Welcome. How Positively Leading Began.

Embark on a transformative journey with me, Jenny Cole, as I pull back the curtain on my personal odyssey through the dynamic world of education and leadership in the premier episode of Positively Leading. From the humble beginnings of an education assistant to the uncharted waters of acting principal, my path was anything but ordinary. The leap into a leading role at a larger school brought with it a wake-up call of overwhelm and burnout. But it was this very challenge that ignited my passion for mentoring future leaders, particularly women, to foster their own leadership prowess without facing the same hardships.

This episode is more than just a narrative; it's an invitation to a community dedicated to nurturing leadership skills and creating a positive impact in educational settings. Listen as I introduce 'Launching into Leadership,' a program meticulously designed to guide new and aspiring leaders through the labyrinth of educational leadership. With a passion for support and empowerment, I extend my wisdom to you, offering insights, strategies, and the companionship of fellow trailblazers on this adventure towards leadership excellence. Join us, and together, let's shape the future of education with confidence and positivity.

Hello and welcome to the very first episode of Positively Leading the podcast. I'm Jenny Cole, I'm your host and I'm the owner of Positively Beaming, which is a business designed to help make sure that leaders and teams in schools do everything that they can to make it better for kids. So let me give you a little bit of a background about how we got here. I started my career in education a long time ago, and I started as an education assistant. I teacher-aid, working in a primary school with a child with autism when I was training to be a special needs teacher. I became a special needs teacher and I taught across country and city, and then, by some fortuitous accidents, I became a leader very early in my career.

I'll probably share the actual details with you another time and I became an acting principal by accident when the principal that I'd been working with was no longer there, and I just made it through that year thinking this can't be hard because I was doing a little bit more than the previous principal and that wasn't hard. And then, for various reasons, I decided that I needed to move to the city and applied for what was then a visiting teacher role, and so visited schools across the state that had children with special educational needs enrolled In. Those days it was students with disabilities. So I got to see all across my home state of Western Australia, which is massive.

Then I decided I was probably ready to give this leadership gig a go one more time and I applied for, and won, a beautiful little school where almost everyone on the staff had already been a principal at some point or had led the school. It was only tiny, it had a couple of very experienced teachers and a couple of very experienced education assistants and I taught half time. I taught in the mornings and then I played it being a principal in the afternoons and I used to jokingly say the only thing that I was good at all the time was answering the phone because we only had a part-time school secretary.

So that was back in the day. I loved that little school and we all bumped along beautifully together, teaching and learning and leading, and I was really fortunate to be on the site of a primary school which had its own leadership team and I watched those people come and go and while I'm not sure that I took a lot of lessons from the other leadership teams, there were plenty of people that I learned from and some people that I learned that I never wanted to lead or be like that. So after seven years I was a bit bored and I applied for a much large special school in the city with very complex students, obviously more staff and a whole range of complexities that I just was not prepared for. And this is when the rubber really hit the road and I realised that I had absolutely no leadership skills at all. No, that's not true. I had the natural ones, the ones that come naturally to me, but I had not learnt anything beyond that in terms of leadership what good leadership looks like and so forth.

And so I volunteered to be part of a professional association, and that professional association was invited to participate in the education department's leadership strategy at the time. So I went to those various meetings and it was very early in the era we were moving over to outcomes based education. We were trying to put together competencies for teachers. It was very early in the leadership competency space. There was certainly very, very, very little learning and development that occurred for principals. Occasionally we got some professional learning on curriculum. As I said, the curriculum was moving over to outcomes based education, but certainly nothing about how good leaders led and what they did and how they bought people along with them and change management models and all of those sorts of things. So I learned on the go and I got through mainly with a bit of charisma and an ability to work really hard.

