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You might ask, 'Why bother thinking about what happens in a line manager/boss's mind?'.


Well, strange things happen in schools all the time, right? 


Who has NEVER thought, "Why did that person, of all people, get that job?" 


Exactly - some things may seem unfathomable, but when you start thinking about things more strategically, it all begins to make sense, sort of, if you squint your eyes a little. 


Look, like any other organisation, schools are imperfect and a fascinating mix of people, politics, and power.


And if you believe that there are set rules at play, then think again...


New World, New Rules, New Power. 


The following exercises help you explain why some teachers' careers accelerate while others stall.

And why some go backwards. 


Afterall, what happens to YOUR career may not be entirely in your hands, but it shouldn't be entirely in someone else's...

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Suspend Self-Assessment.

Forget what you think about your performance – we are focusing on what others believe and why. 


Zone in on your line manager's perception of your performance and potential. By understanding their perspective, you can proactively align your goals (or play them at their own game). 


So, for this first task, remember you are asking, "What would my line manager say?" 


The Employee Performance Quadrant (EPQ)

The Employee Performance Quadrant (EPQ) divides employees into four categories based on performance and potential. 


To create this matrix:


1. Take a blank sheet of paper. 

2. Draw a vertical line down the middle of the paper, dividing it into two halves.

3. Draw a horizontal line halfway up and go across the paper. 

4. You now have a 4-quadrant grid. 

5. Label each quadrant following the instructions below.


(NOTE: Some people take exceptions to the terms used in this model; don't be too animated or distracted by them; they work because they say it as it is - and if you dislike the idea of schools having Dead Wood, then you're not paying enough attention to reality...)


  • Write "Newborn" in the Bottom Left Quadrant

  • Write "Rising Star" in the Top Left Quadrant

  • Write "Cash Cow" in the Top Right Quadrant

  • Write "Dead Wood" in the Bottom Right Quadrant


Time to think like your line manager; if they were thinking about you, which of these quadrants would they put you in and why?

  • Newborns: Employees who are new to their roles and need considerable help and guidance. These individuals may lack experience and require support adapting to their new responsibilities. This can be an Early Career Teacher, but it can also be someone promoted into leadership for the first time.


  • Rising Stars: High-potential employees who show promise but are not there (yet). Rising Stars can excel if they are given—or have access to—the right opportunities and guidance.


  • Cash Cows: Top performers who consistently deliver results. While they are valuable assets, they may come at a higher cost and must be seen as value for money.


  • Dead Wood: Employees who may not be contributing as expected. This may be down to a lack of skills, motivation, or other factors. Usually, but not always, they are considered poor value for money because their salaries are higher than what they deliver and may even take extra resources, e.g., HR time and processes.


Be honest: where do you think they would put you and why?

Likely Scenarios

Of course, what follows next is not set in stone, but it is an illustrative example of what might happen to someone's career if they are believed to fit into that category.


After each, you will see a HOWEVER section; the point of this exercise is to draw attention to how strategic planning on your part, being proactive about opportunities

and avoiding obstacles you can see coming, are critical career strategy skills.


Likely scenario: Strategically Sponsored. 


Given their potential for growth and the investment in their development, newborns are typically nurtured with training and mentoring to help them evolve into valuable team members. Specific funds are often available for this work in schools, and even external sources of CPD exist.


HOWEVER: Enthusiasm can wane quickly as the reality of the job's challenges kicks in; overload can topple even the most enthusiastic newborn. 


Those who struggle at the start of their careers can be in for a particularly challenging time, which can affect a line manager's views. 


Even Newborns who successfully get their act together must face the realisation that they can't remain a newborn indefinitely; the clock is ticking. 


They should craft a strategic career plan to transition from a Newborn to a Rising Star. 


  • Focus on specialisation in a niche area, pioneering innovative approaches, and consistently delivering added value. 


These actions enhance your skill set and build your reputation as a forward-thinking and indispensable asset. 


  • Engaging in projects that stretch your capabilities and seeking roles that offer visibility and challenge will expedite your growth, ensuring you quickly become recognised for your unique contributions and potential.


