SBL Surgery – support and advice for school leaders

Our resident agony aunt, Laura Williams of L J Business Consultancy, answers SBMs’ questions about their roles, their lives – and everything in between

“I often feel like I don’t have anything to offer when it comes to being a useful cog in my SLT – how can I feel like more of a team player, and come across as such?”

Picture this: the building you’re standing in is cold and dark. No lights, no heating. The doors are wide open and the corridors are smelly and filthy. Classroom cupboards are empty and bins are overflowing. The ‘phones are dead and the toilets won’t flush. The kitchen is full of equipment that doesn’t work and the fridge is bare. The bills didn’t get paid because the money ran out. A stack of resignation letters is stacked haphazardly on a desk; staff didn’t get paid, so they left. You are standing in a school without an SBM.

Okay, admittedly, this is a little apocalyptic – but you get where I’m coming from! You are not just a cog; you’re not even just a ‘useful’ cog. You are an essential cog.

To be honest, if you’re doing your job well then people will probably not pay attention at all to what you do, because it’s seamless. Everything works; the budget gets set and the money gets spent appropriately, the lights stay on, the heating kicks in at 7am, the children get their fish fingers, the science text books get ordered, the site gates are unlocked and locked, the rubbish gets removed, the paint stains are cleaned from the carpet, teachers get paid and can go Christmas shopping… it’s a machine so slick that it becomes invisible…and nobody questions it.

So, if when it’s good, it’s invisible – what does it all mean? Should it be taken for granted? Does it make what you do less valuable somehow? No!

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Your role is to support the delivery of quality education provision. Everything you do, directly or indirectly, contributes to this mission. By starting from this position you should not only be able to see your role more broadly, but also with clarity.

When you are clear of the value that your role provides, you can then articulate it to your SLT and staff in a way that they can understand:

  • Why is it important that they save money here, but spend it over there?
  • What risks are we escaping if we do something this way instead of another way?
  • What impact can we have if we do this differently from the way that we’ve always done it?
  • What will this initiative allow us to offer tomorrow that we can’t today?
  • What support can our team give you to make this happen faster and more effectively?
  • What can our team do to support teachers to deliver more effectively in the classroom?
  • What information can I give you to help you make a truly informed decision?

You may lead number of teams, and work alongside the senior leadership team, but nobody in the school has first-hand knowledge of the demands of your role or the capacity required to deliver it. You are the ‘only one’. You are unique.

To be part of the team you don’t have to be the same as the team. Wear your uniqueness like a badge and shine brightly like the star that you are!

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