Feed the world

Working SBM explores why wallowing in despair in the face of adversity doesn’t help – and why courage comes from someone having your back

Sometimes I’m amazed that we remain so optimistic about the future. We know that education funding is at a level which is going to be detrimental to the life chances of the next generation. We’re aware that the lack of action on reducing our impact on climate change risks some of Earth’s major coastal cities. We know, a full 35 years since the release of Band Aid’s original single, that we still don’t feed our world.

But there is no benefit in descending into despair, or believing that it’s too late or we can’t do anything about it. We can.

We have a voice.

I believe that school business managers in the UK have a voice which is stronger, and more influential, than they think – and that voice is becoming louder every time we focus it collectively. So, I’ve decided that my new year’s resolution for 2020 is to start encouraging the combined use of all our SBM skills and experience to promote our profession and increase our impact still further.

A new year is a time for reflection as well as forward-thinking. When I look back on last year, a lot of my writing has been in support of our Institute of School Business Leaders. I believe passionately in this organisation with its ability, and position, to connect us all and drive my profession forward – so you won’t be surprised to hear that I will continue to promote it and encourage my colleagues to join in.

The bigger picture

Being part of a bigger picture is important to me. Of course, the day job comes first and, like you, I can’t always get to meetings and conferences but, when I do, I always come away inspired and with bags of resolve. The speakers and workshops are always useful, but it is the collective energy of dedicated professionals in the room, all intent of giving their school community the best experience and outcomes, that is the source of the power.

The ISBL gives us the biggest platform from which to spring, one that gives us confidence to speak out and give our view. Colleagues have said to me in the past, “It’s alright for you; your situation supports and respects your voice” – but it hasn’t always been like that and often the hardest thing, even in a supportive environment, is to have the courage to speak up and say what you think.

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As business managers we spend a lot of time undervaluing ourselves, thinking that we are not the experts in education and, therefore, our contribution is not appropriate. In 2020, we need to stop this self-censorship and accept our role as the influential position it is. We need to start sharing our opinions and valuing our view. I often think that, if I don’t value or believe in what I have to say, why should anyone else? It takes practice, I know, and it involves falling on your face occasionally, but it is worth it.

I was in a meeting recently where a colleague honestly and calmly said what he really thought. We realised we had needed to hear what he said, however uncomfortable. It was one of those leap-forward moments when suddenly we could all see the path we should be travelling. I was left feeling proud that I am part of a team that has the confidence to be honest in speaking out, understanding and applauding the courage it took to do that.

Who has your back?

Building relationships and working collaboratively with others can only promote courage. How often have you felt braver knowing that someone had your back? For example, have you ever, as part of your pre-meeting preparation, canvassed support for your view or initiative from someone else who will be in the room? Have you run an idea by another SBM just for a sense check, or run through a presentation or asked them to look at a report? Use the support you have around you, in colleagues, networks and our professional institute to grow your confidence, influence and impact.

What is most important is the knowledge that we are not on our own. In 2020, we must take hold of our determination, focus it on a desired outcome and not let go until we’ve been heard. I’m willing to bet that, if we do it together, we will be deafening!

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