An Oxford Experience

Kerryn Simpfendorfer, Business Manager at Cornerstone College, recently engaged in a deep professional learning experience in the UK. We invited her to share her inspiring and insightful experience.

 I value the opportunity for professional learning, as I have much to learn.    

Although an experienced Business Manager (25 years +), I have moments of feeling unprepared as my role continues to evolve in response to changing circumstances for my school.  Experience is no longer a golden ticket to being able to competently support my Principal and Board as they navigate the complex internal and external landscape.  It can feel like the harder you work, the less effective the outcomes.  

While I have and will always value professional learning from networks such as AIS and ASBA, an impactful experience for me in the past was an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) as part of a cohort of other (non-education) professionals.  Learning, being challenged (unlearning) and developing understanding together, is a unique process.    

In my research to locate the next rich and transformational learning experience to support my ongoing transition from technical expert / manager of processes to strategist / leader of change agents, I explored opportunities to again be part of a cohort of learners.   

The University of Oxford (Saïd Business School) High Performance Leadership Program has a focus on leading self and others, so as to further develop as a strategist working in complex and uncertain conditions.  This is a one-week residential program with approx. 40 leaders from across the world with diverse backgrounds, industries and experience.   

The professors and research-informed theory and practice is made invaluable through the daily interactions with high-calibre leaders who know nothing of my context but are keen to discover, while being curious and challenging.  In this environment, it is accepted that advice-giving is unhelpful however listening, questions and coaching are very beneficial and productive. Individual and group coaching with world-class executive coaches ensures this is a tangible learning experience for every member of the cohort.   

There is great value in stepping back from the day-to-day intensity in order to build insightful perspective. Doing so alongside an interested and caring collective of impressive leaders in wide-ranging fields, can be an efficient and effective way to approach this.  I have come away with enormous insight into how theory that we all “know” so well from reading broadly, can be developed, embedded and authentically brought to life in a real-world way. 

After many hours of diagnostic and reflection work, both during the course and since arriving home, I am now on the path to work at achieving my extensive (!) action plan.  

Kerryn Simpfendorfer 
Business Manager 
Cornerstone College 


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