much longer than it should or I’ll dwell on it in a unhealthy way. That still happens to me on a regular basis. And it may not be obvious to the passerby, the art teacher who passes me in the hallway, but there are many times where I’ll take a piece of feedback to heart and I don’t know if that’s something you ever find a way to totally separate yourself from maybe you do and I’ll I’ll defer to the wisdom before me in this group, but there’s still times where something’s hard for me to hear, or it’s something I really don’t want to hear. And I really struggle with that. But I think what I’ve learned is sort of working hard to triangulate you know, and can texturized, who I’m getting the information from, what might be their potential motivation for this information coming to me and just, again, this idea of, of slowing down to move faster, of just not necessarily being so reactionary, you know, to what I get and trying to be as, as informed as I can be, but not being reactive?



Can you turn it around and actually dig deeper to them to find out what it is? You know, I mean, it could be just a comment that they make, but have you have you flipped it to them? To find out what they really mean by that?



Yeah, I think we’re just within the context of what’s happened in this current role. I think that there really hasn’t been, I haven’t had to go to the five why’s in many instances for why something’s happening yet. But there have been some, particularly when we’re dealing with potential conflicts between teachers and parents, or teachers and students were, again, this idea of really trying to get clear on what it is we’re trying to do. And what it is that they’re saying to me, and what they’re really saying, not the words that are coming out, but what’s the subtext of what they’re saying? And asking them? You know, to clarify and make sure that is this what you mean? Or can you describe this in more detail? Because the there is, there are times where, because we, all of us, as human beings are emotionally attached to our work, no one goes into school because they, you know, they don’t care. This is not the ethos of what someone works in education for. I think there are we’re all emotionally attached to situations that happened to us. So I think the more upset someone is, or the more excited someone is, when they come to me, the more I’m starting to weed through that and sort of get to what’s a real salient issue is within emotionality. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.



Can I Can I open this up just to I mean, you kind of invited us a little a few a few seconds ago, just to just say, the collective wisdom of the group. And so this, I don’t include myself as being particularly wise. But I’ve, I’ve, I’ve used just a very simple idea, which has helped me which is to sort of classify people. And I don’t mean actually this, but in my thinking as being either wise or foolish or evil, as in kind of, you’re one of those three. And, and it applies to you as well. So I’m, I’m a wise person. And the reason I’m a wise person is because if you give me some feedback, I will absolutely take that seriously. Absolutely. Take it seriously. And I will listen to that. And I’ll be going okay, right. So what’s that doing? If I’m a fool, so I’m I think I’m a wise person, or for a fool basically wants to ignore what what what you’re saying, and try and find and find a way around that. And it’s someone else’s fault, or that’s not me to an evil person was just trying to basically find ways of undermining the organization. But the reason the way that I found this useful apart from with regard to me, is that is that if I’m getting feedback from someone who is also wise, that’s like gold dust, that is absolutely you listen to that, because, boy, if I’m getting feedback from someone who I know is evil, I’m gonna go, it’s necessary to learn from that in a different in a different way, I find that it’s been a very, very, very simply, Jenny’s modeling is very simplistic, but I mean, it’s kind of a bit of a way of, I just thought I’d open up offer that as a, see where that takes us conversation wise, whilst I read another comment. I think



I think that’s a really interesting concept down because basically, you’re putting a value on the feedback that you’re getting. From somebody that you respect, then you take it on board, and if it’s somebody that you don’t respect, and I think we all probably do that without necessarily categorizing it quite as much as you have done. I think that’s fascinating. It explains a lot, doesn’t it really, in terms of the interactions that you have with people is that you crave the feedback from people that you respect? If you’re wise? Yeah. Oh, well, I assumed it was. Oh, yeah, no. If you’re a fool, I shouldn’t have made that assumption. I could.



