top of page

Messy Experiments - July 2024

We’re all in the learning business, right? We all know that learning involves the discomfort of challenge, the fear of risk-taking and the messiness of mistakes. As such, we intentionally create an appropriate climate for learning for our children: one which feels safe, non-judgemental, collaborative and fun! Yet, when it comes to our own professional learning, we too often fail to create these conditions for ourselves, both our workplace culture and in our own heads.

As we approach the end of the academic year, we invite you to celebrate your own messy learning! In what ways have you risen to new challenges this year, taken risks by trying something new, and found a way to clean up the mess?

“Learning is messy… People must construct their own knowledge and must assimilate new experiences in ways that make sense to them… More often than not, simply telling students what we want them to know leaves them cold.” – Eleanor Duckworth (psychologist, author, teacher educator at Harvard University)

A lot of CPD is delivered through direct instruction, often to the whole staff. Sometimes this is necessary and highly effective. However, sometimes it is difficult to personally assimilate generic knowledge into sustainable personal impact.

I’m sure we can all think of examples where we, and/or our colleagues, didn’t make it beyond Level 1 of this model: the training was enjoyable but nothing changed as a result. This can happen when any necessary condition is absent: time/capacity, psychological safety, team encouragement, motivation, accountability, vision/purpose, and so on.

Another contributing factor may be the presence of a “fixed mindset”. In Dweck’s million-copy classic, she cites Eleanor Roosevelt’s phrase, “Becoming is better than being”, going on to assert thatt “The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be.”  On the other hand, with a growth mindset, “even when you think you’re not good at something, you can still plunge into it wholeheartedly and stick to it.”

What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means- 3 Common Misconceptions (3min video):

Most of us oscillate between a fixed and growth mindset, depending on the context and our triggers. Ask yourself honestly, what is my current balance of growth v fixed mindset, both as an individual and as a leader of others? If it’s more fixed that you’d like, read on…

Behavioural Experiments, a form of exposure therapy used in CBT, help test fixed beliefs through small, safe steps. Coaches, though not therapists, can safely work with current beliefs towards future goals. Recently, I addressed my own childhood belief that being late equates to being disorganised and disrespectful. For my entire adult life, this has caused me undue stress under the glare of the ticking clock, and became something I wanted to change. My coach and I used Behavioural Experiments to manage my typical adrenalin-fuelled behaviours when lateness was encroaching, by having me take three deep breaths instead of rushing. This approach, importantly my suggestion, has helped me experiment with taking a slower, calmer approach when under time pressure; I’m delighted to report that staying composed has not lead to me becoming unpunctual or unprofessional, as my irrational fear had me believe, but liberated me to become better connected to myself and those around me during those tricky moments and more clear-headed on arrival.

Experimentation and risk-taking are vital to growth and achieving our potential. We learn more about our self, our triggers and our coping strategies and as a result become happier, healthier and more effective in our role. Creating a culture where leaders encourage experimentation safe in the knowledge that it’s ok if things get a bit messy, could play a vital part in retaining staff.

"When organisations embrace a growth mindset, their employees feel more empowered and committed. They also receive greater organisational support for collaboration and innovation.”Harvard Business Review video

Our 3-Tier Coaching Accreditation Programme is built on this very principle. As a coachee, you experience the power of having a non-judgemental learning partner. As a practising coach, you receive ongoing guidance to develop your skills and confidential sessions with your supervisor to explore any messiness coming from your growing competencies. There are plenty of old habits to unlearn, as well as new ones to learn afresh.

"The programme's focus on self-reflection and continuous learning has fostered a growth mindset in both myself and those I coach; this has created a positive ripple effect, benefitting everyone I work with. Through the Foundation and Practitioner accreditations, I have acquired invaluable skills in communication and listening. This has allowed me to guide my coachees more effectively, helping them to achieve their personal and professional goals and empowering them. My coachees are now more confident, and I am in awe of their overall growth."

- Nazia Dar, Year 6 Leader, Little Ealing Primary

Some questions for reflection:

  1. Since September, how have you grown in your professional abilities and personal effectiveness?

  2. What messiness occurred along the way and what did you learn from this?

  3. How would you like to think or behave differently, when messiness inevitably occurs next year?

“Change is Mandatory. Growth is Optional.” – Sir John Jones at last month’s Inspiring Leadership Conference Dinner

Enjoy your summer break, allowing your busy mind to slow down and consolidate its learning from last year before focusing on the challenges and experiments which lie ahead. As a lifelong learner, there will always be accidents to mop up. But let’s celebrate the messes, in the acceptance that they have been created in an attempt to do better. We’re all in the learning business, after all, right?

Wishing you all a fabulous summer break.

Catherine Hulme


7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Ο σχολιασμός έχει απενεργοποιηθεί.
bottom of page