The debrief should offer information on the failed candidate's strenghts and weaknesses

8th August 2003 at 01:00
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So what do you do if you find yourself in the same situation as Andrew Harness, Sara Field or Angela Wakeman, with an internal candidate who is set against you?

Jane Creasy, director of the New Visions programme for newly appointed headteachers at the National College for School Leadership, says schools can avoid the situation by considering carefully who they shortlist. "Don't interview someone you have no intention of appointing," she says. "No one likes delivering bad news, but it's ourselves we are protecting if we don't take the tough decision. We don't want to see the tears or the tantrums.

Avoiding the issue is not good leadership.

"If there is an internal candidate, the debrief should offer information about the person's strengths and weaknesses and how the unsuccessful candidate is going to manage when the new person arrives. The head's responsibility is to have the appropriate professional development conversation, saying, 'Here are the opportunities we will provide to prepare you for a similar role'."

Of the three cases above, she says:

"Andrew cannot change his department on his own. Pete needs to move on.

Andrew needs the head to have a conversation with Pete. The head should say, 'Pete, if you are serious about going for head of department, you need to put in other applications. This job wasn't for you because it requires a move into ICT, which isn't your strength.'" "Sara's situation could have been avoided if the head had produced a job and person description. But handling the aftermath is Sara's responsibility. This chap has given her a very strong message about how he feels. What messages has she given him? Perhaps she saw that it was rightfully her job, but has that made her forget that he has feelings too? It might well be that she didn't give much thought to them. She needs to turn the apology into a starting point for a conversation."

"Angela's situation is common and a difficult one for heads. If the unsuccessful candidate is close to headship, there are moves the head can make to help. But if the person isn't likely to get a headship, it becomes difficult. The new head is in the invidious situation of saying, 'This can't go on'. Angela has done all the right things. She has her governors' support. She needs to pay attention to her other colleagues. She needs to try to work with them directly. Get them on to tasks where they can achieve something she has helped initiate.

"Angela is evidently going to have continuing problems with this deputy.

There's the possibility of a redistribution of senior management responsibilities to take away his powerbase but, unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to this problem."

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