Our founder and director, Elaine Sutton, reflects on her experience of leadership and offers her expert advice on how to lead a team.

One of the biggest challenges (and privileges!) of being the owner of a growing business is building and leading a team.

I started working as a sole trader in 2007. Having been encouraged by a bunch of headteachers to leave my secure role as a local authority education consultant to go solo, I later went on to register my company, Dimensions Curriculum Ltd, in 2011.

Finding the right people to join you on the journey to where you want to be can be both challenging and exciting.

There are, however, a number of things that I have learnt from experience about leading a team that I’d like to share with you.

  1. Share your DNA
  2. Empower people
  3. Use their strengths
  4. Lead by example
  5. Be flexible

Share your DNA

What on earth do you mean, I hear you say? Well, it’s something I wish I’d done years ago! I wish I’d actually articulated what lies at the very heart of Dimensions Curriculum. It’s not just who you are, not just your values, but what drives everything you do. That’s your DNA. It links to your beliefs and attitudes, such as your educational philosophy and your pedagogical thinking.

You can read what our DNA is here, as an example.

The best thing about establishing this is that your team then has a shared blueprint to work from – this is how and why we do what we do.

The benefits are:

  • Everyone is on the same page, applying it into every situation
  • There’s then a consistent approach
  • Your DNA can be shared on induction with any new staff

It’s well worth defining your DNA, to help develop consistency and cohesion.

Empower people

You’ve got a team to help you, so you need to let them get on with it.

A mentor once shared this “Green and Clean” clip with me – and it perfectly sums up the mindset and actions needed to empower your staff. It’s not about throwing people in at the deep end, but supporting and encouraging them in what you’ve given them to do.

Don’t just give them the ‘what’ of a task but the ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘when’, too!

Use their strengths

Enabling each member of your team to play to their strengths sounds like common sense, but that means that you need to work out at least some of those strengths when you are recruiting.

Don’t just go off a CV or standard interview questions. If you want to recruit someone creative, for example, give them a relevant task to do that will allow them to demonstrate that skill.

Here at Dimensions Curriculum, we are educators who design innovative curriculum resources. I want consultants and writers who are capable creatives, so often ask candidates to teach me something in five minutes that they think I won’t already know how to do. It means they have to think on their feet… and I’ve learnt all sorts of new things!

Sometimes, you’ll discover new strengths in staff that only come to light in a given situation. Use them wisely.

Lead by example

The old “do as I say, not do as I do” adage won’t cut it as a leader. I believe it’s vital to ‘walk the talk’. Delivering on promises, listening well and getting your hands dirty are all examples of this, and go a long way with staff.

If your team sees that you really value people and, therefore, are willing to get stuck in and help practically, then they will, too. It’s actions, not just words, that count.

Be flexible

A bit of give and take. Not all team members respond to direction in the same way. So, your style needs to fit both the individual and the situation. Remember, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. You need to get to know each member of your team well so that you can get the best out of them. What motivates them? What support do they need?

Hopefully, my tips on leading a team will help you to navigate the world of leadership in your own way to get the most out of your colleagues. If you have any feedback on my advice, please share it with us!