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Shared expectations

Dealing with underachieving colleagues is an important part of management. But it's also a delicate and emotive area. One theme of this course is the importance of establishing shared expectations. If someone is underperforming, you need to sit down and work out goals that you can agree to.

As with all areas of leadership, communication is vital. That means listening to other people's viewpoints, and allowing them time to get their message across. Exercises on the course are designed to improve our listening skills. For example, we experimented with changing our body language, or altering the angle of the chairs that people were sitting on.

When I'm observing lessons, I try to put people at ease, so they don't feel threatened. And during feedback, the aim is always to get the teacher to reflect on their performance. It's not about instructing them, or telling them what to do. It's more about coaxing ideas out of them.

Above all, it's important to know your staff as individuals. Everyone needs handling differently. During the course, we looked at the full range of personality traits that people might have, and worked out strategies for how best to deal with them. You need to be aware of your own character too, because that helps you understand how people relate to you.

Numbers on the course are kept small, so you can explore any specific concerns people might have.

Carol Levy is assistant headteacher at Northway School in Barnet, north London. She was talking to Steven Hastings.


Managing conflict and dealing with difficult people is run by Creative Education. Cost pound;270 +VAT. For forthcoming dates go to

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