Becoming an Educational Entrepreneur

Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Five years post headship and five years into working for myself and running my own business the language being used about what I do, and the language I use about myself is changing.

‘Entrepreneur’ is a new label for me:

a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

But I think I like it and can own it!

I have had lots of conversations in the last few months about what I do, how I got started and how it is going. People are genuinely curious and on the most part very supportive of my new-ish venture.

When I re-framed myself from being a teacher/ headteacher I had a lot of coaching and did a lot of reflection on how I was going to start referring to myself. My succinct introduction is currently that I am a Leadership Development Consultant, Coach and Trainer. Parallel to that I am the Co-Founder and Director of Diverse Educators.

I do not often include the fact that I am a small business owner, that I own a Limited Company, that I am a Company Director. And I am reflecting on why that is. My current stance is that in education business is often a dirty word and feels at odds with the moral imperative and servant leadership that brings many of us into the profession. We do it for love, not money.

I think this is one of the tensions that emerged from the academisation roll out and how academies/ MATs are perceived compared to maintained schools and localities. The criticism is often that academies are too corporate and they are run as business not schools, but the reality is that a school is a business, with a budget, with KPIs and the most impactful ones I have worked in have been well-oiled machines where the business serves all of the community, all of the stakeholders.

With the current climate in education we are seeing a mass exodus of teachers and leaders. I support so many Headteachers who are burnt out and who are planning their exit strategy. I also connect with many middle and senior leaders who have started a side hustle to supplement their salary, to keep their flame lit with where their passion is or who are thinking longer term about working part-time or having more of a portfolio career. The ones that worry me are the teachers who have only been in the school system for a few years who are planning to leave already.

I didn’t come into teaching to leave, to have a second career. I worked hard and progressed for twenty years, but I became disillusioned with some of my employers. I left headship to influence the system and contribute to the profession from a different angle as I felt handcuffed in what I could say and do.

I didn’t co-found #WomenEd and #DiverseEd to make a career and get paid for what I had done as a volunteer for nearly a decade. But as I explored my Ikigai I realised that I could get paid for what I enjoyed, what I cared about and what I was good at so I moved from doing coaching, mentoring and women in leadership training for free on a Saturday, to being paid to do it Monday-Friday. I thought initially #DiverseEd would continue as a side hustle, a passion project, a voluntary contribution but my network had other ideas!

So I guess I became an educational entrepreneur by default instead of my intent. I came through the backdoor, or the side door not the front door, into my new career chapter. And to be honest I have been working it out, making it up, as I go for the last five years!

There are two conversations in my past that still stay with me and get replayed a lot as reminders:

Conversation 1:

My ex once commented on how hard I worked, how many hours I did, and he could not get his head around the fact that as I worked harder and did longer hours that I did not get paid more. In his corporate world he would have received bonuses and been paid over time for going above and beyond for his employer.

Conversation 2:

On my first day of trading, my first day of working for myself, a friend and mentor rang me up to gift me some wisdom from her own journey. She told me to remember that moving forwards I was a “business woman doing education, not an educator doing business”. Thank you Diana Osagie for this nugget, it is a helpful reminder I go back to regularly.

Both conversations continue to guide me, to remind me and to hold me to account.

Being brought up by two self-employed parents, I didn’t perhaps appreciate the exposure I got to thinking about the world of work as a small business owner. For two decades I worked for others, I had a boss, I had a paycheck, but I was often unfulfilled and frustrated.

Perhaps the freelancing, independent, business owner chapter was always my path. I just needed to realise and embrace it.

Who Holds the Pen?

Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Who holds the pen to your story is a question Diana Osagie always asks our participants as they are welcomed into the Academy of Women Leadership. I am one of Diana’s ‘veterans’ (as she fondly calls us) and I have been part of her training/ coaching team since she launched the virtual training space for women leaders a few years ago, during lockdown. In the last 12 months she has also begun to offer in-person retreatsMandy Tucker and I deliver workshops at them for her. Mandy does a session on vision boarding and manifesting the future, whilst I do a session on narrative storytelling and processing the past to understand the present.

This weekend we held our second AWL retreat and we brought together another 50 women for the day, this time near Watford. It was great to reconnect with people I already knew or who I had met before – some had rebooked because they had enjoyed the first one so much! I also got to meet in person for the first time some of the people I have coached online for a while and some of the people I chat to regularly on virtual platforms but have never met. Then there were all of the new women to meet as well. It was a day full of connection, community building, compassion and courage.

Diana opened the event with her normal energy. She is a formidable force to be reckoned with and she lives her brand of being and building courageous leaders, but this time she also shared some deep vulnerable moments in her journey to model to the room that we all face adversity and navigate obstacles, she emphasised that it is how we learn from these experiences and how we bounce forwards that really matters. She reminded everyone not to try and do leadership alone, but that a strong support network is what guides you and supports you to stay on track. This resonates with me as my tribe have been there for me, through thick and thin!

In my session we started with the Simon Sinek ‘Golden Circle’ as I invited everyone to reconnect with their core purpose for doing their role, for being a leader and for joining their sector. We reflected on the power of storytelling to build connections, to develop empathy and to process our learning. We explored the difference between the story that we tell ourselves, the story that we tell others and the story that others tell about us and we reflected on how aligned they all are.

