Blog: Your First 100 Days – Knowing Your People

In this blog series, you’ll hear from the author of ‘The First 100 Days’, Phil Denton, about the steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of success in the first 100 days of the new school year.

Regardless of whether you are taking over a new leadership role or looking to develop an existing one, this series will detail the steps that will help you start from an informed, confident and strategic place.

Phil developed his knowledge of best practice in this area through his own experiences of being a Headteacher, Deputy, Assistant, Year Lead and Head of Department. He enhanced this understanding by working with football managers who have had successful 100 days in the English Premier League. He has also worked with successful manager Micky Mellon and spoke with business leaders from the world of accounts, travel and industry. All of this experience and these lessons will be condensed and shared with you at regular intervals to provoke thought, reflection and action.

Provoking thought, reflection and generating action is the core purpose of Evaluate-Ed. Follow this series and take a free trial to see how you can improve your school and everyone in it through an informed and strategic approach. Click here for your free trial.

Knowing Your People

The biggest variable, resource and responsibility we have as school leaders is people. People include our pupils, our community, our networks and our team. Understanding your people can help you to rationalise your approach to the key priorities that you will have for improving your team’s performance.

This blog series will offer a variety of options for you to consider, so that you can contextualise the types of people you will be working with. By contextualise, I mean see where they are at in their stage of career, their experiences of being in the school, and their aspirations for the future both personal and professional.

We can be drawn to those real enthusiasts for change or growth and be frustrated by those who appear reticent or as obstacles to progress. As a leader, I know I have been guilty of this. The truth is that to be at our most effective, our role is not to judge their motivation but to harness their potential and find a way to maximise their impact in school.

With that in mind, we’ll look at motivation, innovation and alignment. Beginning with motivation, we will use Dan Pink’s three key elements, referenced in his book, ‘Drive’. Pink does not talk about performance-related pay; instead, he talks about offering people mastery, autonomy, and purpose.

Get an understanding of the factors that are affecting your teams through the Evaluate-Ed sections around staff wellbeing, morale and working practices. You can even use our template wellbeing questionnaire to get a unique understanding of the motivation in your school.

Mastery refers to giving your colleagues, both teachers and support staff, the opportunity to improve their performance individually through CPD, networks and/or collaborative learning. Pink does not specifically talk about teaching, but the examples he offers in ‘Drive’ could be related to these means of mastery.

Autonomy is the opportunity for individuals to own their own growth and feel a sense of empowerment – it shows you are trusting individuals to become the expert and even teach others.

Finally, purpose is key to the everyday drive of any member of your team. They have to feel the value of their role to them and the pupils they serve. If they feel that purpose, whether it is supporting colleagues, being an expert in the classroom or pursuing goals, they can become driven members of your team. Crucially, purpose needs to be shared by the team but also be applicable to each individual. When we look at team members that seemingly lack motivation, it could well be that one of these key cogs is missing.

Reflection tasks

  1. Who are the people that you see lacking motivation in your context?
  2. What elements of the Pink model do you think they are lacking?
  3. How can you address this?
  4. To what extent does this reflect your school in a wider sense?
  5. What are the systematic changes you can make to encourage high levels of motivation?


Phil is a Headteacher as well as an author, having written ‘The First 100 Days’, a story about what we can learn from Premier League managers about being successful over your first 100 days in a role and beyond. Phil has had several articles published in the SecEd magazine.

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