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TI-AIE: Managing and developing self: managing and developing yourself

What this unit is about

In order to realise the vision of transforming schools in India into centres of excellence for student learning it is critical that school leaders take personal responsibility for renewing and updating their skills and knowledge throughout their working lives, as it is they who are at the centre of this movement. Personal development is a lifelong process of nurturing, shaping and improving your skills and knowledge in order to ensure maximum effectiveness in the school work sphere and developing a positive self-concept. Personal development does not necessarily imply upward movement (that is, promotion). Instead, it is about enabling you to improve your performance in leading your school.

Making time for personal development is challenging for busy school leaders. Therefore this unit focuses on two critical key skills to enable you to create space in your schedule: time management and delegation. It will then explore how to use the time you create for personal development by ensuring your actions are purposeful (using a personal development plan) and effective (using SMART objectives).

The criticality of developing the self has been highlighted as one of the six key areas in the National Programme Design and Curriculum Framework, published by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) in 2014. This is viewed as important for bringing about school transformation and the professional growth of school leaders in India. This calls for convergence between the goals of self-development and institutional development for each school leader.

Learning Diary

During your work on this unit you will be asked to make notes in your Learning Diary, a book or folder where you collect together your thoughts and plans in one place. Perhaps you have already started one.

You may be working through this unit alone, but you will learn much more if you are able to discuss your learning with another school leader. This could be a colleague with whom you already collaborate, or someone with whom you can build a new relationship. It could be done in an organised way or on a more informal basis. The notes you make in your Learning Diary will be useful for these kinds of meetings, while also mapping your longer-term learning and development.

What school leaders can learn in this unit

  • To prioritise your work, delegate to others and make effective use of your time.
  • To plan for your personal and professional development.
  • To set yourself SMART objectives.

1 Prioritising your work and managing your time effectively as a school leader

Every school leader has competing demands for their time during any school day. They work with teachers, parents, students or education officials who visit their school. As a school leader, one potential source of pressure is your teachers’ dependence on you to solve all day-to-day problems, which often leaves little or no time for you to do other equally important strategic school tasks. This can lead to unintended consequences, as Case Study 1 highlights.

Case Study 1: Ms Mehta’s leadership

Ms Mehta has been the school leader of a secondary school for ten years. Her staff find her very supportive and will go to her for all the answers they need. She spends every school day helping others but this leaves her very little time to do any tasks that she sets for herself.

In the last year she has been unwell and unable to provide the same level of support to staff as she used to. Although her staff are sympathetic, they feel that her standards have fallen and are beginning to question whether she should be replaced. In particular, it has become obvious that new initiatives in assessment have not been explained and embedded properly with all staff, and Ms Mehta herself seems unable to model or explain them clearly. In a recent meeting with the school management committee, a representative of the staff voiced her concerns about the drop in staff morale. Although teaching and learning standards remained good, the school management committee were concerned that student learning would begin to suffer unless Ms Mehta was able to lead changes in teaching and learning with her staff effectively.

In the coming month, the maths department has to prepare its students for the annual state competition. Ms Mehta has always enjoyed leading the preparation and accompanying the students to the competition, but this year she feels she cannot do this. She is now troubled by the criticism of her leadership, but is also losing her ability to do parts of the job that she really enjoys.

This case study highlights:

  • possible consequences of inefficient time and work management
  • feeling overwhelmed by other people’s problems
  • not attending to your own professional needs to keep yourself up-to-date on relevant developments
  • loss of job satisfaction
  • potentially stress-related health issues.

All of these ultimately may impact on the quality of student learning.

It is therefore important that you are able to multi-task, and – most importantly – prioritise your work to ensure your effectiveness as a school leader and that student learning is not compromised.

Activity 1: Analysing the school leader’s role and responsibilities

It is important to consider what it means to be a leader in your school and, more widely, your state. Record your notes from these activities in your Learning Diary, as they may be useful to refer back to in later activities and other units.

Think about your typical day and list all the activities that you lead on. Your typical day could include leadership actions such as welcoming students and staff to school, leading the morning assembly, ensuring all lessons start on time, etc.

