What great fun we had last week in Greenwich at the International House DOS (Directors of Studies) conference! Thanks to everyone at IHWO for being so wonderful.

As promised, here are the resources I mentioned during my presentation  – Sorry for the delay in getting them posted –

Tip 1 – Set up a Tickler File!

Tip 2 – Write Everything Down – Decide on your three Most Important Tasks – Do a Weekly Review
Tip 3 – Learn to Say NO!
Tip 4 – Learn to Apologise
Tip 5 – Make respecting the school’s values as important as classroom performance
Tip 6  – It’s Your Ship!
  • Be Positive – Give Positive Feedback – Create a Recognition list and check it every week
  • Fight for your Team – Remove obstacles – Keep Things Simple – Keep them focused
  • Show them you care – Set up a blog – Give them Cake! – one-to-ones
  • Watch what you say
  • Enoy it!


The video might be posted on the IHWO web soon…

As a boy, whenever I was asked the perennial question –‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ – The answer for me was obvious – “The Incredible Hulk” – What else could a young lad growing up in the seventies say?

It’s still the answer I give now.

I spent hours watching the TV show – the great Bill Bixby played David Banner – the forlorn alter ego of Lou Ferrigno’s eponymous green giant. It was a show full of excitement and mystery too. For example, how come Bill Bixby’s purple cords didn’t split round the waist? Why didn’t the Hulk have David Banner’s hairstyle? The biggest mystery of all was, of course, Bill Bixby’s reluctance to take full advantage of his powers. “Don’t make me angry,” he repeated, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Ever the drifter,  David Banner’s sole life mission – in which he failed to a staggering degree – was to avoid situations that might lead him to lose his temper – (my favourite was when David found himself at the controls of a pilot-less plane – as you do – he spends three excruciating minutes in mid-change fighting the demon raging within whilst also trying to land the plane. TV gold!)

But why the reluctance? Can you imagine if every time you got angry you turned into a six-foot eight raging green monster? Why would you ever want to remain calm? I’d wind myself up for fun! The next time a teacher came to my door with the intention of upsetting me, I’d look up (possibly throw in a wink) and say “Come on – make me angry! I dare you!” – I’d probably make that high-pitched sound effect they used during the TV show and flash the lights – “Come on…look I feel my blood pressure rising already. Oh, is that a ripping sound?” I mean that’s power for you! The teachers would quickly become self-policing – “Don’t make him angry,” they’d whisper. Brilliant!

So this month’s tip – Let’s get angry!

Well, actually, no. It’s not.

I’ve had my hulk-like moments –I’ve shouted, thrown books off shelves, even kicked my own office door. It’s understandable – management is a high-pressure job – lots of stress, problem solving, people constantly demanding your attention. But getting angry never solves anything and usually makes you look a complete…idiot.

Your responsibility is to help people do their jobs effectively. The only way to do this is to have effective communication with all your team.  You can’t have effective communication if you lose your temper – it produces days, weeks, months of rebuilding the relationship.

So my real tip is this – It’s Ok to feel angry. But it’s not OK to express your anger. So no matter how great the temptation – Don’t throw things at teachers. Don’t lose your temper.

Somebody once declared that all great management decisions come from love. Turning green, ripping your purple cords and smashing up the staffroom doesn’t say ‘I love you.’

Next time you feel angry go outside, take a walk, count to ten and come back and show the teachers that you love them…because you do, don’t you?

Do you want to get organised? Do you want to be successful? Do you want to be both those things whilst actually working less? Do you want to do all those things with the help of zombies and Oreo ice-cream cake? Well Stever Robbins is at hand with a great new book – Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 steps to Work Less and Do More

You might know Stever Robbins as the Get-it-Done guy from the Quick and Dirty tips Podcast. His book, Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More,  is a playful, yet serious guide to working less and doing more. In other words, creating a more productive life. It lays out nine skills that apply anywhere you want to get greater results with less work.

Stever was kind enough to agree to do an interview for this blog – Hope you enjoy it – Don’t forget to subscribe to Stever’s great podcast at http://getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com/

…and why not buy all of your friends a copy of Stever’s book for Christmas? Why not buy each of your friends 10 copies?…Stever asked me to say that. I’m not on commission…honest.


