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5P's of Processing Pressure - PARTNER

(Trigger warning - this blog has a story about managing bereavement that some readers might find upsetting. Please consider your emotional health before reading.)

My leadership team knew it was something significant as we did not normally have 7.30am meetings. There was a sombre mood as I shared that sad news with them that one of our valued colleagues had sadly passed away the night before. I gave them a moment to pause, to remember her, to share their stories of her and for us to be in the moment. And then it came to the question of how we shared this news with the staff, pupils and parents. I had given it some thought and I shared how I thought we should leave it until later in the day to support staff and to enable them time later in the day to grieve together without the pressure of work. It did not take long for the SLT to supportively but clearly say, ‘that is not a good idea’. Together, we explored ways to share this with staff at the start of the day, give them moments to be with one another and yet allow the school to operate that day and then how to share this with pupils and with parents. Partnering with my SLT that day enabled us to support the school community through a difficult moment.

Some moments are etched deep in your memory and moments of high pressure often hold the monopoly of those. This moment is etched clearly with me, not just for the pressure of getting this right but also for the power of ‘partnering’, one of the ‘5P’s of processing pressure’.






You never walk alone

Liverpool football club have an anthem sung at their games of ‘You’’ never walk alone’. Originally written for a musical, Gerry & the Pacemakers, a Liverpool band covered it and it became Liverpool’s anthem in the 1960’s. With the iconic lines of ‘Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone’. It’s a song that reminds of the importance of partnering in community and of hope.

There can be a sense, that in moments of pressure that we are alone. Of course, there are moments when we truly are, but in many moments, there are people around us that we can rely on and partner with. Sometimes, like the moment sharing grief with a community, they step in. Sometimes we need to spot them and ask for that help. One of the misunderstandings of leadership is that leaders need to be strong and do things themselves. This is unhelpful as in moments of pressure, working in partnership with others can enable us to get a clearer picture.

By leaning into those who are there for you in those moments, you gain a wisdom and insight and it enables you to have confidence in decisions as you don’t walk alone. You walk with those who have advised you. If things go not so well, you know there are others who stand with you on those decisions.

‘I intend to’

David Marquet in his brilliant book, Turn the ship around, explains an important action of sharing with colleagues the phrase ‘I intend to’. By doing so it allows a time to reflect and time for your colleagues to give you feedback and avoid potential pitfalls. In my story above, by trusting partners with the ‘I intend to’, it enabled them to help me see the pitfalls of that action and support me in finding a way forward. Often, in pressure moments, we are operating more in our emotional brain centre, our Amygdala. When we share intentions with others, it allows a collective frontal lobe of thinking that is more thought through.

Purposeful in pressure

Some pressure moments are sudden and require us to partner with those who are close and available to us. Sometimes there are moments to PAUSE and PONDER and to purposefully plan for those that we need to partner with us in these pressurised moments. In our Leadership Lounge podcast this month on Processing Pressure, I chat with Anna Hennell James about the moment of a bomb scare that I called upon her. I was at a funeral several hours away when my school received a bomb scare call. In that moment that I was called by the Assistant Head who was dealing with the situation on site, I knew I needed to support her by giving her a team of experience to support her as she dealt with the situation at the school. Anna, a local head of many years’ experience was the one that I called to assist my Assistant Head at the school. The school was being evacuated to another local school where another experienced headteacher friend of mine, Shaun, was there to support them. In these moments, we need to consider

What blend of skills do I need in this moment?

Who do I know that can support me in this?

You then gather them and gather their input.

I knew in that moment of pressure; I needed people of experience to support my Assistant Head. She did a superb job of handling a crisis that would have tested most people. This was achieved by her hard work, a very good emergency action plan that we had, an excellent leadership team and staff and an experienced pair of headteachers to support her. Choosing partners who have what you need in moments of pressure adds to existing capability and strengthens your position.

Dealing with high moments of pressure can feel crushing. Imagine a heavy weight coming down on you. How would you rather deal with it, trying to hold it off by yourself or with trusted colleagues alongside you holding it up too? The old phrase, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is helpful here. When we work in partnership with trusted colleagues, with people who can bring an expertise or wisdom, we ease the pressure on ourselves to a more manageable level. It helps us to find elements of control in uncontrollable moments.

If you would like help to review and reframe your pressure, contact us at Everyday Leader. We can empower you to gain clarity with some simple questions to help you understand and manage it better. Give us a call at 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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