I introduced them to the Resilient Leaders Elements framework and asked them to consider if they lead with What I Do or with Who I Am. We explored the conditioning we have received about what is affirmed and what is valued in our journeys and in our identities. I then moved them into some of the #IamRemarkable territory of considering what makes them unique and asked them to consider if they are leveraging their USP enough to differentiate themselves from the crowd. After all – who wants to be a pigeon when you can be a flamingo?

We then unpacked our relationship with success and considered what was driving us and how we were creating our criteria for a successful career and a successful life. We reflected on the reality check of non-linear or squiggly careers versus the ladder that is sold to us, we discussed the gaps in our CVs and the impact time out of our careers has on our narrative but also on our confidence. We sat with the reality of the leadership journeys that men experience versus women and that white colleagues experience versus people of colour.

We closed with an activity where we created our own lifelines and captured the milestones in our personal and professional journeys that have defined us. We considered how to reclaim the narrative and reframe the story that we tell ourselves and each other, that shape the stories that others tell about us. I asked everyone to consider if they had updated their story since they had joined their current workplace. Some had worked in the same place for 5, or 10 years, some had had multiple maternity leaves, most had changed significantly in this time period but the story that defined them was the old version – we considered what the 2.0 or 3.0 version of the story needed to include. We reflected on the venn diagram of our authentic selves and how to create more alignment about who we are as leaders at home, in our communities and in our workplaces.

We finished by gifting 3 words to the buddy we had been working with. The acknowledgement of seeing the essence of each other in broad daylight, on a weekend, without the armour of work makeup, work uniform and work heels. As always this surfaced a lot of emotion as we were validated by people who had started the day with us as strangers, but who left the day with us as friends and cheerleaders of who we were, who we are and who we are becoming.

If this resonates with you and you have not yet engaged with Diana, AWL nor attended a retreat with us then you can find out more here – we would love to see you in June. It is a privilege to be part of the AWL team, a pleasure to connect with so many brilliant women leaders and an honour to be a small part of your leadership journeys.

Inclusive Leadership

Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Inclusive leadership centres emotional resilience, self-assurance, curiosity, empathy and flexibility. This model of leadership builds interpersonal trust, Integrates diverse perspectives, optimises talent, applies an adaptive mindset and achieves transformation.

Inclusive leaders are leaders who interact with the diversity around them, build interpersonal trust, take the views of others into account, and are adaptive. Inclusive leaders are willing to confront difficult topics. They bring people of all backgrounds along in order to achieve results.
These abilities increase their effectiveness and the impact they have on individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole.

Inclusive leaders help organisations attract the best talent from talent pools that have not yet fully been tapped. This is crucial, not simply because it engages more high-quality talent but it also brings in perspectives and experiences from underrepresented groups. This can also help shed light on problems that more homogenous teams have been stuck on and unable to resolve.

The biggest advantage of inclusive leadership is that inclusive leaders know how to unleash individual potential and create an environment where all talent can thrive and grow. Inclusive leaders enable individuals to feel free to bring their authentic selves to work; provide individuals with a sense of empowerment to take risks; reassure individuals that there is equity and fairness and that they will be challenged with job stretch opportunities.

Research shows that leaders who are fair and respectful, encourage collaboration, and value different ideas and opinions are more likely to have effective employees on their teams. In other words, the ability to unlock individual potential benefits everyone that is led by an inclusive leader, but it benefits underrepresented talent even more.

If individuals do not feel included in an organisation, they are unlikely to reach their full potential. Inclusive leaders help underrepresented people understand that they have the power to take ownership of their own careers and equip them with the specific insights, strategies, and tools they need to drive their development forward.

Inclusive leaders do this through mentoring, sponsorship and coaching, and as advocates for individuals who they think are being treated unfairly. They also help individuals develop greater self-agency, encouraging them to speak up, be heard, and optimise their contributions.

Everyone benefits from inclusive leadership! The team benefits by unlocking collective intelligence and the organisation benefits by driving innovation and growth.

Positive Intelligence

Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

I found out about Positive Intelligence or PQ from a friend and coaching colleague, Julie Rees. She built it into one of the sessions she has designed and delivers on awareness for the Resilient Empowered Authentic Leaders (REAL) programme I have curated and lead. The associates who deliver and coach on the programme have all been trained as Resilient Leader Elements consultants, and quite a few of them have also done the C-Me Colour Profiling train-the-trainer accreditation too.

Julie was the only one who had done the PQ training which I had seen delivered but had not yet personally experienced, but then I started following Shirzad Chamine the founder of Positive Intelligence on LinkedIn to find out more about his research and I found out about an opportunity to get involved. For the last 8 weeks I have been on an intense programme with 5 coaching colleagues and associates (Clare, Heather, Isa, Nicky and Vicki), following a weekly schedule of learning activities with daily practices to flex our mental fitness.

So what exactly is Positive Intelligence (PQ)?

