How to improve your provision in the education, skills and training sector

There are many providers across the country who are struggling to get to, or indeed maintain, good provision.


  • Many go into overdrive to try and resolve the issues. Taking an aggressive stance of direct action. With a belief that any action after all is better than no action. Often this approach is attached to a high degree of control and challenge.


  • Many up the motivation game, while running around like the proverbial headless chicken. They pump up the interactions, communications and emotional level in the hope of gaining engagement. But can often lack focus.


  • Many internalise the issues, descending into denial. They tend to look for security in the known while steering clear of the unknown. There is likely to be a high degree of consultation, while trying more of the same, only SMARTer.


  • Many others will analyse the issues thoroughly, plan to the n’th degree and produce multitudes of data to confirm their hypothesis. Their heightened need for perfection will drive a culture of criticism and paralysis by analysis.


There is a great saying:

If you always do what you have always done, your will always get what you have always got.


This saying nevertheless underplays the point that changing what or how you do something is immensely difficult.


So if your organisation is at a crossroads you need not just new strategies but also a new mindset from which to draw these new strategies.


“If you are looking for something that makes sense of what has gone before and gives you a tool to make a real, long lasting cultural change within your organisation, then you have found it here. The impact of this on individuals, teams and the organisation was to move forward on a whole organisational journey towards excellence; where collectively we all stopped doing what we had always done and therefore getting what we had always got and started ‘doing something different’ and ‘getting a whole lot better’.” Jayne Wilcock, Curriculum and Data Manager, Employment Education and Skills, East Riding of Yorkshire.


Here I offer up a 5 step approach to finding a new mindset and the new strategies needed to ensure your provision is at least good. These are steps that are tried and tested in the education sector, and underscore my book DISCover the Power of You: How to cultivate positive and productive cultures, which is being published through John Hunt Publishing in 2017.


Step 1 – Values

There is a huge body of research in the academic and business worlds which shows that values have a major influence on how we act, behave and perform, and so it really is imperative that as individuals and organisations we set our core values explicitly.


Yet how many of us actually do this?


Too often the stated values of an organisation are simple given to employees with little understanding of how we can all view these abstract concepts very differently, or of how they sit alongside our own individual values. This approach creates dissonance and barriers to progress.


All teams should set their team values within the wider organisational context jointly. It is imperative value setting is about both the aspirational and the operational values we hold individually and collectively if we want congruence and success.


Step 2 – Areas of priority

There has also been a considerable amount written about the need for long-term goals based on the organisations key priorities to ensure focus and perseverance.


However, less commented on is the recognition that goals in themselves can be highly restrictive if adhered to after we have outgrown them or on a changing playing field.


Goals need to be placed within a larger context of our values and belief system. This allows us to reframe our goals when the unexpected happens, or the crossroads is reached. We are then better placed to take responsibility for our next steps and development needs through aligning our key priorities and core values to better view our BIG picture.


Step 3 – Limiting beliefs

Beliefs are those things we hold to be true, but which we require no evidence for. The things which allow us or stop us from doing things. An understanding therefore of our own beliefs and our team beliefs, and importantly our limiting beliefs, is key as these will determine what you can and can’t do, and why things should or shouldn’t be done.


This is a key step that can help or hinder your approach to improvement and change, but a step that is rarely considered.


Is it any wonder the CIPD estimate that 70% of all change initiatives fail?


To be one of the 30% we must address those limiting beliefs. For only through challenge those limiting beliefs can we free ourselves up for new approaches, strategies and actions by taking on a new outlook.


Step 4 – Outlook

As habit forming creatures we all tend to have a fairly static outlook. This makes sense much of the time as it is highly energy saving and allows us to get on with our day to day lives without too much distraction.


However, Dr. Carol Dweck, and many others since, have undertaken a huge amount of research into our fixed and growth mindsets.


A fixed mindset will result in thinking our habit approaches are the only approaches open to us. While a growth mindset will allow us to learn, develop and expand our outlook and so the things we can do and achieve.


Step 5 – Reframing

Once we have opened ourselves up to challenging our limiting beliefs and outlook/ mindset we are better placed to undertake reframing.


Reframing changes our perception of the situation which in turn enables us to see alternative and more positive and productive ways of responding.


Most people will have heard the metaphor, ‘Is the glass half-full or half-empty?’ Reframing, which facilitates positive change, does not change that situation. It allows us to view the situation from a different perspective. The glass is always full (consider; half water, half air = full).


Reframing has a way of bringing us to the present and ‘what have you learnt from this’ rather than dwelling on the past.


When we consider that part and parcel of what we are doing in the education sector is offering our students/ learners ‘developmental feedback’ is it not surprising we have not learnt how to do this with one another and within our teams? This enables us to move effectively from the Reality of the situations to our Options, which invariably takes us to more focussed, positive and productive actions.


Bringing it all together

There is a natural progression through value setting and prioritising, beliefs and challenging our limiting beliefs, taking responsibility for our own actions and reframing that enables us to stop ‘shoulding’ all over ourselves and start gaining the clarity we so rightly desire and deserve. These then are my five key steps to improvement;


Step 1        Explicitly set your values (aspirational and operational).

Step 2        Align your key priorities and core values to better view your BIG picture.

Step 3        Challenge those beliefs that have become limiting thereby free yourself up for a new mindset.

Step 4        Take responsibility for your own development to enhance the shift in mindset.

Step 5        Engage in reframing which gives you a means for turning problems into opportunities.


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