Education & Training

Middle Managers/Educational Leaders Training: Challenging Professional Development Conversations


An Independent Co-Educational school in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, established in the late 1800’s has two campuses, with approximately 1700 students, Early Learning Centres (ELC) to Year 12 & 300+ staff within 3 main campuses. Staff comprise 140 teaching staff, 90 professional staff & visiting staff for music & sport.


In Education, teachers identified as “great teachers/practitioners” are often promoted into Department Head roles. Middle Managers/Leaders. Often this promotion comes with no further training. The role originally was to provide educational leadership to a team of colleagues via curriculum framework & assessment processes.

It has become apparent that many great teachers have little experience in managing a team. It is noticeable that these leaders often have no defined method of providing positive & formative feedback to their staff or how to address concerns that may arise. With the current emphasis on wellbeing - this has become increasingly important ‘hot topic’.

At the same time managing poor performance, if done incorrectly, can result in workplace claims which can be costly & time consuming. The focus needs to shift to people management rather than organisational or resource management. Staff wellbeing, staff training, & development are not being addressed. Increasing workplace issues are arising due to poor management.


A Synergy Global(SG) Consultant worked with the school to develop a series of workshops focusing on professional conversations that are productive, planned & accountable. The example conversations are structured with ‘coaching’ dialogue in that the manager’s role is to assist a person to clarify their goals & the actions to achieve them.
The goal being to develop a culture of solutions-focussed honest & open conversations within an organisation or team.

Example of two specific workshops for ‘Middle Managers’ (for Teachers, but they are appliable for all industries).

Constructive Professional Conversations (sometimes on challenging topics like behaviours):
A professional conversation that enables personal & professional growth. Providing clear, positive & formative feedback.

Escalating Issues/’Managing Upwards’ (understanding with clarity your own role & responsibilities)
It’s not our job to solve everyone’s problems; most people have the answers within them. Sometimes you need ‘clout’!


The workshops were well attended & well received. People welcomed the opportunity to plan & structure conversations & understood the need to do so.

The focus was more on Performance Management & ‘difficult’ conversations (or rather “Development Management” as it is now often & more appropriately called), but the point was made that proactive work in providing positive & formative feedback & addressing concerns regarding performance/conduct very early would potentially reduce the need for more serious management conversations or ‘HR processes’ later. Role playing & role modelling conversations was found to be very useful & a result of the running the sessions lead to more work in this area, along with training in ‘coaching’ skills.

Thanks – really found these workshops to be so helpful – addressing real work issues (without names) & practicing positive ‘state management’, along with ‘seeking to understand before being understood’…withholding judgement whilst using Socratic coaching questions & active listening skills. We all need practice with this, as it helps to build confidence.

Quote from Program Participant
N.B. All SG Change Leadership Workshops (CLW) & Masterclasses are now available as Webinars on Zoom or MS Teams

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