“You’ve got to go and try things. Don’t wait for the perfect time, go out and try it!” | Drew Povey
Drew Povey, Executive Headteacher from Channel 4’s popular show, Educating Greater Manchester, and self-confessed leadership geek, has been known to describe himself as “average on a good day”.
This self-deprecation is arguably misplaced when you consider he has been invited to share his leadership principles and executive-coach with some of the biggest national international organisations including the NHS, Greater Manchester Police, Team Sky, Rolls Royce, Lloyds Banking Group, MITIE, Cash Convertors and England Rugby. Drew Povey is a man in demand!
At a young age, Drew admits he was not always the best-behaved and most engaged young man at school. However, he found his niche in rugby and played at a high level, including a Challenge Cup game against the Warrington Wolves. Through his love of rugby, Povey turned his hand to coaching, a move that proved to be significant for the rest of his life.
“From early on in my coaching, I began to see that there was great power in being able to help people to think in certain ways and believe in their abilities. The ultimate aim was to try and change the way that they approached the game.”
Drew became more and more interested in the psychology of performance and went on to coach the Warrington Wolves Under 13s side (to Lancashire Plate success) before being asked to work with the Elite Development Squad and, eventually, the first team. These experiences were Drew’s first steps in implementing his leadership style in the context of sporting squads. After graduating, he went into teaching, and found that a lot of the lessons he had learnt from sport were directly transferable into the school setting.
“You go in trying to get these people to raise
their expectations of themselves, tweak their attitude
and give them high levels of belief”
“What you’re doing with a class of students is essentially what you would do with a group of athletes. You go in trying to get these people to raise their expectations of themselves, tweak their attitude and give them high levels of belief.”
Drew’s transition from sport into education was seamless. He won two national awards within his first year of being a teacher and always managed to get the best possible results out of the students he taught. For Drew, however, the results were not the most important factor.
“We’re obsessed with measuring things, winning in sport, exam results, Ofsted and business profits. What we should do is take one step back from those outcomes and reflect on the actions that generated the results.”
Povey continues, “The first rung of the ladder will always be mindset, beliefs and attitude. However, it’s crucial to ensure that initially the right culture is in place. If you’ve not got the culture right, then developing the mindset, beliefs and the attitudes will be impossible. Finally, once these steps are in place then that is the time to roll out your strategy.”
Drew’s most famous example of changing a culture to achieve success began when he was appointed as Headteacher at Harrop Fold School in Salford. Just prior to Drew joining the school, it had been labelled as the worst in the country. Drew’s approach of looking beyond just exam results and his relentless focus on the staff, young people and the community soon saw the school begin to turn around.
“The pupils gradually began getting better exam results, but our success was measured over a bigger spectrum of performance rather than just exam results. To me, that’s too narrow and too superficial. It wasn’t just about the exams, it was about those youngsters starting to believe in themselves and having more respect for themselves and others, thereby hopefully impacting on the local area. It’s about better developing better citizens for the community.”
“Our success was measured over a bigger spectrum
of performance rather than just exam results. To
me, that’s too narrow and too superficial”
However, after tackling one challenge, Drew and the school were hit with another. Having moved into a new building, the school was faced with over £3m of debt.
“Everybody said it couldn’t be done. I always believed that we should do our level best. Just because no-one had ever done anything like that before didn’t mean it couldn’t be done”, perfectly exemplifying Drew’s work on mindset and belief – practicing what he preached!
“There were great governors, members of staff, students and parental support at the school and we all pulled together and made it work.” It was at this point that the school was contacted to be part of Channel 4’s Educating series. The decision to take part in the series was made by everyone, not just Drew.
“We held a whole-school vote as I felt it was a decision that had to be taken by everyone and I really believe that that’s the way that good leadership should work. If it’s a big call, everyone should have a stake in it and therefore people will own the final decision.”
The show was a huge success, but as Drew looks back at his time at Harrop Fold, it was the everyday, small victories that mean the most.
“Interacting and having a laugh with the students was such a joy – seeing them enjoying school, growing and developing as people.”
For Drew, a key factor for success is creating an environment in which people are happy, challenged, creatively encouraged and enjoying the process. From this, improved results are inevitable, whether in sport, education or business.
“We worry, get obsessed and spend all of
our time looking at what we’re doing next. We
don’t spend time actually appreciating where we are now”
“It’s not always about the big prize at the end, it’s about seeing those small wins on a daily basis.”
A lot is made of mindfulness in today’s society, and Drew believes this is a key aspect.
“We worry, get obsessed and spend all of our time looking at what we’re doing next. We don’t spend time actually appreciating where we are now.”
In the future, Drew’s aim is to continue reaching as many people as possible with his leadership principles and easy to access techniques to improve organisations. For him, the most important and rewarding result is helping people improve.
“Helping to develop people and getting them to the next level, there’s nothing better than that for me.”
If you want to work with Drew on your leadership challenges then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 07952 304340.