PQ measures the strength of an individual’s positive mental muscles (the ‘Sage’) versus their negative mental muscles ( their ‘Saboteur’). The self-command muscle is the ability an individual has to boost their sage and dampen down their saboteur (Chamine, 2012).

The breakthrough contribution of Positive Intelligence research is through factor analysis to discover the core factors that impact both performance and wellbeing. This research revealed that there are only 10 negative response factors (10 Saboteurs) and only 5 positive response factors (5 Sage powers).

To kick off the 8-week intensive we all had to take the PQ Saboteur Assessment which anyone can take for free. You can discover your saboteurs here.

And what are our Saboteurs?

We all have The Judge as our primary saboteur – our judge limits us by critiquing ourselves, others and our environment. But then we have accomplice saboteurs which the assessment identifies for you. Mine are The Controller, The Stickler and Restlessness.

When we are stressed or under our pressure our saboteurs are activated to protect us and the PQ programme helps us identify these mental patterns and behaviour habits, to bring our awareness to managing them and consciously reframing them.

My controller tells me that by controlling things I am being more efficient and effective which will make me more productive and higher-performing, my stickler tries to protect me by reinforcing my boundaries and pushing back on things to follow the rules, and my restlessness means that I can take on too much and magpie too many ideas/ start too many projects/ ping from one thing to the next.

Everyone suffers from limiting beliefs, the imposter syndrome and the inner critic in different ways, but this programme gave a more refined analysis of the factors for us to focus on to then apply an incremental, marginal gains type approach to developing new habits.

And how do we learn to manage them?

As part of the programme we all got access to an app which had 5 different types of activities, very similar to mindfulness practices, which lasted 2/5/12 mins which we could choose from. Our intensive programme trained us to build new daily habits. These practices build up the muscle memory and create the mental fitness to become more self-aware, more self-regulated and more self-managing in our tendencies for how we respond to stress and pressure.

Personally with moving out of my home nearly 2 months ago, and pinging from one Airbnb to the next ever since, I think this came at exactly the right time for me as it gave me an anchor to ground me and manage any stress/ frustrations coming my way from buying and selling a house in the current climate.

As the programme progressed we moved from focusing on our saboteurs to focusing on our sages which are our inner resources that we need to strengthen and activate. Our sage is our compass which gives us the clarity to navigate uncertainty and handle challenges with a calm mind through positive emotions. By empathising, exploring innovating, navigating and activating we can reframe situations and relationships to better serve us.

I am still a beginner with this and will continue to develop my practice with the ongoing support of my pod of peers, but if you are interested in finding out more check out my PQ toolkit here.

Training to Coach

Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

One of the questions I regularly get asked when I am at events, delivering training or via my social media is: how do I become a coach?

I have an email I have sent to a number of people as they transition out of a senior role, a school, or from the system, sharing my tips/ advice and signposting where to find out more, but I thought a blog might be something that could be more helpful as it can be shared with more people and be updated as things change. So here goes…

Below are some of the different training pathways that I have experienced personally on my journey to becoming a coach that you can consider and some of the key questions that you need to reflect on in order to decide which is the right provider/ training opportunity for you.


Integrity Coaching

I did a brilliant coaching programme with Viv Grant at Integrity Coaching when I was a Senior Leader. Viv and the team have a vast offer for coaching and coaching programmes. Viv’s book, Staying A Head is also a great read for self-coaching around values, wellbeing and boundaries.


Graydin Coaching

I met McKenzie Cerri, one of the Co-Founders of Graydin Coaching, as I co-founded #WomenEd. McKenzie ran some brilliant sessions for the network. I then attended the Anatomy programme and loved it so much that we hosted a cohort at our school where I was headteacher so that my Senior Leaders could do it too. The ‘Start With the Heart’ model really resonated with me.


Fierce Conversations

I also met Sarah Vogel, a master facilitator of Fierce Conversations and the Co-Owner of PDA (People Development Associates), through mutual #WomenEd connections. I organised for her to run training for all of our staff at the start of every academic year, so that we could embed this philosophy into our communication model and ensure that open, honest conversations were central to our culture. If you have not read Susan Scott’s book then it is highly recommended.


Resilient Leaders Elements

I met Rachel McGill, the Co-Founder of RLE (Resilient Leaders Elements) through our mutual friend and fellow headteacher/ coach, Julie Rees. I completed the RLE accreditation as I transitioned out of headship and started working independently. The programme helped me to get clarity of who I am and what I do, but also equipped me with a framework and tools to use with my coaching clients. Lots of my network has since done it and it is one of the consistencies for my team of associate coaches.



I also met Professor Rachel Lofthouse through #WomenEd and I followed her journey to setting up CollectivEd as the Centre for Coaching and Mentoring at LBU through her online sharings. Through my associate work at Leeds Beckett University I have written for the publication she edits and attended/ spoken at a number of events she has organised, curated and hosted. It is a great community for engaging with international coaches and their research into the impact of coaching.


Colour Profiling

I found out about Colour Profiling (or C-Me as it is known in the shorthand) through Julie Rees as well. It is a tool we use in the Resilient Empowered Authentic Leadership (REAL) programme that I have developed over the last few years. It is another great tool for the coaching toolkit to help people develop their awareness of self and others.


