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Guided through a stormy period

One of the first things Paul Head was told after he started to receive coaching last December was that he needed to be more authoritative.

It was less than three months since Mr Head had taken over as principal of the College of North East London and he faced a major challenge to turn things around after a damning Ofsted report.

Mr Head had been a deputy principal at the college for 12 months prior to his promotion. He enrolled for a training programme run by the Learning and Skills Development Agency but felt coaching would provide him with vital extra support.

As he began restructuring his senior management team, he had to take difficult decisions that affected the future of other managers. "I was attracted by the idea that - as a new principal - I could talk things through with somebody who knew the sector but was not working in the same institution."

Being more authoritative meant expanding his skills and having more confidence in his decisions. He was able to talk through the pros and cons of each change with his coach beforehand and review afterwards how they had gone down with staff. "It's about understanding your role as a principal and chief executive, as opposed to being a senior manager," he says. "You have to be seen to give clear direction to the organisation and show other people what their role is in achieving its objectives."

Coaching has also enabled him to compare his leadership style with that of managers elsewhere. "It's about using someone with a wealth of experience inside and outside the sector," he adds.

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