Nickii Messer, of All The Geese, explains how to make sure it’s not just you who knows your worth, but also those around you
Nowadays, much of the work I do to support the development of school business professionals centres on helping them to know and communicate their worth to colleagues. I thought it might be helpful to look back on what I found worked well for me when I was still working in the hectic world of school business management.
Knowing my worth
Throughout my career as a school business professional each move up the ladder brought ever growing workload, responsibility and accountability. At my last, and biggest, secondary school, however, I finally found myself overwhelmed – not only by the sheer weight of it all – but, initially, by how little my colleagues understood me and my role. Something had to change – and those changes had to come from me.
The school had never had a SBM before and as I was, effectively, replacing a retiring male deputy headteacher, this represented quite a cultural shift, especially for SLT. Likewise, many teaching staff had scant regard for the nominal level of responsibility I held at the school, seeing me only as a go-to person when they wanted things done.
The catalyst for change came from my own recognition that my role had significant worth to the school. This wasn’t about me personally, but the importance of the professional role I held, and the imperative for it to be effective and efficient in every way possible.
Recognising my own professional worth made me reflect on the difference between working hard, and working to add high quality value to the school. To be able to move from the former to the latter, I invested time and effort in continually professionally developing myself – not only in formal, SBM qualifications, but also by attending conferences and reading, reading, reading. Improving my knowledge and understanding allowed me to work more effectively and build confidence in myself as a credible senior leader.
Communicating my worth
I never explicitly sought to communicate my worth, but there were many things that I did that achieved this for me; in particular, I got actively involved. Being a proactive member of SLT meant that I contributed to the agenda, participated in duties, involved myself in subject reviews and did everything I could to be recognised as a credible, interested and useful member of the team. More than anything else I asked questions and listened to really understand the world in which I was working.
To find out more about the challenges faced by staff and governors, and ways in which I could support them, I attended as many of their meetings as possible. This also proved to be an enormous help in breaking down barriers, allowing us all to communicate with, and understand, one another better.
I no longer had to explain myself and my senior role – I, literally, role-modelled it.
Something I hear over and over is, ‘Teachers don’t understand us’; I never saw this as difficult to overcome. In addition to attending meetings, I ran INSET, twilight and induction sessions so that everyone understood the context in which I was working, and the rationale for the decisions I made.