Talking point

9th October 2015 at 00:00
1-2-1s: mentoring or micromanagement?

Whether they take place in the bustle of the corridor or in the (relative) calm of the headteacher’s office, informal one-to-one meetings can play a big part in leadership.

These meetings may take the form of coaching sessions, direct instruction or even light mentoring. Supporters of such a personal approach to management say that it helps to unite staff, not only by challenging the stiff formality of the staffroom hierarchy but also by allowing for a shared understanding and approach to issues that arise daily.

But could frequent one-to-ones be regarded as undue micromanagement? And is there really a place for such meetings in the busy schedule of the school leadership team? We asked three senior leaders.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, head, Uplands School, Swindon

Time spent one-to-one with a member of the senior leadership team is rarely wasted: staff are the most important asset in any school.

I take a personal interest in the growth of individual leaders through one-to-ones. We usually meet fortnightly, often to develop an aspect of leadership considered at SLT meetings. Outside of formal appraisal and supervision, I have an open-door policy. I like to adapt my style to whatever’s appropriate: coaching, mentoring or direct instruction.

However, I definitely do not micromanage; one-to-ones are used to empower the individual and support their growth.

Adam Cooper, deputy head, Abingdon Primary School, Middlesbrough

I find these meetings with the headteacher crucial for communication, organisation and understanding, on a strategic and operational level. They have also been crucial in my preparation for headship.

We have daily one-to-one meetings in the office or as we walk around the school: it’s a two-way process in which the headteacher can share ideas, issues and scenarios.

It’s also a chance to make sure we are united in our drive to raise attainment across the school. It wouldn’t be beneficial to have one-to-one meetings with such a large SLT; a weekly meeting suffices to ensure the school’s smooth running.

Sam Northwood, head, the Nelson Thomlinson School, Wigton, Cumbria

I hold weekly one-to-one meetings with my senior team and with other staff I line-manage. My deputies hold them fortnightly with those whom they line-manage. As well as discussing key tasks, performance, challenges and deadlines, we can “offload” and share concerns.

The style of one’s approach can get people’s backs up. But provided that one adopts a “coaching” approach and remains “human” throughout, staff seem to welcome the support. My team are very self-motivated and do not really need me to line-manage them, but they do use me as a sounding board.

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