Welcome to the blog, Stever – Just in case there’s anyone out there who hasn’t come across you yet, could you give us a brief description of who you are and what you’re passionate about?

I’m a serial entrepreneur and self-professed personal organization geek who helps people get things done with humor and fun. At the moment, I help people streamline their lives and increase their personal productivity. What I really do is help them become better at creating the whole life they want, not just at work.
I’m currently working on my 10th startup, which is oriented around helping people create a life that works for them.
My fantasy career involves more communications work. I’m quite good at making complex things simple to understand and communicating them well. My favorite side project is a one-man musical based on my book, which I’m co-writing for me to perform. It will have all the information, tips, and excitement of a normal business keynote, but with singing, drama, zombies, and Oreo ice cream cake.

Book me tickets for the Milan show! Your Get-It-Done-Guy podcast has really helped me work less and do more – which of the many episodes are you most proud of?

For some reason, I’m extremely fond of one of my first episodes, “How to Say No.”It’s a skill I’m not very good at, and I had a woman who’s a master at the skill do a demo. I still listen to that episode so I can practice the skill myself.

Now, as well as the podcast you have a new book out – The Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps To Work Less and Do More. What’s in there to help make life easier for people – like me – working in educational management?

The nine steps are designed to cover the major areas I’ve seen people work without getting results. Working on Purpose is good for keeping your work oriented towards what’s most important. Step 5: Staying Organized is probably especially helpful in education management since you have events that repeat and are coordinating programs that may involve hundreds of students, instructors, and classes all having similar issues. It covers how to organize your thinking and keep straight lots of little details. I wrote it when working at Babson College and several of the tips in it came from systems I developed to help manage student teams. Step 7: Optimize is also especially well-suited for educational management, since it details how to create systems that learn as you use them.

That sounds great. Stever, I know how much you love meetings… – any tips for anyone out there struggling to run effective meetings?

Think long and hard about what a given meeting is trying to accomplish: share information, make decisions, build morale, etc. Then brainstorm for any other way to accomplish the same goal. If you must have a meeting, have a clear goal, an agenda, a time keeper, and a “parking lot” for issues that come up that are tangential but should be addressed later. Then stick to the agenda as if your life depended on it. End promptly at the stated finishing time.

Just one last question – This blog is for people working in education – Who have you learnt most from in your life?

My book is dedicated to seven people who have taught me life-changing lessons, whether through lifelong relationships or through one-time comments that were exactly what I needed to hear at pivotal moments in my life. Three have been ongoing influences in my life. First and foremost is my college professor, field study advisor, boss, friend, and now President of Babson College, Len Schlesinger. He’s one of the sharpest business minds I’ve ever met, as well as one of the most approachable. He also dreams big. Very, very big. I like that. Other big influences include Richard Bandler, who taught me ways of understanding interpersonal behavior, and my friend Tamin Pechet, who is one of the best brainstorming partners I’ve had; I can barely keep up with his good ideas and insights.

I’d like to thank Stever for taking the time to do the interview – I’m sure you’ll all buy the book – http://www.steverrobbins.com/the-book/ I’d love to know which tips you find most useful – please leave a comment!

Anyone who has ever worked with me speaks fondly of my love of story-telling. There’s nothing my colleagues like more than hearing me reminisce. They often beg me to tell them one of my long, meandering, carefully crafted jokes. Well, actually that’s not entirely true. People have been known to wrestle me to the ground and punch me until I surrender my desire to share my jolly tales.

Some people just have no taste.

I am, however, convinced of the power of the story as a tool for teaching and helping people learn. Some stories just arouse curiosity and interest  – E.g., here’s a  true story from my own school –

Last week I popped into the staffroom in the vain hope that someone might want to buy me a coffee, when I was greeted with an unusual sight – two teachers were lying on the floor under the table. One of them was holding  a glass of water. The other – a roll of masking tape. And between them both sat a small, slightly worried lizard. Now, I’m not  going to tell you why they were there – believe me, you don’t want to know. But you have to admit it  – you’re curious, aren’t you?

