How to be an effective member of your SLT

How, as a school business manager, can you ensure that you’re an effective member of your school leadership team? Sue Birchall explains how SBMs can be effective leaders whilst operating well as part of a team

Holding a position on SLT offers the SBM the opportunity to increase their effectiveness and influence in their school. This role will help you to understand and follow the direction of travel that your school or academy senior managers are promoting and gives you the opportunity to gain a strategic view. So, having reached this position, how do you ensure that you use this opportunity in the best possible way?
Listen and learn – I joined my first SLT fairly early on in my career and soon discovered that I had a lot to learn. I would sit and listen, writing down any acronyms, references and areas that I had little or no knowledge of. I then would go away and research them; I have continued to do this to develop and inform my practise.
Be prepared – SLT meetings produce a lot of material which pertains to the discussions. Ensure that you are on the SLT e-mail for agendas and attachments, and set some time aside to read them before the meeting. This will give you the opportunity to research any relevant areas, give you some idea of the types of discussions that might come up and offer you the opportunity to put together any points and suggestions you wish to make.
Be pro-active – To be an effective SLT member you need to be seen and heard. This is not to say that you need to be involved in every discussion and topic, particularly if you have little knowledge. However, engagement is key, and you need other members of SLT to view your inclusion on SLT as justified. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to confirm points and discussions and be prepared to ‘talk money’ and offer suggestions for improvement.
As an example, I use my involvement to put practices in place which improve strategic planning. For instance, any key room moves, or changes, now go through a premises development process which considers impacts on the ICT strategy, staffing and resourcing as well as the actual physical changes; this means that the decisions taken are considered and appropriate.
Be aware – Take care what you offer to take on in the meetings; this is just a small point but very valid. Lots of ideas and suggestions are discussed at SLT and often need to be ‘taken on’ by someone. As a member of SLT who is not classroom based you will be seen to have more time for extra duties. Being confident in your abilities and capacity, and that of your team, will stop you ‘volunteering’ when you cannot deliver.
In short – to be effective you need to be seen to be effective.
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