Now reflect on the activities you have listed and rank them in order of importance (that is, in the order that have the most impact on your students’ learning). Prioritising these tasks may be difficult because you deem all tasks to be equally important. Nonetheless, you will need to identify those activities where you as a school leader will have the most impact, separating the tasks that can only be done by you from those that could be done by others.

For each of the activities, identify a member of your staff who can lead in your absence. You may find it useful to make a copy of Table 1 and fill it in, adding as many rows as you need.

Table 1 Who can lead in your absence?
ActivityStaff to lead in my absence

Do you have a job description for your role? If you do not, list all the tasks that you need to undertake and complete. Some could be immediate, whereas others could be long-term in nature.

How accurately does your daily activity list reflect your job description or job list? Do you do any activities that are not reflected in the job description or job list?

Being a school leader comes with a lot of responsibility. A large part of a school leader’s job is to get things done by enabling others to do them on your behalf. This includes:

  • providing direction
  • modelling good practice
  • managing performance
  • supporting the work of others
  • delegating effectively
  • making sure that your staff are motivated, that they complete tasks, and maintain professional standards.

As the school leader, you are expected to be an ‘enabler’ who helps people enhance the quality of their work and supports them to achieve their goals and targets. There may not be enough time in a school leader’s day to complete every task, so it is essential to use time wisely. This means that you need to schedule activities and plan effective use of the available time. If you streamline what you are doing every day by setting yourself simple goals and targets, and avoiding distractions, you will achieve more. Effective time management can help you to gain more control over your activities and increase your efficiency.

Being able to assign – or delegate – some of your activities to others will allow you to start to prioritise your work, manage your time better and more effectively, and develop trustworthy relationships. But clearly you will be able to do this better if you have a way of thinking about what are the most pressing and important tasks that you are responsible for.

2 Delegation

Delegation involves giving someone the authority to carry out a task or make a decision on your behalf. However, although you can delegate leadership responsibilities, as a school leader you will still be accountable and ultimately responsible. Therefore you will be the person that the school management committee (SMC) and/or the government education supervisor will hold to account. There are tasks that are local to your school and you, as the school leader, have sole responsibility over the delegation of responsibilities to others.

Delegation is recognised as a management technique that improves efficiency, offers the manager some space to tackle other duties and can provide opportunities for others to develop themselves.

The ‘grid of urgency’ (Figure 2) is a simple way to prioritise your work by clustering all tasks into categories, such as those that need your urgent attention and should be carried out by you, and those that you can easily delegate to someone else. Figure 3 is a representation of how you could cluster your tasks.


Urgent and important


Important but not urgent


Urgent but not important


Neither urgent nor important


Figure 2 The grid of urgency.

The priorities in the grid are as follows:

  • Priority 1 (P1): Urgent and important (U and I): These tasks have to be prioritised over everything else. Although you may involve others, you are ultimately responsible and therefore have to ensure that the tasks are carried out effectively and on time.
  • Priority 2 (P2): Important but not urgent (I not U): These tasks are not priorities, but you would usually want to do them yourself because they are important. Because they are important it is a good idea not to leave them too late, otherwise they will become a P1 task. If you decide to delegate such a task, it is important that you supervise and/or provide the appropriate support to that person to ensure the task is carried out to the standard you require.
  • Priority 3 (P3): Urgent but not important (U not I): Whatever the reason, these tasks require an urgent response but they are not important to your role. Because these are not important, you should avoid putting too much time into these tasks. These are the tasks you can often be pressured into doing because they are presented as urgent, but after a few minutes of working on them you realise they are not. To avoid a delayed response, it is better to delegate them to someone else.
  • Priority 4 (P4): Neither urgent nor important (neither U nor I): You should ask yourself whether you need to do these tasks at all. Such tasks are distractions and are not a good use of your time, so delegate where appropriate.

It is worth noting that others may present some tasks to you as urgent and/or important, although you may think otherwise. As a leader determined to manage your time effectively, you have to stand your ground and be firm. The grid of urgency offers a model for you to prioritise your tasks and activities.