Good managers should be story-tellers. People are inspired by stories. Inspired by narrative. Not by statistics. Not by procedures. I am sometimes asked to give trainee teachers tips on how to behave in interviews. Instead of giving them a list of dos-and-don’ts , I prefer to tell them true tales of nightmare interviews I have sat through – E.g., the teacher who told me she loved everything about teaching except ‘those bits in the classroom.’ Just as we all – thanks to Little Red Riding Hood – learnt not to trust grandmothers with snouts and whiskers, so they too can learn what not to say in an interview thanks to the power of the story.

Next time you have a teachers’ meeting, try inspiring the troops with great stories rather than dry facts or procedures.

Speaking of stories, the Reinvention Summit  – a two-week virtual conference focusing on best practices for creating and delivering stories that can help individuals and organisations to reinvent – is currently underway. It’s a gathering of a new tribe of storytellers: change-makers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and creatives who see storytelling as critical to their work and mission.

There’s a star-studded line-up of 25+ speakers with diverse backgrounds to lead teleseminars, interviews, and panel discussions that relate to the future of storytelling as our world goes through reinvention. All sessions are recorded for playback. The online summit includes lots of social networking, collaboration, and crowd-sourcing for those who feel inspired to play. Entry-level pricing starts at just $11.11. To learn more: visit www.reinventionsummit.com

  • As a reader of this blog, www.getstoried.com – the organisers of the Reinvention summit –  are kindly offering you two great deals
  • – A coupon for $25 OFF an Activators or Explorers Pass. Use code: REINVENTION
  • “Believe Me: a Storytelling Manifesto for Change-makers and Innovators”. An 88-page gift to you! Complimentary download is available at http://www.believemethebook.com

Enjoy the summit and keep telling stories!

In a previous incarnation I worked in a sales office. We were a venue that hosted staff parties, etc. (commonly know as a bowling alley). My finest moment came with a booking for over 200 people – That’s 200 people! Show me the money! I was flavour of the month – for days people high-fived me as I walked into work and strangers hugged me and said things like “way to go, Tiger!”

I deserved no less.

We drafted in extra staff for the big event – stocked the bar so that the fridges were bulging – turned away groups of potential customers, kids and their distraught families sent crying from our door. We didn’t need them – we had my 200 people coming in! Ten minutes before their arrival, Mike – my general manager – put on his best tie and brushed his hair. We headed for the main entrance trying to hide the pound signs in our eyes and we waited.

And we waited.

And waited.

It soon became apparent that I had written the booking down on the wrong day. The 200 weren’t coming.  Mike – my long-suffering boss – looked around at the venue that was devoid of customers but full of staff. Lots of staff. All on overtime. As his shoulders dropped I took the opportunity to leg it through the front doors.

I bought myself a can of beer on the way home. I sat on my bed- a lonely figure (where were the high-fives? where were the hugs?) – and there was only one thing I could do.

I slapped my hand to my forehead and shouted “Doh!”

What else could I do?

Proof – as if any were needed – that Homer Simpson is indeed the world’s greatest teacher.

On Monday morning my boss was waiting for me at the door. His hair was a little messy. There was no sign of his best tie. He sat me down in his office and watched me whimper for a while.

“Not your greatest moment ever, eh, Mike?” he said to me.

And then he added – “Don’t worry. Nobody’s perfect.”

And that was it.

What a great lesson he (and Homer) taught me – Everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE.

As managers – I believe – not only do we NOT need to be perfect but that it’s unrealistic to always aim to be so. We just don’t have the time. If we haven’t made a few mistakes by lunchtime it probably means we’re not working hard enough.

So if you do make a mistake you should welcome it. I love this quotation from boxing legend Muhammad Ali –

“It’s just a job. Grass grows. Birds fly. Waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

If we don’t reach perfection, so what? If you make a mistake, slap your head and shout ‘Doh!’ and get on with your life. It’s just a job. Be kind to yourself…

…And let others make mistakes too – What a great lesson Mike taught me – Thanks, Mr Crane!

Do you agree? Please leave a comment.

USeful Resource – TED

April 10, 2010

TED is probably my favourite website. You get free access to talks by the world’s best speakers on a whole range of topics.

Here’s my favourite  – Ken Robinson says schools kills creativity


Issue: Saying No

April 2, 2010

I meet a lot of DoSes and I’m always amazed at how busy everyone is.

DoSes who do fifteen hours of teaching.

