Andrew Oberthur’s professional interests are in creating a culture of TRUST, COLLABORATION and ENQUIRY to make your professional relationships work; and creating an optimistic vision based on common values of the group.
He has a passion for the inclusion of children with diverse learning needs in all classrooms and also has presented many workshops around strengthening the partnership between home and primary school. Andrew is also an experienced MC for both social and professional occasions. He is a mediator and negotiator, having worked with parents who are going through relationship struggles.
After working with Andrew your outcome should be that: Positive, effective teams.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! We know you’re a busy person, so our readers will appreciate learning more about your backstory and how you got started.
Andrew Oberthur: I started being a primary school teacher at the age of 19, moving to Assistant Principal after 4 years of teaching. I was then appointed to my first principalship after a total of 10 years of being Assistant Principal in 2 schools. For the last 20 years I have been principal in four primary schools in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
In 2017 I had an idea to share some of my experiences as a principal of primary schools with parents and teachers. So I wrote a self published book. which was first released in late 2018. In 2019 I took 6 months leave to explore the world of educational and leadership consultancy. I set myself a goal to meet a new person, either face to face or via technology each week. I built a tremendous network of people, yet I remained new to the world of speaking and consultancy so I was yet to generate a viable income to provide for my family (my wife and two teenagers). As I returned to my job as a school principal, opportunities for consultancy and speaking gained a little traction.
- In 2020 the global pandemic arrived and disrupted life including the delivery of education provisions.
- Fascinating times. This year we have navigated through the pandemic, and floods – all of which have created some ‘turbulence’.
- Towards the end of 2020 a new publisher offered to rework my book and it was re-released with a new title in 2021 – “Are you Ready for School? – Trust, Collaboration and Enquiry between parents and teachers”.
- My second book is due for release in mid 2022- “Balance: Building Positive Relationships within Educational Protocols”.
- As a primary school principal I still do private consultancy in my ‘spare’ time.
Can you tell us a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were starting out in your field? What did you learn from that experience?
Andrew Oberthur: Starting out in the world of speaking / consultancy I thought people would want to hear my message of TRUST, COLLABORATION and ENQUIRY. Oh how wrong was I.
I soon learnt that I was (and probably still am) a ‘nobody’. I didn’t have any profile outside of Catholic Education in Brisbane and even that profile was small (and I liked it that way). I also learnt that I could not really offer my services to my existing network of principals. Beyond my network I had minimal contacts.
I learnt that self-promotion was hard work. Building a media profile was hard work. Using social media was a new experience. These were all avenues that were foreign to me, as a principal I had a captive audience. I also learnt that colleagues who had taken a similar and more successful route into consultancy were very willing and generous to share their experiences. I also learnt that there are experts in their field to assist with the new skills necessary for such a venture.
Since 2019 I have built my profile by being a regular contributor a couple of educational journals, being on-call for radio interviews, doing blogs and podcasts for a few websites.
Somebody helped you get to where you are now. Somebody probably gave you some good advice or helped you out when you needed it. Who was that person for you? Tell us about it.
Andrew Oberthur: Allan Parker I consider a mentor, as I explored the world of consultancy. In 2015 I was fortunate to do a master class in Executive Leadership under Allan’s guidance. I chose to continue with the optional assessment and completed a Graduate Certificate in Negotiation with Allan as my course leader.
Following this Allan has made numerous introductions, promoted my book, invited me to attend other workshops, and offered to edit and publish my first book under his business name “Peak Performance”.
I have invited Allan to work with my staff in 2017, to share his wisdom about building teams and developing improved communication skills.
I remain in regular contact with Allan as a friend and mentor, seeking his advice and counsel on a regular basis.
Allan Parker works around the world as a negotiator, behavioural scientist, forensic linguist and brilliant mind.
Many studies have shown that businesses with a clear purpose are more successful in many ways. When your company started, what was its vision? What was its purpose?
Andrew Oberthur: My personal business, Creative Collaborative Solutions was established to provide consultancy to educational groups (and ultimately corporate groups) specifically around the concepts of TRUST, COLLABORATION and ENQIRY. I was advised by some trusted colleagues that my scope was too broad to attract an audience. I was encouraged to refine my speciality. As my book is about building relationships between parents and teachers specifically in primary schools and getting parents and children ready to start school, I have focused on early childhood readiness as my field of interest and expertise.
I still remain available for private consultancy in school readiness and executive coaching and debriefing.
Thank you for that. Now let’s turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share a story with our readers about how you led your team during difficult times?
Andrew Oberthur: Education delivery has been significantly interrupted since the global pandemic impacted the world in 2020. As a school principal I was, and still am, responsible for leading my school through the provision of education. And in 2022, just to add to the complexities, Brisbane was impacted by significant flooding which also effected the teaching and learning process. During these times I had teachers, teacher aides, parents and students all looking to me for leadership and guidance. As I was principal I had a degree of autonomy and authority. I also had my education authority giving all their principals advice and protocols within which we had to work.