No, no, no, if you’re a fool, you don’t want any feedback at all. Yeah, yeah,



that’s true. And I think we’ve all probably been in the situation whereby we’ve worked with or for people who didn’t want that feedback. And I think that as education has moved forward, certainly in the donkey’s years that I’ve been in it, I think people are much, much more open to feedback. I mean, when I was a young teacher, you know, I wouldn’t have dreamt of giving feedback to the head. You know, he was Mr. So and so. And, you know, you stood up when he walked in. So I think that what Jeremy is saying is that the culture is so different nowadays. And I welcome that.



Yeah, there was a there was a project the new teacher project in the US had created a teacher survey, that that was meant to give the leader feedback but then it was double blind in the sense that you as the leader privately The rate rated and ranked to the teachers and their effectiveness. And then it waited, who said, who said what? Based off of your value of how effective you thought their teaching was, which I thought was a really interesting way to try to balance it. Because you know, often the voices that are the loudest are not necessarily the ones you want to listen to. There’s introverted people who never get their feedback, sorted, even facilitated or heard. So yeah, I think that’s a great point.



Yeah, that’s a kind of a much better elevated scientific version of my three way category category. But I like I like that. Yeah. That’s kind of that kind of waiting of waiting of advice. Yeah. And we’re getting a couple of comments. I mean, Mal has said, it’s, you know, that, that, that that external perspective, other people can see your flaws much better than the new Can I need to accept that as, as but yeah, that’s absolutely fascinating. So that’s, that’s, that’s been a subject of a whole lot of research. Jeremy, yeah. As it, I’m not aware that.



Yeah, they I don’t know if they’re, they’re still using that product. And they’re still allowing it to be used. But it was a really interesting sort of way to, to try to make the voices loud, that shouldn’t be loud. And sort of tease out your introverts and your extroverts and put things in balance. So I think that, that that’s a small example. But I do think that that’s part of the challenge of walking into a new situation is knowing who to listen to. And everyone’s got opinions on everyone, and trying to suss out, trying to suss out what your reality is. And your assessment is, it’s hard because there’s a lot of noise. And there’s dynamics, not only from the two organizations, both of the external organizations that are a part of the acquisition process, there’s dissonance there, and there’s just a lot to sort of suss and figure out.



Yeah, there’s an awful lot of people who don’t show you the real, the real person, and will change their behavior just because you’re the principal. And sometimes, you know, everybody else can actually see what that person’s really like. Plus, they always act in a different way to you, it’s, it can be very difficult. Sometimes you see the false



duty, like, just a small example of that is typically right. In a normal school environment, or normal organizational environment, you can take it out of the context of education, if you want, right, people are in the same physical space, you have extended periods of time of just being with others. So when I facilitated PD, with the whole staff, we’re all in the same room. I’m seeing body language, they’re seeing my body language. There’s all this, like rich data that you’re gathering about. Yeah, people aren’t heard it. That’s gone in this context. So when I’m listening to a Nearpod session with 80, staff members, I don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know if they’re interested. I don’t know if they’re disinterested. I don’t know if they’re even they could be asleep. And I really wouldn’t know because the context in which I’m trying to meet, Learn, Build relationships. It’s like it’s slowed down. It’s, it’s more difficult in that sense.


Nadine Powrie  38:12

Yeah, I want to ask you about sensitivity, you know, where as when we give you feedback, and sometime you said it can hurt and, you know, it’s quite difficult to take in. But we’ve all had a very difficult here. Yeah, emotionally. So we’ve all been hit by it by what has happened. Do you think that that has made you a different kind of leader where you are perhaps taking on board more about what people are taking you, you’re perhaps more sensitive to people because they’re having to communicate with you differently than not face to face. And, you know, sometimes it’s just a phone call, because the band, you know, the internet is not going to work, that camera is not going to work, so you can’t see them? You think that your sensitivity to feedback and to what people are communicating to us changed?