But then a variety of things happened in our school: a change of student dynamic, change of staff dynamic. A kind of perfect storm of crises arrived simultaneously and in the middle of one of these crises and there was a whole lot more involved in this than what I'm going to share with you. But I was in a case conference with very distressed staff who had been injured by a child, who had been a challenge for a long period of time, and we tried everything that I knew how to do so here. I was not that experienced as a teacher and definitely just winging it in terms of leadership, and I sat there and looked at these amazing teachers and thought I have nothing to give you Because my career had been my life up until that point. I had been really involved in a whole lot of professional associations, a whole lot of steering committees, a whole range of things that have been desperately involved in the curriculum. School was my life, and so I looked at these people and thought, if this is it, I've got nothing left to give. So I reached down and picked up my handbag and walked out of my school that day, never to return.

I realise now what I had was overwhelm and burnout and a severe lack of support from the people who should have been supporting me. If only I had asked for help. That set me on a journey to one make sure that I could pay the rent, but also I never wanted any other leader, particularly a woman in leadership, to get to that point that I got to where I felt overwhelmed and burnt out and left the career that I loved. So I've dedicated the last decade or so to getting really clear about what good leadership looks like.

I've been trained in executive and leadership coaching and also peer coaching and instructional coaching, getting really clear that coaching is an awesome way of leading. That probably would have lessened my burnout if I had known anything about it. So I've dive deep into leadership skills. What makes good leaders? What are the skills, the competencies, the knowledge of good leaders? What do leaders in schools look like? What does women in leadership look like? And I've been presenting and designing and facilitating those courses across schools and systems for some time now, with hundreds of people having gone through my leadership programs, either the women in leadership programs or things like launching into leadership, which is my signature program aimed at new and aspiring leaders.

The other thing I became really fascinated about was wellbeing more generally, and so I did some further study in positive psychology and weave all of that information into my leadership courses. It's not okay just to be skilled in leading. You need to be able to lead yourself, self-develop. You need to be able to manage your own boundaries, your own time and your own wellbeing. So I have been for the last five or six years putting most of what I know into online programs as well as face-to-face programs, and, of course, people still book me to come and work with their teams in schools.

But now I thought I would share more widely with my community, with teachers and this podcast, because I think that's a great way to get to know your teachers and to be able to learn more about them. And I think that's a great way to get to know your teachers by the time you get to more senior leadership roles. You've probably done a little bit of professional learning on leadership by the time you get to a deputy or principal role, generally you will have undergone some sort of training, so you might still be taking a class or a grid line or taking lessons at least half-time and very student-facing. However, have other responsibilities, both formal and informal, so we're not talking about people already in a deputy role for a couple of years. I'm really keen to upskill teacher-leaders who are new, aspiring or those who've got a bit of a confidence wobble, for whatever reason.

This podcast, I wanted to interview people who've been there and done that. I want you to hear from people who are currently in those sorts of roles and the sorts of things that they now know that they needed to learn but didn't know at the time, or the sorts of lessons that they've taken from other really good leaders around them. So my aim is to have half interviews with practising leaders from across Australia at a variety of levels, but also solo episodes with me where I get to talk about some of the things that I've worked out are really important to new and aspiring leaders.

One of the things I didn't mention is that I have coached literally hundreds of veteran and experienced leaders and I know where they trip up and I know the sorts of things that they want from their middle leaders in schools, so I've got this amazing oversight on what actually happens in people's heads when they've been given the role of leader in a school where their strengths are, where they struggle and where they need help, where they make mistakes, where they trip up, but also, importantly, how to overcome some of those things so that we never get to that point.

If this sounds like something that you would love to listen to, then please make sure that you follow the show and if, when it gets going, you really like it, please make sure that you rate and review. I would love you to drop by my website at to check out some of the work that I already do, and if you are a new or aspiring leader, there is plenty that I can offer you, particularly launching into leadership which runs both face-to-face and online, with several intakes each year.

Please let me know if there's anyone in particular you would like me to talk to, and please feel free to give me feedback at any point about what you loved and what you'd like to see more of, and maybe what you don't like. So, signing off, this is Jenny from Positively Beaming, and you've just listened to the very first episode of Positively Leading. I hope to see you again soon.

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