Call me Cassandra

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Laura Williams, of L J Business Consultancy Ltd, discusses her magical powers

In my very first SBM job my head gave me the nickname ‘Cassandra’. Cassandra was a Greek princess who possessed the gift of prophecy but, after being cursed by the god, Apollo, her prophecies were never believed.

After initially being a bit of a sceptic, my head came to realise that my ‘predictions’ came true. She then enjoyed watching other ‘disbelievers’ come round to the ways of the new SBM. It didn’t take long for the SLT to believe I actually had supernatural credentials. 

They thought maybe it was some kind of magic or voodoo or other-worldly woo-woo – all more rational explanations than the, apparently inconceivable, reality that I was actually good at my job!

Of course, I had no gift of prophecy, or the ability to see into the future, although there were days I wished I did; but I did have a budget sheet, a HR portal, a contractors’ list, a box full of policies, a drawer full of gorgeous stationery and Google. Throw in some common sense, emotional intelligence – and the front to ask some ‘stupid’ questions – and there you have it! Abracadabra! Mystic bloomin’ Meg.

The problem with a person that is ‘always’ right is that people start to play the odds that, at some point, they have got to get it wrong – or worse, the person is ignored because ‘Well, they don’t have the authority to tell me what to do’. As a school business manager, I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, and having avoided doing someone actual physical damage with my crystal ball, if this is a situation you find yourself in then maybe my perspective can help.

YOU CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH – BUT DO WHAT YOU CAN

You can show, you can tell, you can inform, you can demonstrate, you can create graphs, you can write reports, you can say it nicely, you can say it baldly, you can keep talking, you can try and influence and you can stand on a soapbox with a megaphone and scream – but, at the end of the day, if someone is going to make a decision that, in your experience and well-informed opinion, is wrong, then there’s little else you can do. 

Though you are personally and emotionally invested in, and passionate about, your work (because you’re amazing at what you do and you care) when all is said and done, it’s someone else’s name over the door and it’s someone else’s signature on the paperwork. This means that, ultimately, someone else gets to make the final decision. 

KEEP DOING IT

Sometimes these decisions are down to judgement calls, as opposed to being wrong or right – but, know this – even if sometimes the decisions don’t go your way, it doesn’t diminish what you do, and isn’t necessarily a personal slight even if it feels that way. Sure, it can be hard to maintain your confidence in these situations but don’t let it shut you up. Keep showing, keep telling, keep informing. If you’ve provided them with the information they need to make a decision, and you’ve shared your views, concerns and recommendations, then you have fulfilled your duty as SBM. 

SILVER LINING

If it does go wrong, it won’t take them long to realise that they should have listened to you in the first place – making the odds much higher that, the next time round, they will do just that! Though you are bound to face some defeats – and I’ve had some crippling ones – you can still win the war. Educating your head and SLT is a critical part of your job. Speaking up at times like this, and in the right way, can be an effective way of shifting people’s view of you from firefighter and fixer to strategic planner.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS

If they still don’t listen to you, ever… well, maybe it’s time to let go of what you can’t control and look at what you can – even if that means moving on. If you’re not valued by your head, your salary doesn’t reflect your skills or your responsibility, and you’re wondering what on earth is the point of speaking up at all then, know this; you owe it to yourself to be seen, to be heard, to be valued and to be recognised. 

If you can, hand on heart, say that you’ve done all you can where you are now, then you need to be preparing for that next job – that job interview at that school where that head want to hear what you have to say, wants to take your advice and wants to make sure you arerecognised for what you do.  After all, you’re a frickin’ superhero remember!

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