Coactive Institute (CTI)

I started my ICF (International Coaching Federation) certification by completing the foundation coaching curriculum with the Coactive Institute. I did this during lockdown as they had a virtual training pathway at weekends and were quite practice heavy in their approach to coaching training which is my preferred learning style.


Teleos Leadership Institute

I chose to migrate over to the Teleos Leadership Institute for the second part of my ICF coaching certification as I was looking at developing coaching as a tool for my DEI work and they have a lot of experience in using coaching as a lever for systemic change and cultural transformation. I also wanted to do some of the training in person and there was a window of opportunity for me to go to Philadelphia and I spent a week there on a coaching training intensive. Their founder, Dr Fran Johnston, is a global thought leader when it comes to coaching.


British School of Coaching

My most recent coaching certification is the ILM L7 Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring which I am currently completing with the British School of Coaching. This is another virtual training pathway and is quite theory heavy. The reflective practice and supervision has really helped me focus on my coaching presence and style.


Positive Intelligence (PQ)

I am also currently training with Positive Intelligence to understand their framework and tools for developing PQ with my coaching clients. The founder, Shirzad Charmine, has written a book about Positive Intelligence and is a lecturer at Stanford University. Their focus on building mental fitness really resonated with me and builds on the work I have done with RLE.

So there are some options to research and reflect on and here are some further things to think about as you begin to identify which training pathway might be best for you and your experience/ context…


Questions to reflect on and to discuss with others about your why for coaching:

  • Why do you want to become a coach?
  • What sort of a coach do you want to become?
  • Who do you want to coach, and why?
  • Which sectors do you want to coach in, and why?
  • Does the sector you want to coach in need certain qualifications/ credentials?

There are lots of options to certify with different national and international organisations to get industry standard coaching training and recognition e.g. MA, MSC, ILM L7 and ICF.

There are also lots of options to accredit with different providers and platforms to grow your toolkit of coaching resources/ frameworks to use in supporting your coaching clients e.g. RLE, C-Me, DISC.

I would recommend that a blend of both has worked for me as you can then pick and choose which bits resonate with you and your coaching clients.


Questions to reflect on and to discuss with others about your journey into coaching:

  • How much time do you have to dedicate to your training as a coach?
  • What is your budget for the training? (Are you self-funding or are you being sponsored?)
  • Do you prefer learning through theory or practice, or both?
  • Do you prefer learning in person or virtually?
  • Do you prefer being assessed via written form or via observation?

I am hoping that my reflections, the signposting and the questions help you to find the training pathway that is right for you as a coach.

My final reflection is that: if you want to be a coach, do you have a coach? And what has your experience of being coached been like?

I am a firm believer in all coaches having a coach to develop their own awareness of being a client, and also having someone formally in place who supervises them in their coaching to support their wellbeing, as coaching can sometimes be heavy and emotional work. I have been fortunate to be coached by some brilliant coaches who I have been supported by but also learned from.

You can find out more about my coaching packages, my team of associates and our coaching tools here. Along with a reading list on coaching to whet your appetite and develop your own coaching practice.


Additional Signposting:

It would be remiss of me not to signpost some colleagues from my network who run coaching training that I have not personally experienced but I know that they get great feedback from my professional learning network:

Basic CoachingAndy Buck has written lots of books on leadership and he has crafted a coaching framework for schools called BASIC.

MalCPDMalarvilie Krishnasamy has grown a team of associate coaches to support her ILM accredited coaching training offer.

Apologies to anyone I have missed in this post who I have trained to be a coach with, I will keep adding to it as I progress on my coaching journey!


Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

As a teacher and school leader, for twenty years, I am willing to admit that I struggled with setting and maintaining boundaries throughout most of my career. My work life balance disintegrated over time, I was constantly thinking about work and the boundaries between my professional and personal identity blurred.

The lack of boundaries was further compounded by my virtual presence, my growing network of contacts and my accessibility via various social media platforms/ networks.
When I left headship in 2019 (four years ago) I vowed that this was something I would work on and that I would break some old/ bad habits and create some new/ healthy habits to serve me moving forwards.

For my first eight months out of schools, I worked for a university running a PGCE. I had taken a considerable pay cut when I accepted the role so this perhaps made it easier for me to say no and to affirm some stronger barriers on my time and energy:

  • I worked 9-5 Monday-Friday.
  • I put an out of office on my inbox in the evenings/ weekends/ holidays so people knew I was not accessible.
  • I tried to not check/ send emails out of hours.
  • I reminded people who whatsapped/ text me out of hours of my boundaries and asked them to email me.
  • I took the lunchbreak that I was entitled to every day.
  • I booked in the holiday days I was entitled too.
  • I tried not to check / reply to social media contact during my holidays.

These actions led to me having a lot more headspace and time/ energy to focus on other things. This in turn led to me planning the launch of my business. (Ironically I had previously gone through a similar experience as I left an all-consuming Deputy Headship role and spent a year working in a MAT-wide role at Head Office – having more time to process and be more intentional with my time/ energy had led to me seeking and securing my headship).