Upon reflection in preparing for this interview I identified five Cs that I believe are necessary for leading during these ‘turbulent’ times. I believe leaders need COMPASSION, CLARITY, CONFIDENCE, COMPETENCE and COLLABORATION. These will be unpacked in response to the following questions.
Have you ever thought about giving up? Where do you find the motivation to continue through your challenges? What keeps you going?
Andrew Oberthur: Giving up is not a choice when leading schools, despite feeling stressed, overwhelmed, tired, confused and swamped at times. As I like to think I am relatively calm under pressure (and that is feedback from my staff), I am conscious that people rely on leaders to instil hope for the future, beyond the challenges they face. A sense of optimism through the lens of reality keeps me grounded. I am also conscious that the media portrays the worse case scenarios and often catastrophise the situation. Sadly this is often what the community rely on as their source of truth. Reality is often different than the worse case scenarios that are reported in the media.
I make every effort to listen to the authorities and then contextualise the plans for my local community. I am conscious to ‘catch my breath’ at regular intervals and don’t allow my “whole world” be consumed by the turbulence. Difficult times will pass and so I look to the future.
What do you think is the most important role of a leader during difficult times?
Andrew Oberthur: A leader must make decisions to lead their community. There must be CLARITY in their message. Ultimately the people are relying on plans, directions, protocols – whatever are necessary to manage the turbulent times. many people appreciate as much certainty as possible even in times of uncertainty. Hence it is critical that leaders make decisions. Coupled with that is communicating the decision. Leaders need to be present and visible to their community. All of these elements are interrelated. Without decisions, presence, visibility and communication – are hollow. Leaders with plans, based on informed decisions, have a reason to be present, visible with something to communicate.
The decisions a leader makes should be indicative of their COMPASSION for their community. Leaders should also be COMPETENT to fulfil their responsibilities. Leaders need to have the skills to lead. If leaders have a team of people around them, then leaders should COLLABORATE with their team and potentially work with the community to navigate turbulent times.
When the future seems uncertain, it can be hard to stay motivated. What is the best way to improve morale? What can a leader do to make their team feel inspired, motivated and engaged?
Andrew Oberthur: A leader can lift spirits and maintain morale by celebrating little wins; by reflecting on progress made under duress and by acknowledging their community. When leaders walk the walk and talk the talk, when they can be present and visible and “in the trenches” with their community. These qualities are generally appreciated by a leader’s community and creates a positive vibe. If leaders can ease the pressure on their staff/ community by sharing some of the responsibilities, that too can lift morale.
In a school setting this may mean principals cancelling staff meetings, easing teacher playground duties by the Leadership Team doing their duties; allowing extra provisions / time for planning. These practices show empathy for staff and builds spirit within the community.
Having CONFIDENCE in the community, displaying confidence in their community, being confident in their own ability – are examples of the importance of another quality leaders must possess in order to lead and keep people motivated.
How can you best communicate difficult news to your team and customers?
Andrew Oberthur: When communicating with our team: staff, parents and teachers, that they were facing a period of home-schooling I often prepared my message and then rehearsed it with my Leadership Team, prior to delivering it. The communication was usually via email/ letter and face to face. Occasionally I would send a video message to add the personal touch.
The messages that I had to deliver needed to be (and continue to be) concise and clear. The messages often acknowledge the probable impact of the message to all those involved (change, disappointment, challenge). The messages need to be succinct and deal in facts while offering a timeframe for review. By sharing a timeframe it gives the community an end point of hope. Even when the review resulted in continuation of the difficult news, the short timeframe makes coping with the challenges possible in small, bite size pieces.
How can leaders be able to make plans when the future is uncertain?
Andrew Oberthur: Leaders can only plan within the limitations that turbulent and uncertain times create. If it means that planning is only possible for the period of time between reviews of the new conditions as a result of turbulent times, then that’s OK. Leaders need to be transparent in their communication and share the rationale for decisions and the limitations of their planning.
When leaders plan within their limitations they are still making decisions and still leading. They are still taking responsibilities for the decisions and directions made.
Leaders may also like to do some scenario modelling so they as the circumstances evolve, they can adapt accordingly because thewy have thought through the possible, probable and likely scenarios. This can follow the model of “If this happens…., then we will do …..”. Now leaders cannot possibly model more than a couple of scenarios, so it is preferable to model a couple of positive scenarios for likely improvements, and a couple of models that show deterioration of circumstances.
Can a company find stability during difficult times by using a specific principle?
Andrew Oberthur: The principle I recommend leaders consider following are my three buzz words: TRUST, COLLABORATION and ENQUIRY. Allow me to unpack:-
TRUST – leaders trust their community to fulfil their duties; community trust leaders to lead, make wise decisions in the best interests of the community, individuals and groups.