No, I just think it’s harder to make heads or tails out of what people say how they say, and this is why the, you know, the email for me is so tough, right? Because I get, you read a text from someone within an email, and you try to deduce what their their their tone is, or what they’re inferring it, it might be that they’re feeding their baby on their lap, and they’re only typing with one hand, and they’re being as quick as they can, or it might be that they’re upset. And so I think what I’ve tried to do is just make no judgments about anything, unless I’m face to face with that person, and we’re having a real sort of one to one conversation. So just, you know, ordinarily, you would maybe be a little bit more prone to jump to assumptions, where I feel like I really don’t know the context of what everyone’s dealing with. And I don’t know them well enough as people to make judgments about who they are or what their values or resources or anything. So it’s just really again, this idea of slowing down to try to make sense of Have what I’m I’m taking in. No go to



any, it’s quite extraordinary what you’re saying. Because just feeding back to you, what you’ve said is that you don’t know, you don’t really know how much you can plan for September because you don’t know what the students will be like when they come back. You’re amalgamating to schools. You’re trying to get the credibility and the ethos and the vision and all those soft skill things in place, whilst at the same time seeing people through screens, and not necessarily face to face. Although I would imagine that there’s some face to face. So we’d like in schools to have certainties. You know that come September, we’ll have X number of pupils. And we’ll be able to have X number of teachers, and we know where we’re going. And it strikes me that there’s absolutely nothing to hide that. Which must be incredibly, I mean, you’re sitting there smiling and beaming all the time. But actually, your head, you must have such a mishmash of things, because there are that the one thing you know, is certain is that there is nothing is



certain you have to embrace it.



So how do you Yeah, embrace it yet? Maybe you managed to keep focused and rigorous, and always, you know, just doing what you’re doing? How do you manage that with so much?



I think for me, the work in itself, is so secondary to life. So for me, my family is healthy, you know, my children are healthy, my, you know, my family back home, everyone’s okay. You know, I’m able to interact with them and speak with them. You know, I guess for me, and I would say even having the surgeries on my back and not being mobile for a while, I think I just, I tried to have a sort of lens on what matters and what doesn’t. And in the end, while I love my work, and I’m super passionate about my work, the fact is that I leave work, and then I go home. And, you know, as long as I have the ability to do that, yeah, everything else I can, I can compartmentalize. And I, I try to do that for everyone. So I think for me, though, a lot of the conversations I’ll be having with people, if they’re upset, or they’re scared or they’re worried or they’re they’re they’re voicing some sort of, of concern is just to try to bring some perspective of the reality, which is, if we’re healthy right now, we’re winning. And that’s really, you know, there’s, if you’re healthy, that’s a, that’s not something that we, we really need to think about as much as we do now. And the other thing was, I was watching a TV show, before we started tonight, and all the people in the show had masks, and I just thought about if, if I, if I had been in a coma for two years, or a year and a half, and I hadn’t woken up, and I put on a program, and I’d saw that everyone was wearing these surgical masks out at the store on the street, I wouldn’t be so confused as to what’s going on. So you really don’t know what’s going to happen. So all of your planning is making the best judgment you can given the information you have and given the situation at that time. And who knows what will happen before September, I wish I had, you know, a crystal ball to be able to predict for sure. But I you know, the reality is that we’re just all going to have to wait and see. And I think for some people that maybe are a little more planning oriented or like they’d like to know what they’re going to be eating for dinner six weeks from now on Tuesday, this would be a really big issue for them. But for me, it’s never been something that’s really bothered me tremendously. I’m, I’m okay with seeing what happens.


Nadine Powrie  43:40

And I want to say something here, because because I’ve actually seen you in action, Jeremy. And I would say that adversity, facing adversity and crisis is something that you actually deal with very well. I think that some style of leadership lends themselves better in dealing with adversity and crisis. And I think that you are very talented in dealing with that. You’re very resilient, you’re very open minded, and you can respond, you’re very general, you can respond very quickly. I mean, you know, at times when I’ve said we need that, you know, kind of yesterday and you go Yeah, yeah, boom, boom, boom, done. So you’re also able to respond very quickly. You’re not phased out by anything. So I do think that your style of leadership lends itself quite well in being able to



global pandemics emergency was the perfect storm for me. It’s the concentric circle of worldwide pandemic and merger. Yeah, it’s, I appreciate the kind words they do and I mean, you’ve been a huge figure in my growth and development over the past several years. But yeah, I I’m probably strangely comfortable with the unknown. And okay with pivoting and moving in a new direction, so yeah, I think that for me, I’m, I’m okay with that that’s never been something that troubles me much. But the reality is that you have people on your team that are the opposite. They guarantee and brief in a certain direction. So what I’ve learned about myself is I can’t make it seem like it’s so easy to change, because for others, it’s not. But for me, it kind of is.