When I launched my business in May 2019 it was originally just me working independently as a leadership development consultant, coach and trainer. Being my own boss meant that I could set and maintain the boundaries I needed to thrive in this new role. It felt like a luxury to have lunch every day, to go to the toilet when I needed to and to leave things for another day so I could log out at a decent hour. The only person putting pressure on me, was me!

However, I quickly reached my capacity and needed to grow my team of Associates in this space to meet the needs of my growing client database.

Within a few months, due to demand from my network, I had also launched a second website for Diverse Educators.

Momentum picked up a pace quickly as we were in lockdown and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder a spotlight had been put on the need for a greater commitment to DEIB across the board, but especially in education. So again, I reached capacity and grew a team of DEIB associate consultant, coaches and trainers around me to share the workload.

My ongoing challenges are that others do not respect my boundaries and when I pushback to reinforce them I am made out to be the one who is being difficult/ being a stickler. An example of this is during my recent 18 day holiday – despite my out of office on my email inbox, I was chased to respond to things during this time frame. (Things that were not urgent and did not need chasing as I made sure that everything that was due before I left was actioned before I left and I had communicated my absence with key stakeholders in advance of my departure!)

Despite this people in my network who work with me, but who are also personal contacts, whatsapped me about work stuff whilst knowing I was on a break, and even though I addressed this in our initial messages they did not get the hint and continued to try and talk work!

I was so frustrated I did this post on Twitter to seek some advice and tips. There are some great ideas shared but I have tried most of them already! My ongoing dilemma is not setting and maintaining boundaries but ensuring that others respect and honour them.

Some actions I have already taken to protect my boundaries:

  • I use an out of office whenever I am on holiday, explaining I will be less responsive and confirming when normal business will resume.
  • I have had some fierce conversations with people in my network who do not respect my boundaries e.g. email is for work contact in work hours and whatsapp is for social contact and I will respond out of hours.
  • I have a coach to talk through the ongoing challenges.
  • I have a business mentor to work with me on growth and strategy.
  • I am working with a ‘faff-slayer’ to streamline my communications and to make my systems more efficient.

Some actions I am considering taking to further enforce my boundaries:

  • A VA to filter my inbox.
  • A social media manager to buffer how many platforms I am managing.
  • A business mobile to filter out of hours contact.
  • An out of office on my mobile/ whatsapp.
  • A contract with my growing team of associates outlining the things I do around my own boundaries to support my work life balance and encouraging them to do the same.

The ongoing issue I am grappling with is that a lot of my wider team have become friends over time and they blur the boundaries between professional and personal contact despite my attempts to filter them. One of my communication rules is that I quickly move things from social media and casual messaging to emails so everything can be tracked and filed. For continuity and consistency I also keep chats on one platform.

Some examples of where my boundaries have been tested and disrespected:

  • All of the invoicing and payments are made via email but I sometimes get out of hours whatsapps from associates asking if a payment has been made.
  • All of my comms re training, events and sub-contracting are via email but I also get out of hour whatsapps from associates with late night/ last minute queries and updates.
  • All of my business communications are via email but I am constantly getting DMs on twitter in the evening and weekends with work requests from people in my network who expect me to be accessible 24/7.
  • A lot of my personal network are teachers/ leaders I have met through teaching over the years so they have my personal number, but often take liberties by messaging me for favours/ to pick my brain at weird and wonderful times of the day.

I will continue to grapple with my boundaries, I will keep reinforcing them, but any tips/ advice if you have read this are gratefully received!


Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

I get asked a lot why I am so good at networking and it has become a theme I have thus run leadership training on over the years.

My answer to the question ranges from:

  • I am confident.
  • I am an extrovert.
  • I was brought up in a family where we were taken to a lot of social events.
  • I spent most of my teens working in hospitality.
  • I am outward-facing as a leader.

These are some of the reasons it comes to me quite naturally and some of the skills that I have developed over the years despite it being a barrier for a lot of women (according to research and anecdotally from my network).

In Giant’s Five Voices I am a Pioneer-Connector which means I like to break through boundaries and build relationships. i.e. I like to bring people with me on the journey:

  • The Pioneer is a future-oriented voice, with the ability to coordinate resources and people to turn big ideas into accomplishments.
  • The Connector thrives on spinning plates and making connections, as they seem to effortlessly remember details about what other people are working on and what they might need.

But on reflection I want to share with you some of the intentional things I have done over the years to build and grow my network as well as I don’t think people always appreciate the time, energy and resources that has been spent establishing and nurturing relationships.

I am very aware that I am currently picking the fruit from the seeds I planted several years ago and I think sometimes I make networking look easier than it is!

Joining social media – Twitter was my first foray into edu-networking as I was looking to find people outside of my organisation who were vision and values-aligned. I struggled with it at first and left, but then rejoined a few months later.

Attending teachmeets – by getting to grips with Twitter I began to connect with people virtually. I was living in London at this time and the grassroots scene was burgeoning so I started going to, then speaking at and then organising teachmeets.

Finding my tribe – co-founding #WomenEd was about finding leaders like me as I had just been appointed as a Vice Principal and I was the only female leader on the SLT. I needed to create a circle of support around me – existing women leaders and those who were very established in their career.

