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Support your leaders by providing them with longer term professional development?

Powerful Pedagogy, Semann & Slattery Newsletter, Number 11, February 2024
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Sharon Langley says, 'I created that culture.' 'I enabled that to happen.' What culture is she talking about? The one that she created as the Director of her centre—the one to whom her educators and teachers came to rely on as the fount of all knowledge.

The centre she works at, Ravenswood Early Learning Centre, is part of Discovery Early Learning Centres in Tasmania. Sharon participated in an ongoing distributive leadership project that her organisation had run with Semann & Slattery last year. After mentoring sessions, Sharon realised that she could expect more of her team and that she had to practice self-care - she had to learn not to do everything for everyone – not answer every question for staff when they should be empowered to access the answers elsewhere. She worked out questions she could ask her team instead of giving them the answers – but described realising that she was the one that had set this situation up as a real eye-opener.

Jann Williams is the Manager of Innovation & Strategic Direction at Discovery, a Tasmanian family-owned and operated organisation running 23 education and care services across Tasmania with over 550 staff state-wide. She says the organisation worked with Semann & Slattery to 'develop a project that ran over months as we wanted to see sustained change and embed the new learning rather than a one-off professional development session.'

The distributive leadership project was designed after the organisation asked their directors two questions:

  • What are the biggest leadership challenges you are facing?
  • What support/skills do you need as leaders to be successful in your role?

The directors' answers all centred around team management. The project consisted of a full-day professional learning program in March and another in July, supplemented with mentoring sessions held between July and September. One of the full-day sessions was followed by a staff dinner and a pottery workshop to allow the leaders some much-needed downtime.

Sharon isn't the only director who changed her practice significantly after her professional development.

Sorrell Early Learning Centre, a large service that operates with two co-directors, decided after mentoring to divide their work so that each day, one of the two worked alongside their educators in the rooms to support and guide their practice while the other worked from the office.

Discovery has a strong commitment to professional development and learning. As well as providing this specific type of leadership development to their staff, Discovery also ensures they take a team of educators and managers to conferences such as Inspire, ECA and the Australian Institute of Family Studies conference. Jann says, ‘Our Values state “excellence is a journey”. We believe in and value the importance of reflective practice and ongoing learning for everyone.'

And don’t we want this kind of leadership in every organisation? We think supporting your leaders like this is exceptionally powerful pedagogy!