Figure 3 Delegating work to colleagues.

Activity 2: Using the urgency grid for delegation

Create your own version of the urgency grid in your Learning Diary, labelling the boxes ‘P1’, ‘P2’, ‘P3’ and ‘P4’. Now consider the tasks that have come to you in the past two weeks and write them down in the various categories on the grid. They do not have to be tasks that have now been completed. They will vary in importance and urgency.

When you have done this, think about what, if anything, has been done so far about each task. Look at whether any section of the grid has more completed tasks than the other sections, and the extent to which you have delegated completed tasks. Finally, think about which tasks could be delegated and to whom.

You should consider the following:

  • The urgency of the task: Urgent tasks have to be prioritised at all times. This does not mean they have to be completed by you. You can easily delegate them or involve others.
  • The importance of the task: There are tasks that you will want to do yourself, although they may be time-consuming. You have to prioritise these, but if for any reason you feel the need to delegate them, you will have to monitor that they are delivered in a timely and efficient way.
  • The ability of the individual who will be taking on the task: This matters because you will expect the quality of the solution to be the same as though you took on the task yourself. Therefore, it is advisable to delegate to those who you are confident can deliver. Experience sometimes counts!
  • Most importantly, how much time you both have: If it will take the person you are delegating to much longer to complete the task than if you did it yourself, think again. If the person will require a lot of supervision to be able to tackle the task satisfactorily, think again.

Prioritising your work and choosing what to delegate is never an easy task, because you have to make sure the job gets done. Issues relating to trust and the appropriate support from the person on the task are further reasons why care should be taken when delegating. But reluctance to delegate can leave you jaded and overwhelmed, which can ultimately affect your performance.

Tables 2 and 3 show examples of urgency grids made by two school leaders – one in an elementary and one in a secondary school. To be able to do this task effectively, both of the school leaders had to:

  • establish how much of their time is spent on each task
  • determine the problem areas
  • try to plan ahead
  • consider delegating ‘urgent but not important’ tasks, as well as tasks that are ‘neither urgent nor important’.
Table 2 An elementary school leader’s urgency grid.


Speak to Adnan’s parents about his absenteeism.

Share my observations of Mr Anil’s class and suggest he observes Mr Sharma’s class.


Send a reminder for furniture order for the new section.

Send the students’ monthly attendance records to the District Office.


Ask more Class V students to bring their projects for the visitor coming to school tomorrow.


Meet the school management committee members sometime during the week for a routine catch-up.

Table 3 A secondary school leader’s urgency grid.


Speak to the staff about filling in for the physics teacher, Mr Mohanty, who has to take leave for a family funeral.

Send Manish to the health check-up for disabled students by 11 a.m.

Inform DIET of staff to attend technology training.


Organise the cultural performances for the event and check if extra practice will be needed.

Get the permission to travel for the students who will be representing the school at the inter-school competition.


Arrange for a microphone to be made available to the speakers on Children’s Day.


Check with the school management committee if they would like to increase the watchman’s maintenance after two months.

Having considered how managing your time and delegating tasks to others may enable you to improve your effectiveness and efficiency, you will hopefully be in a position to see how you may create space for focusing on your own personal development needs.

In the next section you will look at personal development planning. You will begin to think about what you are good at in your role as a school leader, and will be self-critical in identifying what you need to improve on. These reflections will help you improve your own practice, enable you to develop the practice of your staff more effectively and ultimately improve the learning of your students.

3 Planning your development

A personal or professional development plan (PDP) is a carefully planned document that highlights the key areas that you have identified for development in any planning cycle.

The PDP process involves:

  • assessing your current skills, competencies and ambition
  • identifying your need for skills, knowledge or competencies
  • establishing aims and objectives – what you want to achieve in the short, medium or long term as a school leader
  • selecting appropriate training and development activities to meet those perceived needs in order to help you reach your goal(s).

In many schools and other organisations, this process is tied into an appraisal system where you have the opportunity to discuss your development needs with your manager. Your manager may have an important role in the process because they control access to the resources that may support your plan. In case there is a need for you to prepare for an appraisal, you should:

  • reflect on your skills and practice
  • review your performance and capabilities
  • draw up an action plan (with specific goals and/or objectives) to ensure that you are successful.

