4 min read

Air New Zealand’s Nicky Bebbington on having “the best principal in New Zealand”

Volunteering with Springboard Trust is about applying the skills you have learned over your whole career in a new context. Coaching, strategy, leading teams – it is incredible how applicable cross-sector skills can be for school leaders in Aotearoa.

So it proved for Nicky Bebbington, a Senior OD Consultant at Air New Zealand. Having been with the organisation (one of our cherished partners) for several years, she knew about the work her colleagues were doing with school leaders – and last year, had the opportunity to experience it for herself.

The altruism of school leadership

Nicky volunteered in our Springboard Coaching for Leadership (formerly High Performing Leaders) programme, supporting a principal to understand their strengths and areas for improvement – as well as supporting their leadership team in a separate workshop. As she puts it, she feels her work was cut out for her.

“I probably got the best principal in New Zealand in my opinion! Her 360 degree feedback was just the best – I was delighted at how capable she was, how passionate she is and how focused she is on building the leadership of her team.”

“Schools touch so many facets of society – community, children, future thinking – and principals are managing that, and people, on what is often a shoestring budget. I’m humbled by what the people I worked with took on, the responsibility they bear for young people. It’s so impressive, and so wonderfully altruistic, completely focused on others’ wellbeing and success.”

Finding the value in your own work

Through the programme, Nicky coached and supported the principal – and discovered just how much value she could bring to the relationship.

"It’s all about contextualising, really. I was stretching the leaders, getting them to think outside their education box, and providing a source of comfort as we placed them in a wider strategic context. I wondered beforehand how similar education would be to a commercial enterprise, whether the same methodologies I use day to day would apply. And they do!”

“That was some amazing learning I brought back, how broadly applicable what I do can be. You can often lack the confidence in what you do, whether it’s of use to others, but volunteering with Springboard Trust highlighted that there’s a hell of a lot that we can all bring to support educational leaders.”

As someone whose work focuses on supporting others, volunteering was a perfect match for Nicky, in content and in ethos.

“In my role it’s about helping others be better, helping them get things out of the way so they can make that improvement. I’m putting myself second and other people first, and that feels okay to me – and it’s totally the mindset to bring to the volunteering. Although it’s funny, I think I ended up getting as much out of it as I gave!”

As Nicky’s work progressed, she also got to see the flow-on benefits of her work with the principal.

“I was fortunate enough to facilitate the full team session, so I got to see the benefits the work was having for everyone involved, how they shared things they hadn’t ever before. I love these people, and I love this programme. It’s a great model, so well designed and highly needed.”

“If every principal in New Zealand could gain that same level of insight into themselves and their teams, then wow – we give our education system so much more power to change lives.”

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