Rising Stars

Likely scenario: Secretly Stalled. 


While Rising Stars are high-potential employees, there's a risk they may not receive the opportunities they need to advance due to factors such as internal politics, resource constraints, or a lack of available positions at higher levels, potentially stalling their growth despite their potential. 


More and more, we are seeing the creation of Associate Assistant Head roles, and often, the title comes with exposure to long SLT meetings and increased workload, but there is no extra time or pay. 


Be wary of what is happening here; it doesn't look like stalling, but if priority is being given to the cash cows in the organisation (to keep them firing on all cylinders), then leaders need to keep them motivated to keep them willing… and so, in the grand pecking order, you are a future priority at best.


Therefore, you can be in a holding pattern

and be stalled without realising it.


HOWEVER: Rising Stars must not let these barriers halt their ascent. Taking charge of your development is crucial if you find yourself in this position.


  • Start by creating visibility for your achievements and potential across the organisation, not just within your team. 


  • Or look at opportunities across your MAT. 


  • Seek mentorship outside of your immediate circle to gain diverse perspectives and sponsorship. 


  • Volunteering for high-visibility projects or cross-departmental initiatives can also showcase your versatility and leadership skills, positioning you for the next leap forward. 


  • Crafting a personal brand that resonates with innovation and collaborative success can help break through the stalls and propel you towards becoming a Cash Cow. 


The harsh truth is that you might need to move schools to become one.


Cash Cows

Likely scenario: Strategically Sponsored. 


Cash cows are valuable assets to their organisations and are often rewarded and retained through strategic sponsorship, ensuring they remain motivated and continue to contribute significantly. 


The problem with Cash Cows is that to maintain cash cow status; they must have high skills AND a high willingness to "do they do" – when willingness becomes lacking, line managers must act. 


Cash Cows are often promoted to senior positions to control their willingness to contribute, especially with a shortage of subject teachers. To keep them delivering the cream in the classroom and gaining the school's essential results, they are promoted to keep them committed. 


It can work, but it doesn't always work, and other staff can view such appointments cynically.


HOWEVER: Cash Cows challenge is maintaining value while seeking further growth opportunities. 


  • To avoid becoming complacent or peaking prematurely, focus on broadening your influence. 


  • This might involve spearheading new initiatives that align with strategic goals, mentoring Rising Stars and Newborns, or pursuing continuous learning to stay ahead in your field. 


  • Engaging in strategic networking can also open avenues for lateral moves or promotions that refresh your career trajectory. 


  • Consider being an expert and drive innovation or transformation projects, ensuring your role evolves with organisational growth and changes.

Spot when you stop being seen as

automatic value for money...


Dead Wood

Likely scenario: Silently Strangled. 


Dead Wood may find themselves in situations where their growth opportunities are limited, and they receive minimal investment in their development. 


Over time, they might be phased out or encouraged to leave as they are considered poor value for money.


HOWEVER: Being labelled Dead Wood presents an opportunity for "re-birth". 


Initiating a period of self-reflection to understand the gap between your current state and the school's needs is the first step. 


  • Re-skilling or up-skilling in emerging areas relevant to your school's or MAT's future can make you invaluable again. 


  • Engage in conversations with your management about your desire to contribute more effectively - maybe explore different roles or departments where your revitalised skill set can shine. 


  • By demonstrating a commitment to adapt and grow, you can shift perceptions from being seen as Dead Wood to becoming a "Re-Born" asset, ready to tackle new challenges with renewed vigour and aligned with organisational goals.


Teaching is hard. Coasting rarely works out well. Maybe consider an exit strategy...

So what now?

Use my Career Clinic Service

I'm Martin Dale, a former secondary Headteacher and now director and lead consultant at Phixa Coaching and Training Academy. And, as you know, we are amidst a retention and recruitment crisis in the UK education sector. While this is terrible news for Heads,  it can be great news for you. Now is the perfect opportunity to get some support, hone a strategic career plan, and get what you want.


Read on for details of my career clinic service and access a special offer to make change happen.


Why a Career Clinic?