Nadine Powrie  45:23

Yeah, yeah. And how, you know, you were finishing off your PhD at a time where I think COVID started, how has your PhD, the writing and the, you know, the, you went back to America, to for your head to



finish before COVID. In December of last year, I had to go finish conducting the research. And then from there, I had everything so that I could write it up and get ready for defense.



Okay, so so he was the subject. So it was a subject to be pasted,



the subject was exploring the perception of leaders as it relates to transformational leadership in high poverty, urban charter schools, and organizational commitment of teachers. So what perception of what leadership behaviors are perceived to make teachers more committed to stay in really tough schools?


Nadine Powrie  46:09

Well, that’s interesting, because I wanted to ask you about how has that PhD helped you? This year?



I would say that it’s starting to help me more as we kind of get get into my my role being settled in moving toward the future. But one of the biggest things that came out of my research was the fact that people they value money they do, there’s no doubt about it. But when when people on the qualitative end of my study, discussed what meant something to them, it was often recognition verbally written, an even a text, email, just thanking them for something. And so one of the big things there, one of the people in the focus groups I interviewed talked about the fact that the leader when they had a sick day, and they were out, the leader called them and check to see if they were okay. That was something that in my last school, because I really knew everyone, I had part of that community for a long time. It was something I, I did, we had a small enough school. But that that’s, it’s that sort of individualized consideration that really resonates with people and makes them feel cared for. And that goes a long way to keeping them committed to any organization. That’s nice.



I was just thinking about the phoning and checking on people. Maybe it’s something British, I don’t know. Because I you know where I’m coming from. Yeah. Yeah.



Well, you say, and I gotta tell you whether


Nadine Powrie  47:44

same journey. Yeah. You know,



they would see you as hassling them. And you know, that if you ran to find out how the world should run from it ha, was because she was checking up on me. And it’s interesting, John, that you pick that up? One before I said it, because I think that I think I think it’s a real shame, because I think what you’re saying, Jeremy is great. And it does show that you actually care. But so I don’t know whether it’s a British thing, but I think it could be listened to here. And unions would be I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.



My tip, my take on that is that it’s all to do with the relationship and a level of trust that already exists between the people who are involved in that call.



Yeah. What I would say is, is this is why I haven’t done it in my current school. Yeah, yeah. Well, to be now if it’s someone I know, well, I would in the school, I would feel comfortable to do that at this point. But going into next year, but by mid year, next year, I think it’ll be there where I would feel that level of relationship is established.



So so people just going back to you were searching in a charter schools. So So you talked about money and money, money being a motivated, but there’s something else, which is I think what we probably all say in certainly in the education world that is tapping into each of us, you know, if you snap it in half, it’ll say it’ll say some moral purpose or something to do with, you know, doing your best for kids to make them contributing members of society or something along those lines. But but but there’s something in difficult circumstances, there’s do that. So is it the retention of good leaders? It’s about connecting them with the purpose of what they’re doing in that context? Is it or is it or is there something more maybe



it’s a bit more Maslow’s? You know, maybe it’s a bit more, a bit, you know, hierarchy of basic needs and people, people at the first at the first stage of a merger and acquisition, everyone’s trying to jostle for their position and make sure they’re okay. And I think when some people have those needs met, and they can know where they fit or where they don’t fit either way. I think you then have your sort of starting point for moving forward with everyone, but I think fit what I’ve seen in this context, it was starkly different than what I’ve experienced in my other ones was the everyone was trying to understand what was going on. And to be honest with the timing of how all this happened. So it was I mean, there wasn’t a four year mapped out, you know, here’s how it’s gonna go. It was very much as trying to serve the students the best way we can and a really urgent sort of situation, and then also recognizing that the stress of the pandemic on the staff, and the kids is all something that we have to be mindful of. So there’s a complexity to it, for sure.