DoSes who put in more than fifty office hours a week.

DoSes involved in marketing. DoSes involved in sales. DoSes involved in finance.

I meet a lot of DoSes – and quite frankly we’re a  fairly knackered bunch!

It seems we just can’t say ‘no’. Let’s imagine the director comes in and says ‘hey, as it’s a quiet period I was just thinking that you could take on a bit more teaching – starting with these five hours here.’

Now let’s imagine your response – You look the director in the eyes, smile and say ‘You know, it’s a shame as I’m sure I’d be perfect fo those lessons, but with the fifteen other projects I’ve got going on I just don’t think I’d have the time to commit to that.’ Can you imagine?

Is it guilt that stops us from doing this? Is it just that we don’t like letting people down. Are we scared that people might start questioning our commitment? (I suspect that we secretly enjoy the status of being ‘superbusy’ or the ‘only one who works around here’…therein lies the path to madness…)

It doesn’t help that there’s quite a lot of mystery involved in the role of the DoS – I suspect a lot of colleagues have no idea just how much work we do! This leads to many a raised eyebrow when we do refuse to do something. This guy’s just the DoS. He spends all day on YouTube and having coffee with students…Of course he’s got time to do this…

However, for the sake of our own sanity and for the good of our schools we have to learn to say ‘no’.

It helps to have a really clear idea of what projects need our attention. It helps to plan out each week in advance so we can see at a glance just how much time we have available. That way you can assess each request and decide if it’s important enough to do and if you have the time to do it.

There’s only so much you can do. So the next time the director comes into the office and suggests you take on another five hours teaching you know what to say.

  • Be polite
  • Explain why you feel unable to accept their kind offer of more work
  • Suggest an alternative
  • If you really can’t say ‘no’, ask what projects you should stop doing in order to find the time for the new one.

There’s lots of online advice on saying no



William Ury, author of the book ‘The Power of a Positive No’ (mentioned in the Time article) has his own website – http://www.williamury.com He offers a free tip sheet on saying no – http://www.williamury.com/files/PositiveNoTips.pdf

Do you find it difficult to say no? Please leave your comments.

Issue: Interviewing

February 23, 2010

The first interview you do as DoS is a nerve-wracking experience. You stride down the corridor with confidence, grasp the interviewee’s hand with vigour and all the time you suspect this is it–  this is the moment you’ll be found out. A few weeks ago you were laminating photos of zebras for your beginner group and now you have someone’s future in your fresh managerial paws.

It gets better with time, but the interview process will always be an art form rather than a science. There is so much to weigh up when assessing a candidate and it’s incredibly difficult to work out just how this person is going to perform in the school – week in, week out. Instinct and psychology both have an important role to play.

I’ve spoken to other Doses and attended talks about recruitment and what people are looking for when they interview candidates – I often hear things about experience, knowledge, qualifications. It’s surprisingly rare for people to mention talent as a key factor in deciding whether to employ someone or not. Is talent just too hard to assess? Do we feel that it’s not our place to decide if someone is talented or not? Maybe it’s just simpler to look at a CV and think  ‘Ah, they have the DELTA…that’ll do.’ Would it not be better to have an inexperienced but talented teacher over a well-qualified teacher who doesn’t have the same natural ability?

I really like what Jack Welch has to say about recruitment. In his book Winning he states that ‘hiring great people is brutally hard…I’d say as a young manager, I picked the right people about 50 per cent of the time. Thirty years later, I had improved to about 80 per cent.’

So if it’s difficult for Jack Welch…

Jack has some great advice to offer with his 4-E (and 1p) formula. He suggests that we should be looking for

  • Positive Energy
  • The ability to Energize others
  • Edge (the ability to make decisions)
  • Execute (the ability to get the job done)
  • Passion

They may not all be equally relevant to someone recruiting English language teachers, but energy, the ability to energize others and passion should surely be near the top of our recruiting criteria.

It’s easy to get swamped by details when assessing CVs and interviewees. In the end we can simplify things by asking two questions –

  • Am I going to be able to work with this person for the next x years?
  • Would I be excited about having this person as my teacher?

Let me know what you think…

Should we talk more about talent when recruiting EFL teachers?

Is the 4E (and 1p) formula any use to us?