Following up from events – as we began to host and speak at more events, I made it a habit to follow up with new contacts on social media and email to stay connected. Sometimes it was as simple as a “it was great to meet you at the weekend”.

Being intentional at events – this led to me becoming more intentional before I went to events, especially conferences where there are so many sessions and speakers. I purposefully went to sessions to meet virtual contacts in real life. I also made sure I was following everyone on social media before I got there.

Expanding my digital footprint – I think it is LinkedIn which has been and continues to be the best platform to network on. As I relocated to Oxfordshire to take on my headship, I was networking 6 months before I arrived with peers in the county and with people I needed to connect with.

Becoming an introducer – I have a couple of nicknames that friends have given me including Del-Boy (I am good at negotiating a deal and leveraging the assets I have for what we need) and Cilla (I remember names, faces and find ways to connect people who are passionate about the same things).

Although my network can feel like a bit of a beast at times, and it does need a bit of pruning from time to time, I can say that the investment has definitely opened doors for me and created opportunities for me that I would never have dreamt of.

If it all sounds and feels a bit daunting, remember to take things one step at a time and be clear on what you are doing and why you are doing it. Other people will be finding it just as awkward as you are so don’t assume that the swans are not paddling madly under the water line to make it look effortless.


Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Remarkable: adjective. worthy of attention; striking.

“I am remarkable because…”

Why is it so hard to finish this sentence? Can you reflect on what or who has shaped your thinking to hold yourself back from owning your own accomplishments? The voice you hear, who does it belong to? I bet you can relate it to something that a parent or a family member said to you as a child, or a colleague said to you in your career.

Does your inner critic scream: “Who does she think she is?”

Does your work nemesis mutter under their breath: “Get back in your box!”

Or if it is not hard to finish? Can you reflect on why that is? Have you considered exploring the privilege and the power you have in not having this self-limiting factor holding you back from sharing your successes with others?

Women smiling with a hand over her face. #IamRemarkable

Research shows that those who self-promote, get promoted. Go figure. Those individuals who articulate, celebrate and amplify their accomplishments are seen, heard and recognised in their work places. The spotlight is put on them, by them. Whereas, those who shy away from verbalising their accomplishments out loud, stay in the shadows.

Research shows that some demographic groups are more inclined to the act of self-promotion but this is not a skill we are, or are not, born with. Self-promotion is not a quality, it is a skill. A skill we need to develop, practise and perfect.

People from under-represented groups are less likely to self-promote. Why is this?

I believe this is because they/ we have been conditioned to see self-promotion as a negative. Self-promotion can lead to judgement, criticism and if unrecognised or ignored can further fuel our inner critic. We thus hold ourselves back, paralysed in fear.

We all experience the Imposter Syndrome, we are afraid of people realising we are frauds and that our input is not valid, that our ideas do not deserve to be heard as we have not earned the right to be there. This is how we are conditioned to think. We have been brainwashed to be humble and to be modest – that owning, sharing and celebrating our accomplishments is unbecoming.

Three different women with three slogans. Stereotypes don't define me. I stick to my values. I embrace my success.

We know there are societal, structural and systemic barriers acting as obstacles in the pathways of individuals. Women and BAME individuals need to work even harder to smash through the glass and the concrete ceilings above them. Do we really need to stand in our own way too? Should we really stand in the way of others too?

Because the truth of the matter is that we are part of the problem. We are judgemental and hyper-critical of our peers who self-promote. Their progress brings out the worst in us! Self-promotion in others can incite envy, resentment, jealousy and bitchiness in us.

Research shows that there are biases around self-promotion. Self-promotion can become conflated with boasting or bragging. Self-promotion can jar us if it is inauthentic. Self-promotion can make us inwardly cringe in embarrassment too.

If you are a woman who self-promotes, you are looked upon less favourably. If you are a woman who self-promotes you are less likable. If you are a woman who self-promotes you are believed to be less competent. We can be our own worst enemies as the judgement and criticism can be both internal and external. The fear of failure and the fear of being judged stops us from putting ourselves in situations where this may happen.

I am sure you have all heard the anecdote of the man and the woman who look at a job advert? They are both qualified for the role. They both have the same experience, expertise and qualifications. The man sees he can demonstrate 6/10 of the requirements so he applies. The woman sees she cannot do 100% of the requirements so she does not apply. The confidence gap exasperates the progress gap which in turn exasperates the pay gap, irritating the self-worth gap which then starts the cycle over again.

Women thus fall further and further behind. In the current context of Covid-19, women’s careers and women’s confidence are taking a big hit. So we need to be self-promoters now more than ever…

Self-promotion when based on facts, cannot be argued with. Self-promotion is a skill we need to flex, it is something we need to practise, intentionally so that it feels more natural. Self-promotion is about us putting our heads above the parapets and us pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

A quote on a TV screen reading It's not bragging, if it's based on facts.

But who are our self-promotion role models? Who can we learn these much-needed skills from? In my #IamRemarkable workshops we have collectively struggled to identify more than a handful of individuals in our professional or personal spheres who self-promote in an authentic way, by showing integrity, by being natural and by not jarring us. Jacinda Ardern and Michelle Obama have both been named as leaders who embody this skill set and who wear it well.