Nadine Powrie  50:35

And presumably, presumably, within your staff, you’ve you have very different culture, aren’t you?



Yes. I mean, I’ve very few Western teachers in my, in my school I have the majority of them are from GCC countries. And so yeah, I mean, that’s a whole sort of cultural competence piece that I’ve had to learn and, and grow on and in, I had a very diverse student population, my last school, but the staff was almost entirely American. So that’s been a huge, really fascinating part of the process also is sort of learning and flexing the sort of developing the sort of cultural competence around with my new staff have what works for them and what doesn’t, it’s been, it’s been different. And it’s been a good challenge.



Do you mind if I just go back to Maslow during the day, probably knew I was going to do this, because I’ve got to think about Maslow being the other being effective the other way up, that if you connect people with their purpose, that the other things will fall into place, because it’s the purpose, that’s the key, the key thing. Now, I know that simplistic and eccentric cetera, but it’s a fascinating bit of thinking to do around a problem. And I just wondered what you would say, and I’m sure you’ve come across that.



Well, yeah, I mean, I think that it’s, it’s, it’s, for some that’s probably the case, knowing, feeling like they’re part of something bigger than themselves is probably a huge, huge motivator. But I think the challenge in this context, the timing of how everything’s gone, the way that things have gone throughout the year, you know, was that the first section of the year, it was unfortunate, but there was just downsizing happening within the school. And it was just putting everyone in a huge sense. I’d say okay, yeah. Right. So, so there was just sort of a fear of what was to come. And to be honest, there wasn’t anything concrete that I could really communicate that would dissuade people or make them or, you know, that I could say, with confidence. And I felt like I could communicate to say, No, don’t worry, here’s exactly what’s going to happen. So I think that, yes, I would say, normally, I would agree with you that you could probably tapping into people’s passions and purpose will get them excited. I think in this instance, you know, what happened was, I showed up on the 13th of August. And that was, that was not planned. For anyone that was just tear out here. I was in, I think, you know, what came from that was just, it was it was a lot of change. And it was not what I would describe as pleasant change for really anyone at the beginning, because we were all trying to figure out how we were going to function because even the plan to move the two schools into the one building was something that did not happen in June, it happened in August, it all sort of okay, happened in one time. So there was so many moving pieces, that I think that everyone was a little bit was a bit concerned on where they fit in the future, and what the future was going to look like for them. So I do think that one of the first things I did, really, once I was stepping into my position was sort of forecasting the future and what it is we were aiming to do to try to get some people to latch on to that. But I think people still had a lot of apprehension around what was going to happen to me, you know, next academic year



course. That’s great. Thank you that’s kind of taken on my kind of thinking with regard to that inverted Maslow thing. It’s all about context in that Yeah, that’s really helpful. Thanks, Jeremy. And



the other part in this context is that everyone is a year to year employee. So, you know, if you’re a union, if you’re part of a union, where you know, you have tenure, and you know, that regardless of what clown shows up in my desk, you You’re, you’re okay, and your position is fine. You know, it was so much unknown about what was going to happen that I think it was hard for people to feel comfortable. And I certainly understood why that was. Yeah.


Nadine Powrie  54:29

I want to ask you a question that has nothing to do with what we’ve discussed so far, which is about podcasts because Jonathan was doing a lot of podcast last year, and actually Jonathan introduced me Jonathan. Jeremy introduced me to podcasting. You remember you when you interviewed me? At the conference, actually the media this conference, so So what’s happening with your podcast at the moment?



