7 implementation ideas for your behaviour strategy

In a previous post, I set out the components of a great behaviour strategy. The strategy alone is of course not enough. In order to secure not just the absence of poor behaviour but children flourishing, the implementation is the star of the show. Making any strategy systematic requires dogged determination and here are some ideas that could make it a reality.

1. Make sure the why is front and centre

We must be careful not to jump straight into the what. It is far more likely that colleagues will collectively enact a behaviour strategy if the why is widely understood. For us, the reasons for making the improvements to the behaviour strategy lie in the vision for the future that we’ve established.

An important addition to this is the wider aim of the school. For children to flourish, there needs to be not just the absence of negative behaviours but the explicit teaching of productive behaviours.

2. Commit to developing a shared understanding of the active ingredients

Although colleagues knowing why is important, it must be quickly followed by some detail or we risk frustration. The first level of necessary detail is developing a shared understanding of the active ingredients of the behaviour strategy – key concepts or behaviours that must be consistently understood and applied. A group reaches shared understanding of a set of concepts over time and not after one presentation. Leaders must beware of assuming that staff know what they know just because information has been shared. As such, there needs to be a range of implementation activities over an extended period of time. Those activities rely heavily on colleagues knowing the key concepts so regular conversations using common, consistent language are vital.

3. Harness the influencers

A lone senior leader mandating change can work well in certain situations but in others, can hinder implementation. By selecting and training influencers in advance of whole staff sessions, we can ensure multiple, confident voices which is great for generating momentum. Pitching an idea to an entire staff without having primed key people is a mistake. Having a number of colleagues amplifying the key messages and advocating the strategies will be far more reassuring for staff and more likely to result in good implementation. If anyone is uncertain or even resistant, having more colleagues as advocates can more effectively influence them than a lone senior leader could.

4. Provide clear initial training and regular follow up sessions

To get any group to learn new strategies and adapt habits requires lots of practice, lots of repetition and timely feedback. That initial training session benefits from being short and clear. Even if a strategy has only minor alterations, the perception of change can sometimes be greater than the change itself. Providing an overview of the strategy and scripting the first steps will be more likely to result in successful habit change than sharing the strategy in its entirety in the first session.

Follow up sessions might be with the whole staff but more likely they’ll be lead by influencers such as year leaders in team meetings. Those follow up meetings will take place after staff have tried out different aspects of the strategy and the influencers will need to ensure certain conditions in order to develop understanding and support their teams. One of those conditions is that everyone in the group should talk in equal measure rather than be dominated by one voice. The goal would be to check understanding of the active ingredients and to ‘fill the windscreen’ with a reinforcing narrative of strategies that have worked. This can lead nicely on shared problem solving of situations where there has not yet been success.

5. Provide individual coaching and feedback

There will always be colleagues that have tough situations to crack with managing behaviour and cultural leadership of their room. This can be informal through the encouragement of low stakes visits to colleagues’ rooms and returning the favour by inviting them back. The key is enabling the discussions afterwards.

Sometimes the coaching can be more formal. An example of this can be asking a colleague to picture a goal and what achievement of that goal looks and feels like. Once that is clear, asking them to vividly imagine the obstacles can help to isolate tricky parts and subsequent analysis and problem solving.

A further option could be less of a coaching model and more of a mentoring model whereby someone highly skilled in managing behaviour models particular strategies for a less experienced colleagues, setting small steps to develop their expertise. It can help here to establish memorable rules of thumb – if that happens, do this.

6. Create a system of reminders

We all need reminding of things occasionally as we settle into certain routines and one way of nudging behaviour is to provide timely memory prompts. This could be in the form of staff newsletter which states particular strategies. It could also be more subtle. For example, a thank you board in the staff that recognises efforts in cultural leadership can provide a prompt that is just as effective. A final suggestion for reminders can be the presence of a highly visible senior leadership team modelling certain behaviours that may be slipping in order to show what we value.

7. Get parents on board

Parents want their children to be happy and successful at school and the home-school relationship is vital to fully implementing a behaviour strategy. Karen Wespieser’s ResearchEd Home talk on improving home-school relationships is a great source of advice for this. We share expectations of behaviour with children but if we neglect sharing those same expectations with parents, we’ve missed a trick.

Parental workshops can engage most but sometimes it is the hardest to reach parents that we most need to work with. There can be many reasons for parents not engaging but reaching out to parents before needing to contact them with bad news can work wonders. Early and regular conversations to build a relationship, share what is expected and, importantly, share success of the child are great ways to influence the behaviour of those that need our guidance the most.

7 implementation ideas for your behaviour strategy