My two visible role models would be someone who I know really well, Jaz Ampaw-Farr, and someone who I admire from afar, Bianca Miller – notably both were on The Apprentice. Both are storytellers, they hook people in with their personality, they share their journeys and you invest in them, you believe them and you want them to be successful as they are authentic. Bianca is an influencer on LinkedIn as she manages her online presence so well. Jaz is a thought leader when it comes to resilience. Both women own their accomplishments and self-promote their impact in their own distinct way.

So here are 8 of my tips on developing your self-promotion toolkit:

  1. Keep a journal, it can be for appreciation or gratitude or a list of why you are remarkable but the act of writing it down helps you to process and retain each small accomplishment on your journey.
  2. Practise saying your accomplishments out loud to yourself. Do it in the mirror and listen to your voice, watch your face. If you don’t believe it no-one else will, so practise saying it with meaning and conviction.
  3. Create a daily affirmation or a daily mantra to remind yourself how remarkable you are.
  4. Share your accomplishments verbally with others, your partner, your friends and family, your colleagues, so they can help to amplify your accomplishments and remind you of each win.
  5. Share your accomplishments in writing, update your CV, add them to your LinkedIn profile.
  6. Leverage your network and use your testimonials on LinkedIn to amplify your accomplishments.
  7. Tag team with a friend and apply the shine theory in meetings to spotlight one another.
  8. Listen without judgement and celebrate each other’s accomplishments, role model how to be successful and proud, in a natural and authentic way.

We are all remarkable but we need to remind ourselves and each other of that. In the last 10 weeks we have accomplished so much, individually and collectively, we have grown and pushed out of our comfort zones, we have risen to challenges and grasped opportunities. I would encourage you to make a list of what you should be remembering and celebrating about this bizarre period of history. Own everything you have achieved so that you do not forget when we go back to ‘normal’ or whatever the next chapter will be.

Quote by John Green on textured background. What is the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable?

I am remarkable because… I have resigned from 3 jobs in the last 4 years without a job to go to but I have landed on my feet each time. I am remarkable because… I relocated to a new area, and although I didn’t know anyone, I have made new friends. I am remarkable because… I have started #WomenEd, 2 schools and a new business. I am remarkable because… I didn’t allow gardening leave to define me. I am remarkable because… I have not only survived lockdown as a singleton, but I have positively thrived in the space it has given me to be reflective and creative. I am remarkable because… I am resilient and indestructible.

If any of those statements jarred you or made you judge me, it says more about you then it does about me. I’m okay with that. I am not bragging nor boasting, I am just speaking my truth.

“Be genuine. Be remarkable. Be worth connecting with”.
Seth Godin

I know I am genuine, remarkable and worth connecting with. I believe that. If you don’t then I am okay with that. The only person I need to impress, to be happy with and liked by, is myself.

Quote from Wendy Wasserstein quote on patterned red background. Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.

If you want a boost and to learn some self-promotion skills then check out the #IamRemarkable workshops I and other accredited facilitators are running on Eventbrite.

If you want to practise your self-promotion skills then join us for #IamRemarkable Wednesdays on Twitter. If you attend one of my workshops you also get an invite to join our private #IamRemarkable group on Facebook, a safe space for practising your self-promotion skills!

We are on a journey of self-discovery as we explore our belief systems and move from being #10%braver to #10%prouder. It is a process we can learn on together as we discover that there are a lot of things in our lives that are worth celebrating and as we realise that we are far more accomplished than we give ourselves credit for, and that the only person we need to compete with or compare ourselves to, is ourselves. We are all remarkable because we are all striking in embracing our authentic selves and we are all worthy of attention, we just need to keep reminding ourselves of that!

#IamRemarkable Certified Facilitator banner with the phrase I embrace my success.

You can watch the promotional video from Google about their #IamRemarkable Diversity and Inclusion initiative here.

Embracing Equity #IWD2023

Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Each year UN Women choose a theme for International Women’s day that becomes the focus for events throughout the year. The theme for #IWD2023 is #EmbraceEquity and I have mixed feelings about it.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are fundamental to be work as a leader, a trainer and coach.

Diversity – I ask people to reflect on who is represented and who is present, also considering who is missing from the space we are occupying which could be a team, a meeting, a library or the curriculum.

Inclusion – I ask people to reflect on how we are doing inclusion by design. We often assume that others feel included because we feel included but the inclusion is not intentional. We need to interrogate how inclusive we are as a workplace and as an employer.

Equity – I ask people to consider the differences between equality and equity. We often think we are being fair by being equal, however the gaps remain the same and get moved up the system when we focus on equality, whereas equity is about identifying and dismantling the barriers.

It is interesting how many schools want to DEI work with the pupils and are less comfortable to do it with the staff. Schools are very focused on meeting the needs of pupils with different needs – there is a tangible commitment to find and remove the barrier pupils are experiencing, but we often neglect the different needs of the staff or do not have the data to inform us.