How do I say this without offending the people of our lane? I’m going to do my best right. I lived in our lane And there were a tremendous amount of, of camels in Dunes. And then I moved to Dubai. And suddenly there were much more exciting things to do in my free time than podcast. There was, whether it was taking my kids to swim or being outside or exploring something or walking on the marina, or whatever it was, I just kind of felt like it was at a, it was at a point where I wasn’t really sure where I wanted it to go, I relaunched a new podcast, and I started with that. But then even after a couple episodes, it just, it fell flat. So I would say I’m a recovering podcaster. If I did do my official sort of diagnose, I am looking to start a new podcast with a friend named Steve Banbury, that has nothing to do with education at all. That’s focused on cryptocurrencies and non fungible tokens. And so we’re looking to get that off the ground. But I think I’ve felt like I’ve there’s been enough talk of education for me for a while, and then, you know, I’m happy to go on other people’s things. But for me, I just I needed a break and, you know, producing and getting posted and managing guests and getting questions ready. It’s a lot. It’s a lot to do.


Nadine Powrie  56:15

It is it is I’m just interested because I seem that everything we do in life has a beginning and a middle and an end. And I feel the same as you. I think there’s going to be a point with my podcast where I think I think I’ve said what I wanted to say time for something else. And he’s double life after podcasting. I think so.



Yes. I’m here to tell you, there is life after podcasting, especially if you’re in Dubai, there’s definitely way better podcasting. Yes, yes,


Nadine Powrie  56:41

absolutely. What would be your final message for our audience tonight?



Anytime someone asked me this question, I always say the same thing, which is the biggest, the biggest lesson I ever had as a leader probably was that I became a vice principal from a very, very young age, I was like 27, or 28. And one of the things that I recognized five years later, after I had screwed it up for about four or five good years of doing it really poorly. Some would say I still do it very poorly. But one of the things I took away is it, I really didn’t know myself at all, I didn’t know what I stood for what I was about what I believed in. So how in the world can I lead anyone toward anything if I didn’t even ever spend time with myself to figure out what I really felt and my core was critical about education. And so that’s one of the things that I would advocate for people is, especially those who are really thinking that leadership is what they want, it’d be cool, that’s what you want, but like, who are you? And do you know what you really stand for? What are your non negotiables as a leader that you just, you know, you feel really, really strongly about and make sure that you never betray those that would be my sort of lasting message. They’re brilliant.



That’s right message.



Yeah. Is Yeah.



What’s your non negotiables as leader it’s very good interview question that isn’t it? It is.



Just I just want to before we forget, because I guess they’re doing a wrap up and we just wanted to thank those who’ve watched our friend Gamal and Amal and chatter and Nicola for folk for comments joining us in and taking the time to comment has been fantastic. So thank you very much. Jeremy has been well, I’m not the one who’s wrapping up but I just to say I think I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. Yeah,



always welcome whenever you want me back. I’m always willing to be here even though it is Dubai and there’s so much to do. I will always make time for you if you touch the


Nadine Powrie  58:34

surface of what we can talk about. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And Jeremy when we are next to Dubai, which we hope soon at some point. Let’s go for a nice meal at the Burj Khalifa. And enjoy, you know,



absolutely. I will be there.



It’s a party. Isn’t it ready?


Nadine Powrie  58:55

At the Burj Khalifa with everybody that we know. Yes.



On these podcasts on the SLT lives, yeah,


Nadine Powrie  59:02

that’d be nice. But Jeremy, you’re doing an amazing job. I’m actually really proud of you. I’m very attached to Jeremy because we started four years ago together, and I’ve seen you grown and I’ve seen what you can do. And it’s really fabulous. Well done. I’ve



been I’d be remiss if there are very few true mentors that I’ve had in my career. But Nadine, you certainly, even though we haven’t had a tremendous amount of time together, you’ve been most impactful on me. So there’s a very short list of people that are there. Sue Jan Beck, Carrie danke. My current supervisor Kadir would be on there, but you’ve certainly had a massive impact on me. And I look forward to growing with you in the future. I feel like our work is never done. So I’m really grateful to have spent time with all of you tonight. Thank you.


Nadine Powrie  59:48

Thank you very much, everybody. And let’s let’s meet again next week then for foreigners on LinkedIn live. Thank you Jeremy and goodbye in July.



Take care. Bye Everybody


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