Coaching a Headteacher – Jim Hartshorne

Published on 24/03/2022

Coaching a Headteacher – Jim Hartshorne, Managing Director of Retail and Consumer and  Ireland, DHL Supply Chain UKI

Last year, Jim Hartshorne coached a headteacher through our charity partner, Teach First. Coming from lower income background himself, Jim knows the value of a great education to help create social mobility and therefore the power of brilliant school leadership. Using his skills and prior experience of coaching, he supported Andrew, Principal at Stoke High School in Ipswich. This is his story.

I didn’t have a great experience when I was at school and could have got more out of it. Hard graft at university and grabbing opportunities that came along is what helped me to correct that and I now see how a better early education would have  benefited me. Without a doubt, education transformed my life and enabled me to lead a very different lifestyle to my parents. I was determined to not let anything hold me back and I feel I’ve done alright.

When I heard about Teach First’s Coaching Programme, I was interested in how I could use my skills to help a headteacher serving more disadvantaged pupils. Coming into this process I knew how valuable coaching is due to my prior work experience. When stepping into my current role, I was given a coach. They gave me guidance on some tricky situations and enabled me to fulfil my role with confidence. I learnt a lot about personal resilience, organisation and team working, all skills I could pass onto someone else.

My coaching journey started with an introductory call with Andrew. I wanted to keep our first session quite informal, spending more time getting to know each other rather than tackling areas of improvement. I felt the more we knew about each other, the easier it would be to find a rhythm of working together – and we did!

I soon began to realise that although we had essentially very different jobs, there were similarities.  Both roles need to:

  • Manage and motivate a team
  • Create and implement a strategy
  • Meet objectives
  • Work to deadlines

In one of our sessions, we talked through his school’s strategy. Although a very impressive document, it was too long and not articulating what he wanted it to. Together we unpicked this and he found it helpful to learn from my approach to communicating my business strategy. We also had conversations about the next step in his career and how he could acquire the skills and experience needed to develop and excel. Due to our honest and open relationship, I felt able to challenge him without offending. This is the power of coaching and why we had many helpful and transparent conversations.

To anyone who is thinking of becoming a coach, don’t underestimate the value we can bring from the jobs we do and the leadership and management skills we have acquired. Even if you know nothing about the education sector, you can still offer so much.

If I could sum up coaching in three words I would say it is: enjoyable, enlightening and rewarding. I encourage more DHL colleagues to get involved if you can!