Having a good PDP and acting on it helps to ensure that you are developing and maintaining your professional competency. It is essential for you to keep up to date in this rapidly changing environment. You need to ensure that your students have appropriate skills and knowledge to advance as active productive citizens. For this reason, technology is often cited by leaders as an area they would like to develop knowledge and skills.

The following points outline the PDP process:

  1. Establish where you are up to and clearly define your aspirations: The purpose of any development activity needs to be identified. You can do this either by yourself or with the help of your manager, mentor, colleagues or friends. This involves:
    • gaining a measure of what you are good at and interested in
    • taking into account the organisational (school) realities, as well as any potential challenges
    • ensuring that your plans will meet the needs of your school.
  2. Identify development needs: Identifying your development needs may emerge from your tasks or responsibilities, discussions with your manager or colleagues, changes in the needs of your school, teachers and/or students, or through some formal appraisal process. Various tools, such as self-assessment tests, may be available to help you assess your skills in a structured way. Most of your development needs will be associated with your current duties and responsibilities, although it is always worth considering any development you may require to prepare you for a promotion.
  3. Identify learning opportunities: As a result of one, or several, of the assessment processes above, draw up a list of the skills or knowledge you need to acquire, update or improve. Compare this list with your current skills and knowledge base, and identify any gaps.
  4. Formulate an action plan: For each of the skills and knowledge gaps you identify, set yourself development objectives. There must be an element of challenge in them so that they stretch your abilities. But they must also be attainable and viable within a realistic time frame.
  5. Undertake the development: Put your plan into action once you have discussed it with the key functionaries at local education authorities. What you do and how you do it should be your choice. In addition to training courses, options include work shadowing (following another school leader in their daily routine), a secondment (a formal arrangement to take on another role with the purpose of learning new skills), project work, networking and community involvement.
  6. Record the outcomes: Keeping records serves to remind you – and others, such as the local education authorities – what you have done. Most importantly, your records will help you to focus on what you have got out of your development activity. Record the date, the development need identified, the chosen method of meeting those needs, the date(s) when PDP was undertaken, the outcomes, and any further action needed.
  7. Monitor, evaluate and review: Evaluation is a key stage in the self-development cycle. There are two issues that you should reflect upon: whether the development activity you have undertaken was appropriate, and whether and how your skills or working behaviour have improved as a result.

Activity 3: Starting your own PDP process

Using the PDP process outlined above, work through the first three points yourself. Make notes in your Learning Diary of where you are in your career and clearly define your aspirations. Then identify your development needs and what opportunities there are to gain knowledge and learn new skills.

This will probably be the first time that you have done this, so it may not be easy. You need to be honest and perceptive, to accurately assess your development needs; and creative, to think about how they might be met. It is useful to discuss this with others who may be able to offer you insights and perspectives that inform your PDP.

Continuing professional development

Continuing professional development (CPD) refers to the means by which people maintain and upgrade their professional knowledge, practice and skills. In some professions elsewhere in the world, it has become compulsory to declare a number of hours of CPD annually in order to renew a licence to practice. These licences have been put in place to ensure that people remain competent post-qualification. Having a good PDP and acting on it helps to ensure that you are developing and maintaining your professional competency.

In India, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) and District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) provide this type of support for teachers and school leaders through a wide range of training programmes. More recently, the National Centre for School Leadership (NCSL), located in the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, has focused on developing the capacities of school leaders across the country, on a long-term and continuous basis, in order to prepare school leaders for transforming schools into centres of excellence.

According to the National Council for Teacher Education (2009), the broad aims for a CPD programme for teachers are to:

  • explore, reflect and develop one’s own practice
  • deepen one’s knowledge of and update oneself about one’s academic discipline or other areas of school curriculum
  • research and reflect on learners and their education
  • understand and update oneself on educational and social issues
  • prepare for other roles professionally linked to education and teaching, such as teacher education, curriculum development or counselling
  • break out of intellectual isolation and share experiences and insights with others in the field – with teachers and academics working in specific disciplines, as well as intellectuals in the immediate, wider society.

