Headship Institute

The Headship Institute is a development programme created by Claire-Marie Cuthbert (CEO) for serving Head Teachers in the Trust. The Head Teachers meet on a fortnightly basis at the Trust’s Head office and actively engage with the latest research, encompassing the best practice on leadership.

The sessions focus on:

  • Reviewing and analysing strategic issues and analysing the implications of government policy
  • Capturing the emerging experience of The Evolve Trust community in order to embed coherence, consistency and clarity across the Trust
  • Learning from practice across the Trust especially that which is based on evidence and research
  • Monitoring principle into practice
  • Developing a shared language around the keystones and cornerstones
  • Developing the executive as a learning community
  • Supporting well-being, capacity building and sustainability of members of the group
  • Reinforcing the vision, values and culture of The Evolve Trust. 


This term's core text - The Culture Code

This term, the Headship Institute programme has focused heavily on The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. We all know that great culture is the making of an effective organisation and in The Culture Code Daniel Coyle explores and answers two primary questions: Where does great culture come from? And how do you build and sustain it in your group or strengthen in a culture that needs fixing?
From his discovering journey visiting extraordinarily successful organisations—U.S. Navy’s SEALS Team Six, San Antonio Spurs, IDEAL Pixar, Union Square Hospitality and more—he concludes that “While successful culture can look and feel like magic, the truth is that it’s not. Culture is a set of living relationships working towards a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”
The doing of culture is synthesized in three critical skills.
  • Build safety—“explores how signals of connection generate bonds of belonging and identity.
  • Share vulnerability—“explains how habits of mutual risk drive trusting cooperation.”
  • Establish purpose—“tells how narratives create shared goals and values.”
Daniel Coyle relates the fascinating research story about four person groups tasked to build the tallest possible structure using marshmallows, a yard each of string and transparent tape, and 20 uncooked spaghetti. Surprisingly counterintuitively, kindergarten teams dramatically and consistently outperformed groups of lawyers, CEOs, and business school students.
Business students prioritised what “psychologists call ‘status management’ they are figuring out where they fit into the larger picture . . . their interactions appear smooth, but their underlying behaviours are riddled with inefficiency, hesitation and subtle, competition. All of this distracts from the task at hand.
By contrast, “the kindergarteners” actions appear disorganised on the surface, but when you view them as a single entity, their behaviours are efficient and effective. They are not competing for status. They stand shoulder to shoulder and work energetically together. They move quickly, spotting problems and offering help. They experiment, take risks, and notice outcomes, which guides that toward effective solutions.”
As Coyle observes, “The kindergarteners succeed not because they are smarter, but because they work together in a smarter way. They are tapping into a simple and powerful method in which a group of ordinary people can create a performance far beyond the sum of their parts.” The Culture Code “is the story about how that works.”
Each of the reviews in the book are structured around five core questions:
  • What were our intended results?
  • What were our actual results?
  • What caused our results?
  • What would we do the same next time?
  • What will we do differently?”
The Culture Code is proving to be an interesting read and Headship Institute is providing a safe space for senior leaders to consider the implications for their own context through full and frank discussion. More and more leaders across the Trust are also now engaging with this fantastic book. Whilst work around this text continues, we already know that it effectively informs and illuminates the true meaning of “culture” as derived from the Latin cultus, which means care.