I ask schools to reflect on how data rich we are when it comes to our pupils and how data poor we often are when it comes to the staff. I ask schools to gather staff voice/ feedback and hear the uncomfortable truths of where the inequities for employees exist.

So having a spotlight on equity is brilliant and much-needed as it is the hardest part of this work. We need to make our workplaces more equitable and we need to address systemic, structural and societal inequities. However, embracing feels too soft for me.

Glass ceilings need shattering. Concrete ceilings need smashing. Inequities need dismantling and redressing. So ‘embracing’ equity feels like a bit of a cop-out. It is well-intended but misses the mark. Values need to be lived not laminated, and the value of equity needs activating for concrete actions not stroking. If it needed to be alliterative perhaps some better options could have been: Expecting Equity? Ensuring Equity? Embedding Equity?

A lot of DEI work does not stick, is not sustained and does not get results because it is framed as good intentions when instead we need to be focused on good outcomes. It is the impact that is essential in transforming how we do things to make a more inclusive workplace for all and a more equitable workplace for diverse employees (ie people with lived experience of the Protected Characteristics).
Thus, we need to consider: How will we measure it? How will we know when and where we are having impact? How will we track our progress?

In my DEI training sessions I talk about the 3 Cs of this work: Consciousness, Confidence and Competence. So here are my calls to action:

  • How will we become individually and collectively, personally and professionally, more conscious of the inequities experienced by women in our workplaces? How will we activate more #HeForShe allies and advocates?
  • How will we build confidence in analysing the gender data and openly discussing the inequities such as position and salary? How will we build confidence in calling in and calling out the gendered behaviour and the language that have become normalised in our workplace?
  • How will we develop the competence to do this work in an intersectional way to consider the experience of women who are doubly, triply and quadruply disadvantaged as they have lived experience of multiple protected characteristics?

My Coaching Journey

Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

It is no surprise that I am a fan of coaching. Coaching has been transformational in supporting me in navigating my journey.

When I was an unhappy Deputy Headteacher I was coached by Carol Jones and Viv Grant. Both helped me get clear on my values, my purpose and helped me communicate my frustration. Moreover, they helped me be intentional about my next steps.

As a busy and very stretched Headteacher I was coached by Eve Warren and Nikki Armytage-Foy. Both helped me process the immensity of the role. Eve helped me focus on my strategic leadership as my job starting a new school was so operational. Nikki helped me focus on me and what I needed to be healthy, happy and fulfilled.

I made sure that my own SLT had access to coaching too. We had training with Fierce Conversations and Graydin, and we had a pool of coaches around our teams to support us on our leadership journeys, personally and professionally, individually and collectively.

Accrediting with Resilient Leaders Elements as I set up my own business accelerated my strategic thinking and goal-setting. I loved the practical and reflective tools that RLE and then Colour-Me Profiling enabled me to put in my growing toolkit of strategies to support my own coaching clients.

I then started my ICF certification journey with the Co-active Institute and I am finishing it with the Teleos Leadership Institute, at the same time as certifying with the British School of Coaching on their ILM L4 Executive Coaching and Mentoring Certificate. As I collated my coaching journey including coaching hours, clients and CPD over the last few years for one of my assessments it made me realise a few things about my experience of coaching:

Coaching is an investment
You need to invest time, energy, finance and resource to be coached and to be trained to coach. I have self-financed most of my journey as it has been about me, in my own time getting clear on different aspects of my life.

Coaching is a cultural commitment
We committed to creating a coaching culture as a school so everyone was trained and developed the skills and language to have courageous conversations. Through me DEI work I am thinking more and more about how coaching is the tool that organisations need to make changes to how inclusive they are as workplaces.

Coaching is about listening
I have definitely become a better listener as a coach. I hear what is being said, how it is being said but also what is not being said. The more I coach the less I say, the more powerful the questions are that I ask.

Coaching is a reflective practice
Yes the coaching session is where most of the action happens. But the mind is activated in the session and the thinking, talking and journaling continue beyond it. I encourage my busy school leaders to be coached from home, at the end of the day/ week so they can give themselves some processing time following the session.

Coaching is important, but so is mentoring
I find the hierarchy between these two support mechanisms an interesting one. In education mentoring is for those starting their careers and coaching is for those progressing up the ladder. Lots of people come to me for coaching when they really need mentoring – especially when they are new to role.

So as my coaching journey continues in 2023, what am I hoping to achieve?

I trained in 2021 with Resilient Leaders Elements & C-me Colour Profiling.

I trained in 2022 with Co-Active Training Institute & Teleos Leadership Institute.

In 2023 I will achieve my ILM Level 7 in Executive Coaching and Mentoring and I will certify with ICF.

In 2021 I coached 60 people, I coached for 265 hours and I trained to coach for 85 hours.

In 2022 I coached 35 people, I coached for 135 hours and I trained to coach for 155 hours.

In 2023 I want to coach less people more and do less training to apply the learning I have experienced.

I am also keen to build the bridge between my Leadership Development Consultancy, Coaching and Training and my advocacy through Diverse Educators. For me coaching is the gamechanger for the individual leaders I work with but also for the organisations I am supporting so systemic coaching for cultural transformation is the goal for my future coaching practice.