These broad aims inform the in-service training and development strategies implemented by the DIETs. As a school leader, these aims may not necessarily meet all your needs. It is therefore important that you are self-conscious and critical about your practice and take proactive action to develop yourself.

Activity 4: Identifying your development needs

In your Learning Diary, identify three areas that you wish to develop over the next year and state what you could do to make sure it happens. This moves you into the action-plan stage of the PDP process. You can use Resource 1 at the end of this unit. Do not fine-tune your notes at this stage, as there follows more specific guidance on writing objectives.

4 Setting SMART objectives

There are ways in which you can construct the statements in your PDP to ensure that your development objectives are carefully planned, concise and achievable. Although a well- constructed objective does not necessarily guarantee that it will be achieved, it is a good start, because it has key aspects that stimulate you to make sure it happens. The discipline of writing good objectives can be used in many contexts beyond PDP. A very popular acronym used to describe the key aspects of a good objective is ‘SMART’, meaning:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely (or time-bound).

Objectives set out what you as a school leader are trying to achieve. This does not necessarily mean that you will have to undertake all the tasks associated with the objective(s). It is important that they are clear and understood by everyone associated with the processes; if they are, this will lead to their successful implementation.

It is important that you have clear and measurable indicators, because they provide a definition of the success of the initiative. Achievable and realistic objectives engage and motivate individuals. When your objectives look unrealistic, you put yourself and others under immense pressure. This can have a knock-on effect on people’s level of commitment or ability to meet them. It is important to have clear time indicators so that everyone knows by when an objective has to be achieved – or, if it is not likely to be achieved, whether to put in place measures to address any mitigating issues.

Now look at some key action verbs that can help in constructing SMART objectives.


To be specific, an objective should have a description of a precise or specific behaviour, achievement or outcome. It is also helpful if it can be related to a percentage, frequency, rate or number. To increase specificity, use verbs that are action-orientated to describe those actions that need to be taken to fulfill the objective(s).

Action verbs include ‘create’, ‘develop’, ‘design’, ‘analyse’, ‘execute’, ‘change’, ‘modify’, ‘identify’ and ‘prepare’.


Ensuring that your objective is measureable is hugely important because it tells you whether you have achieved your objective or not. You will gather evidence through a data collection instrument (observing, tracking and recording behaviours, asking questions, etc.) or using a predefined system or procedure in your school as required by the state authority. The tool you use to measure your objective should help you to generate the required evidence to support your claims of success. You should consider the following questions:

  • How will I know that the change has occurred?
  • How can these measurements be obtained?


An objective is achievable if:

  • you know it is measurable and you can gather evidence of its impact
  • others have already done it, meaning that, in principle, it is possible to achieve
  • any limitations and constraints have been carefully considered.

It is not worth setting an objective that relies heavily on resources that are not readily available or may be difficult to obtain in the future. It is a risk that has to be carefully managed if the target is to be achieved.


The realistic aspect of your objective is closely linked to whether it is achievable or not. While objectives should be realistic, this does not mean that they need to be easy. Objectives can be set that are demanding, but not to the extent that the chance of success is small. Realistic objectives take into account the available resources, such as skills required, financial resources, equipment, technology and so on. You should consider whether:

  • it is possible to achieve the objective
  • the resources to achieve the objective are available.

Timely (or time-bound)

Allocating a deadline to an objective is closely linked to ensuring that it is measurable. Because you will be collecting evidence at a specified time to ascertain whether you have met the objective, it is imperative that you specify when you expect the objective to be achieved. A deadline also helps to create the necessary urgency, prompts action and focuses the minds of those who are accountable.

Activity 5: Setting SMART objectives individually and for your school

The objective-setting process can seem daunting, but it does not necessarily have to be. It can be as simple as sitting down with your broad development goals and using SMART to reconstruct the statement. At school level, you can do this by going through a departmental or school year plan and considering how it can be met. Doing so is the foundation for setting the objectives. Everyone within the school should have a clear understanding of the objectives, as well as an awareness of their own roles and responsibilities in achieving them.

