Rugby, education and Love = High Performance Turnaround

Friday saw us bring together 40+ directors of Sport, Talent Development Managers and senior business leaders from retail, hospitality, food, utilities, automotive and pharmaceutical to explore #turnaround stories  – the fourth event we’ve hosted in as series around #highperformance

Our setting for this event was the Thomas Becket Catholic School, Northampton a #Turnaround story lead by Ciran Stapleton (Executive Head Teacher). (We’ve been involved with the school for a couple of years following an event we ran for the England Rugby National Performance Programme… you can read more about it here.)

Our topics for the event on Friday were wide ranging under the umbrella of #turnaround … and included love, leadership, responsibility, culture, accountability, results, authenticity and role modelling….

The afternoon began with us sharing 4 questions for reflection during the learning walk around the school. This was an opportunity to engage with staff, pupils as leaders and classroom activity – the questions:

  1. How would you describe the culture you see?
  2. What is your evidence for this?
  3. What leadership footprints can you see that drive this culture?
  4. What are you curious about?

My personal reflection of one moment from this walk:

It may have been a happy accident but I was lucky enough to sit with two pupils undertaking a ‘pitch’ style activity. Their challenge was to pitch which fuel source was the best for the business they were representing, they chose fossil fuels. What amazed me was not that they could articulate well their reasoning but more importantly how they were considerate of each other in this. What I mean is , I hadn’t clocked that one of the pair was new too the school and had English as a second language. On me asking questions directly to him, the other pupil in the pair quickly dealt with any ambiguity by reframing what I had said so this new eager pupil could share his thoughts without fear. I was humbled by this action. It’s all in the ethos badge they tell me…

What else did I see….

  • Question based teaching where educators were providing context and asking well placed questions to learners. Allowing them to fill the gaps and build the story (History Lesson)
  • Behavioural integrity, even though we were on a ‘corporate walk round’ this didn’t stop our guide (and teacher) from performing in role, checking in on kids and asking one to do up his tie (which they did quite politely)
  • Children open to conversation with adults, happy to explain what’s happening and explore meaning with these new visitors from another world (confidence in abundance)
  • Pastoral care, but more. It seemed pupils would come and find teachers when they knew they cared about them beyond their education (services beyond teaching)

After the walk, we gathered back in the auditorium where Ciran Stapleton shared his raw experiences of the journey of #Turnaround including how in his first year of leadership the school achieved the best ever exam results, placing them as one of the highest performing in Northampton.

I sat listening inte

ntly trying to understand how Ciran had done this. What is it about Ciran (and his team) that had lead to this change?  Where my thoughts took me was his ‘frankness’ and ‘honesty’ about the situation/context and an unforgiving optimism for what the school (more so its pupils) could become (and are becoming).

Following Ciran we were privileged to hear from Don Barrell (England Rugby –  Head of Regional Academies) who shared what he saw as this similarities and differences in his experience and beliefs, and those we’d heard about from Ciran. In this sharing we were give a glimpse into #HighPerformance and how Don’s work with ‘talented athletes’ has had an impact.

 

You can read key thoughts from both Ciran and Don collated in the threadreader.app here 

A key message… one that we probably weren’t expecting to hear.. was about the need for LOVE.  To hear Don talk about the LOVE that academy managers have towards their young players… and the clarity by which he interprets that word is inspiring.  To hear Ciran talk about LOVE for kids that may not behave, who many think don’t deserve to be loved, who may not be loved by anyone else.. is humbling.

Following robust discussion with our guests.. many who had spent the afternoon furiously scribbling, debating and questionning what they’d heard, we headed to Franklin’s Gardens, home of Northampton Saints

We were able to invite our guests to watch the the 6 Nations U20’s England vs Scotland .  Some of the players had previously visited Thomas Becket Catholic School as part of the NPP programme, and we were delighted to treat 40 pupils and 10 teachers at the game and to watch them interact with the players after the  match (lots of photos were taken!)  For many of the kids this was their first ever rugby (or even live sports) game and for some it was their first organised “trip” of any description!

Hearing two inspirational stories of  high performance from two ends of a spectrum was amazing. The heart wrenching stories of the adversity the kids in one of the poorest areas of the country have to face and how a classic “lone nut” and a band of first followers (the schools leadership) have created something very special. (What a privilege to be able to walk the school and meet their amazing students.)

Then to hear about a world of high performance sport through stories of Saracens and England and again to be able to experience a bit of this world by watching England U20 v Scotland U20 in the presence of a number of professional sports people (including a World Cup Winner! 😊 #mancrush)

My final reflection is that I got to share all these moments  not just with some great clients I think of as friends but with some of the very special Team Green –  thanks for some great memories guys.