Every teacher's journey boasts moments of brilliance alongside those elements that shimmer but could gleam even brighter. And then there are those gaps we hope to remain hidden and the missteps we'd rather forget. We'll curate your story.

Gap Analysis 

We'll celebrate your triumphs, offer candid feedback on areas ripe for refinement, help you shed counterproductive habits, and craft a strategic plan to address those gaps.

More than an audit

The Career Clinic isn't just another audit; it's a confidential, personalised coaching package specifically for driven teachers. Designed for those with their sights set on the next career level and unwilling to leave it to chance, it provides the in-depth Performance Management consultation you've likely never had.

Deep Dive Self Assessment

First off,  you'll complete a series of exercises, checklists and prompts and send them to me for analysis. I will identify where your strengths lie and where you are weaker;

you will become focused, self-aware, realistic and prepared.

Then, you have a 1-hour consultation by Zoom or phone where we do a rigorous gap analysis and thoroughly target challenge questions;

we will establish a strategic game plan.


You leave with clear goals, a laser-focused road map about how to address gaps, gain the experience and skills you need to take your career to the next level, and a timeline to secure quick wins.

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but that's not all

To make sure this works for you, I also give you with an additional 'Accountability' service.


You have unlimited*WhatsApp/Text check-in for one-month post-consultation.


Here, you can access quick expert advice, receive support when you need it and benefit from confidential, unbiased help. 


 Stay on track and ensure momentum.

*(T&Cs apply) not 24/7 and fair usage policy adhered to

Objective expert advice and support

1 hour confidential consultation

Clarity about gaps and any Achilles' heels

1 month ongoing support via text

- Limited Time Price  -


  • A personal assessment of your career by a former Headteacher, including a comprehensive review of your CV/LinkedIn, through detailed checklists and exercises.

  • A full gap analysis with suggested changes and amendments.

  • Rebranding advice tailored to your career goals.

  • A one-hour, one-to-one consultation to forge a strategy that boosts your career prospects.

  • Plus, one month of WhatsApp support and advice for ongoing guidance.


 Incredible value at £130 for a limited period  


Don't miss out on this

career boosting opportunity

Rising Star Now Mooing

Overwhelmed by the clarity and confidence I've gained...
The gap analysis and advice were exactly what I needed... so pleased to be going after opportunities that once seemed out of reach

Cash Cow Delivering

Feeling re-energised... Invaluable advice and a great re-branding session.
Your support has opened up a whole new trajectory for me, exploring leadership roles with a new sense of purpose and belief.

Dead Wood No More

Ok, so not great to be called 'Dead Wood,' but it was correct. Thanks for opening my eyes; I've got too long before I can afford to retire, and it was the shot in the arm I needed. Choosing to become 'Re-born' has saved me a lot of grief.


I thought I was being nurtured

I'm a good teacher and get good results. I spent a lot of time believing that management saw me as the Golden Boy and happily rode that wave - opportunities came my way easily, and it was flattering.


As time went on, I was doing more and more but not getting promoted. A mate had worked with Martin and introduced us. Within minutes I understood what was happening, I was being stalled and although it wasn't malicious, it didn't sit well.


The Career Clinic work was great - I learned how to make my situation work for me. Martin helped me see that I was gaining lots of new knowledge and expertise and that, used the right way, could be a springboard. We got strategic - I networked like never before, showcased my skills and knowledge and even became a 'go-to' guy with other schools. Long story short, Martin helped me reposition myself and I got headhunted. Don't think about it, do it. It's worth way more than he is charging.

Stop scrolling and click away if you're sure
you wouldn't benefit from any of this:


  • A career assessment by a former Headteacher, scrutinising your career 

  • A detailed gap analysis pinpointing the exact changes to catapult your career

  • Tailored rebranding advice that aligns perfectly with your career aspirations.

  • A one-hour strategy session dedicated to boosting your career trajectory.

  • A month of WhatsApp support, providing on-the-spot guidance and advice.


Investing in yourself at this juncture isn't just a decision—it's a strategic manoeuvre.

Book now; spaces at this price

are limited and time-sensitive

Still scrolling?

Go to our teachers' page on our main website for even more information!

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