Now go back to Activity 4 and rewrite your PDP objectives so that they are SMART. Consider when you hope to complete these objectives, how you will undertake them and the resources you will require.

When you have finished, try out your SMART technique by addressing a wider organisational goal rather than a personal one. Use a template based on Resource 2 to write a SMART objective for your school at an operational or strategic level. (The resource includes an example of establishing a homework policy to show you how a SMART goal can be defined.) You can refer to the action words discussed earlier. You can have more than one objective for a goal that is expressed in broad terms like the one used in this example.

Activity 6: Planning your PDP

In your notes, you should have identified some of your strengths and weaknesses, and maybe some problems that have become apparent in your practice. Are there any areas where you need to develop or adjust your skills in order to better support your teachers, students or the wider community?

Consider what you need to work on and make notes in your Learning Diary about how you will find support and guidance to develop your knowledge or skills. Try to think beyond courses or training events; include self-study or connecting with experienced colleagues to share knowledge or skills. You can use the Resource 3 template as a tool for planning your PDP for the forthcoming year.

You will probably list the training provided by your DIET, which may have a specific focus such as time-management; or you may choose to be proactive and seek out your own development opportunities such as mentoring from a master trainer. You may already know of online resources, such as TESS-India materials, that may be helpful. There are also books, conferences and networks that can provide you with useful input.

Remember that any plan needs to be monitored and evaluated to check on progress and recognise when actions need to be taken to get your plan back on track. You could give yourself updates at periodic intervals over the year to check on your own progress and a final date to evaluate your achievements.

5 Summary

In this unit you have looked at how to make productive and effective use of your time as a school leader, which has maybe prompted you to take action in terms of managing your own time or delegating to others. Personal and professional development is very important for everyone and should be carefully planned and put into action. You looked at how to use PDP and SMART objectives as part of your process. As a school leader, you should continuously seek to update and improve your practice; this in turn will encourage your staff to actively pursue their own development – building a school where updating and renewal is a continual process.


Resource 1: Action plan

Table R1.1 My action plan (see Activity 4).
Objective/activityTo be completed byHow I will know I have been successful

Resource 2: Setting a SMART goal

Table R2.1 Setting a SMART goal (see Activity 5).
Goal (expressed in broad terms)

A school homework policy (in collaboration with the SMC).


I will create a homework policy.

By the end of the April term.


Working with staff, students and parents.

Time will be needed to hold meetings and draft the policy.

Resource 3: Personal/professional development plan

Table R3.1 Personal/professional development plan (see Activity 6)
Area to be addressedActivities I will undertake to address thisWhen I will complete these activitiesHow I will know I have been successfulWhen (at what intervals) I will review the progress I am making

Identifying and agreeing your plan
When and where I will agree my development needs and the plan with my line managerHow I will do this

Additional resources


Leadership and context, Open University OpenLearn unit. Available from: openlearn/ money-management/ management/ leadership-and-management/ leadership-and-context/ content-section-0 (accessed 20 November 2013).
Managing and managing people, Open University OpenLearn unit. Available from: openlearn/ money-management/ management/ leadership-and-management/ managing-and-managing-people/ content-section-0 (accessed 20 November 2013).
National Council for Teacher Education (2009) National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education. New Delhi: NCTE. Available from: publicnotice/ NCFTE_2010.pdf (accessed 20 November 2014).
National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) (2014) National Programme Design and Curriculum Framework. Delhi: NUEPA. Available from: kq/ groups/ 15368656/ 276075002/ name/ SLDP_Framework_Text_NCSL_NUEPA.pdf (accessed 14 October 2014).


This content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence ( licenses/ by-sa/ 3.0/), unless identified otherwise. The licence excludes the use of the TESS-India, OU and UKAID logos, which may only be used unadapted within the TESS-India project.

Every effort has been made to contact copyright owners. If any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.

Video (including video stills): thanks are extended to the teacher educators, headteachers, teachers and students across India who worked with The Open University in the productions.