Time to take action

Laura Williams, independent consultant at LJ Business Consultancy, provides some top tips to help you develop an action plan to get your colleagues to sit up and take notice of you

Last month I shared with you my go-to framework to help you identify and remove the roadblocks that prevent you from being able to demonstrate your impact and get the recognition you deserve. Within this, I outlined the five tools that you can use to make those that won’t listen to you sit up and take notice. These were:

  1. Your knowledge.
  2. Your role.
  3. Your relationships.
  4. Your way of working.
  5. Your presentation.

This month I’m sharing some practical top tips for each of these areas to help you flesh out an action plan based on this framework.
1. Your knowledge – challenge assumptions
Questions are essential when it comes to challenging assumptions. You don’t just need to ask them of other people; you need to ask them of yourself, too. It’s hard if you’ve been in the same post or the same school for a long time, but ask yourself, ‘What do you know, how do you know it, is it true, could it be better, how could it change, what would change mean, should it be done?’
The management of risk relies on you being as informed as you can possibly be – all of the time. You need to, not only determine a way forward, but also be able to forecast impending doom. This is why you must always triangulate everything you think you know – numbers need narrative, and narrative needs numbers. Whilst the destination may be set, the current reality will continue to shift and, in order to make truly sound assessments, you’ll need to split your focus accordingly.
2. Your role – look after your team
Whilst you’re operating as part of the school leadership team, notionally or not, you also have to lead teams of your own. This means that you have to practice what you preach. You’re modelling from the front – your ‘house’ is in full view, it’s under scrutiny and people will lob rocks at it. Depending on your role and your context, you may find yourself and your team under attack. To this end, look after them.
We often get so caught up on the leadership battlefield that we don’t spend as much time as we should making sure that the battles going on elsewhere in the building are being hard fought and won on all fronts. Your team needs you to back them – even if nobody is backing you.
3. Your relationships – don’t get hung up on status
Actions speak louder than words. The head and the SLT will treat you like you’re part of the team – or they won’t, whether you are or not. It actually doesn’t matter what your job title is, what qualifications you have or where you sit on the leadership diagram if nobody listens to what you have to say. Without credibility you cannot operate effectively – and credibility isn’t given, it’s earned.
The job title and badge do help, but aren’t the end of the story. Whatever level you work at, you earn your place on that team every day – not only by doing your own job well, but also by helping the others do theirs. Aligning yourself, and the purpose of your role, with the educational objectives of your school is crucial.
As a SBL you can’t operate in isolation; everything you do should be about supporting the delivery of a quality education provision. Articulating your role in these terms – as well as demonstrating sound knowledge, a thorough understanding of data, objectivity and empathy – will go a long way to gain the confidence and trust of your teaching colleagues.
4. Your way of working – put the work in now to save it later
Proving yourself takes time. Building relationships takes time too – and maintaining them takes work. But building relationships can save you time in the long run and make your ways of working much more expedient.
Find your allies. Get someone else to start saying how good you are – it can make the difference between dragging a project to completion through a never-ending string of debacles, or working with some of the SLT, bringing it in early and making it a roaring success. It’s been said that the role of SBL is boundaryless – this is true; the more you extend your landscape of operation, the more influence you will gain.
5. Your presentation – don’t give up
Give it time – not a lifetime – but enough time! If you’re going to make some changes, the people around you will need time to adjust. Right now, you may not be valued by your head, your salary may not reflect your skills or your responsibility and you may wonder what on earth the point of speaking up is at all. However, the fact is, you owe it to yourself to be seen, to be heard, to be valued and to be recognised.
Don’t give up. If you don’t step up now, and be the SBL you know you can be, everybody loses. More importantly, you lose. You will de-skill yourself by default.
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 wants to hear what you have to say, wants to take your advice and wants to make sure you’re recognised for what you do.

A former COO, CFO and company secretary, Laura now runs a consultancy, providing leadership coaching and business and operational advice to education leaders and trustees. Visit www.ljbusinessofeducation.co.uk for more information.
She will be holding workshops at EdExec LIVE South, an event tailored to management and leadership in the education sector, in London on 12 June 2019. For more information, and to book your ticket, click here.
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