Believing in the power of education

Stephen Mitchell

Leader, Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, NED

By - Stephen Mitchell


So, I’m 7 weeks (and one half term) into my new role.  I’m loving it.   Now seems an apt time to pause for a second and reflect on the last couple of months

Finding your passion

A friend has just asked me via a Facebook message how they can get ‘on the ball’ again in their job.  I can empathise, and I’m sure most reading this can too.  There are phases when you just don’t ‘feel’ it.  I’ve been so lucky, and I know it, that I’ve tended to have jobs that get under my skin,- that I live and breathe that organisation.  I’d hate to have a job where that wasn’t the case.  Certainly in the last few months of my old job the mojo had gone though and it felt I was treading water.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I sought a new post.

My advice to my friend was that they had to find what it was that they were passionate about in their work before and let that guide them.

I’m genuinely loving my new role.  I’m surrounded by some incredible people, but what has really bowled me over has been the amazing team spirit.  Best summed up by a meeting the other day when our CEO was talking to a third party about how we work and he referred to us as ‘brothers and sisters’. That’s given us all quite a lot of scope to laugh,- it does sound a bit 1970’s hippyish, but actually encapsulates the team ethos we have, we are one, and we’re working together as one. It’s special.  


I joked a few weeks back that my to do list is now on a flip chart pad, landscape.   There seems to be so many priorities,- all of which will have a positive impact on the way that we work for our children.

I keep being reminded, almost everywhere I turn of Focus.   Jony Ive describes Steve Job’s legendary laser like focus really well here

This is a challenge,- but I know that I need to pick my priorities, and then prioritise those.  Managing the expectations of those around me is crucial,- I can’t possibly do everything that is hoped immediately, which leads to my next learning point


I’m surrounded by great people,- and the capacity for what we can achieve is awe inspiring.   I often say when asked what the best team was that I worked with, that it was one I was part of over 10 years ago.  It was a combination of some very different personalities, all coming together with a shared vision and ethos.  It was an incredible time and one I look back on with fond memories.

My current colleagues match it in every way. I’m proud to be part of this team and I’m thankful for the skills and passion they bring to their work.


When embarking on a series of changes we all know that communication is crucial.  I’ve made a conscious effort to be more personal about how I communicate,- face to face rather than email.  It is so much easier to bring people with you on the journey when communication is good.   I was in a meeting the other day and people who had been in different teams, on the same site, for a number of years didn’t know each other’s names. This shocked me,- and just drove home how important communication will be across my teams moving forward.  It is a key part of the Learning Organisation theory I’ve covered in earlier posts.


‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept’.  I heard one of my team saying this to their team the other day when they didn’t know I was about.  I could have done a jig.  This phrase, (I pinched it from somewhere else, so I can’t take credit) is something I’ve been saying lots recently and it’s great to see it getting embedded.  It’s such a simple truth, and really powerful.   It’s been coupled with lots of reaching high hand gestures to demonstrate setting our standards.  Our Board say they want to be the best Board in the country,- great, that’s just the aspiration I want our Board to have, and it makes it easy for me to say that I want the support teams in our MAT to be the best in the country too. We’re doing a lot of work on defining what these standards should be and how we should measure them. (cue Balanced Scorecards,- watch this space). Once we get this nailed I’ll feel a whole load more comfortable.


7 weeks in,- I now have a good grip on the organisation I’ve joined.  I’m clear in my mind what changes we need to make, and as I reflect on this, I’m also very clear about how urgently we need to make these.   If we are to serve our children as well as we can, and to give our teachers the best playing field from which to deliver outstanding education and life transforming opportunities then there can be no excuse for not embracing the high standards we’re setting and to get on the path to delivering them.

Now, to get on with it!