COLLABORATION – work together. Yes leaders get paid to make decisions and lead, yet many decisions may impact the community more than the leader so the leaders should work in conjunction with the community.
ENQUIRY – if and when issues arise, questions should be asked. People should avoid aggression and avoid accusations in favour of asking questions. In a school setting I believe there only needs to be three questions that parents can use when enquiring at school: 1. What happened? 2. What’s the school policy on ……? 3. What will we do to work together?
Similarly teachers / principals need to only use 3 questions with parents: 1. What do you need? 2. What do you think that would look like in our school? 3. Anything else?
The other principle leaders should consider is to use 2 criteria when committing to plans by asking themselves this question: Are my plans realistic (Can it be done?) and is it sustainable (Can be it replicated?). If these criteria can’t be met then the leader may like to consider their options.
What are some of the most common mistakes that businesses make during difficult times? What can you do to avoid making these same mistakes?
Andrew Oberthur: One of the great challenges for leaders is to decide how quickly to make definitive decisions and plans. Sometimes learning when and how to makes decisions comes with experience and modelling. Pausing for as little as 10mins before jumping in and making public plans, can buy leaders some time to make a rationale decision with all the information available.
When leaders make uninformed decisions or knee jerk reactions that can cause panic and uncertainty. It may also result in leaders having to reverse their decision, sometimes a mater of hours after the original decision.
Leaders can consult, seek the wisdom of the group and their Leadership Team and make informed decisions in a timely manner. Leaders may also consider when to follow protocols strictly and when to ‘bend the rules’ in favour of acting in the best interests of relationships / people. If the issues are related to WHS then protocols may need to be followed; if issues are about life and death, then protocols must be followed; other issues may allow leaders some autonomy and latitude in leading communities.
Making more money, getting new customers, or keeping your current ones is hard during good times. It can be even harder during hard times. But it’s important to keep growing. Can you tell me some of the things you do to make sure you don’t lose ground when the economy is tough?
Andrew Oberthur: Maintaining a presence to one’s audience/ community/ clients is very important. To be visible when “times are tough” is a challenge that can be overcome by using technology to maintain a presence. For example leaders can maintain a presence on social media by posting on professional platforms such as LinkedIn. Leaders can write and get published in relevant journals; leaders can write blogs and do podcasts. These strategies can maintain a presence.
Sending video messages to relevant communities keep a personal touch when keeping connected to ‘your people’.
Technology makes meeting people possible via ZOOM or TEAMS. Platforms that promote professional networks are also important to use. Leaders who are keen to build their profile would be well-served to be on professional networks frequently.
What are five things a business leader can do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
Andrew Oberthur: COMMUNICATE – Share message of hope and optimism, in reality, without catastrophising the situation. When managing my school through the pandemic I communicated with my staff and families frequently and regularly. And my education authority also kept me informed regularly and frequently. People appreciate being kept informed.
Be COMPASSIONATE – people living in turbulent times like to to be heard, like to be understood, like protocols to be flexible enough to accommodate changes. When managing through the pandemic, there were many protocols put in place for the provision of education when students were learning at home. There was also some autonomy for leaders to manage their community within recommended protocols.
Be CONCISE / CLEAR – too much information can confuse and overwhelm people. Hence it is preferable for for leaders to keep their messages short and sweet. Consider the most effective platform for communicating – email. video, social media platforms. Brief rationale for actions are important. When sending students home due to floods – a brief text message to all families with how and when to collect their children was all that was needed. Short and sweet.
COLLABORATE – Leaders should work with their colleagues and use the collective wisdom of the group. When sending students how due to floods I sought the wisdom of my three deputy principals to plans the exodus. When planning for home schooling I sought the opinion of the teachers – how best can we continue to provide high quality education. Collaboration works.
Be DECISIVE – Leaders need to make decisions, informed, and wise. Not all decisions will be perfect yet decisions are necessary to set the direction especially during turbulent times. So long as leaders take responsibility for their decisions then the community will appreciate the plans, especially with a rationale and transparency. When providing home schooling we provided clear expectations on teachers and parents and students. Not everyone agreed with all the decisions, yet they appreciated clarity.
Can you share a life lesson quote that is meaningful to you and explain how it has influenced your life?
Andrew Oberthur: Dream, believe, create, succeed.
This quote encapsulates my philosophy of being positive by having a dream. I then have to have the confidence to have a go and make the dream happen.
The creation is the journey to completing the dream. Success is the outcome. (and even “failures” – provide lessons for growth).
How can our readers stay up-to-date on your work?
Andrew Oberthur: Visit my website: www.creativecollaborativesolutions
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/
Jerome Knyzweski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Andrew Oberthur for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Andrew Oberthur or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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