Celebrating courageous school business management

Copy 4 of Untitled design Max Quality | Celebrating courageous school business management
By Nickii Messer | 8th September 2020 | 4 min read

This year we’re working with some of the most notable education sector leaders to tackle trending topics, important issues and significant subjects confronting schools today. 

In our latest blog, school business management and leadership consultant, Nickii Messer, celebrates the courage and commitment of School Business Managers and explores opportunities to support those leading our schools to success.  

I am frequently asked to talk to school leaders about courageous conversations, but it occurs to me that our most successful school business managers are courageous in everything they do - and courageous in management, as much as anything else. 

The word courage derives from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. So, I like to think that being courageous involves being true to your heart.  In a school context, this means working from a foundation of values, striving to achieve the school’s vision and mission, and always keeping the wellbeing of children central to everything. 

Although we increasingly extoll the virtues of school business leadership, effective management is equally critical to the success of any business.  

So, what do we mean by the term, management?  

A simple explanation of something inherently very complex defines management as the planning, control and organisation of services and resources to achieve an organisation’s goals, with optimum efficiency and effectiveness.   

The Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) emphasises their commitment to robust management in their code of ethics: “ISBL shows the way in education finance and operations management by standing up for sound financial and resource management.” (Professional Standards, ISBL:2019 p8).  

Where an SBM can really make a difference to sound financial and resource management is where they have the knowledge and courage to be able to implement and consolidate the high-quality systems, services, processes and resources their school(s) so richly deserve.   

Confronting tech fears 

It is my experience of working with a great many SBMs over the years that, although most feel confident in the management of finances, HR and premises, it is management information systems (MIS) where they most often feel exposed. When asked why, a common response is their lack of technical expertise and/or confidence. However, it is telling that the overwhelming reason given is a lack of time, either to fully investigate how the MIS works or explore the feasibility of converting to a more relevant and reliable system.  

This lack of time results in many SBMs failing to make full use of the functionality offered by their MIS. As such, a system designed to support busy teams leaves many considering it to be more of a hindrance, than a help. 

For most of us, it is a fact of our professional lives that time is the one thing we will never have enough of. However, it’s a misnomer to say we need to improve the way we manage time. Afterall, it isn’t physically possible to manage time; instead, we can only manage ourselves and the way that we use it.  

The most successful managers have a keen understanding of where resources most need to be focussed. When constructing a robust financial budget, they recognise where they must allocate their most valuable resources – the same understanding carried through to prioritising school improvements. 

Time for change and celebrating success 

Renowned management expert Peter Drucker advised that “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”. Yet making such changes is often the hardest part of effective management.  

It is common knowledge that people fear giving up the old, the familiar, the comfortable far more than they fear the new.  The courageous manager, therefore, needs to not only recognise the old that needs to stop, but need to be prepared for inevitable resistance, if they are to get key stakeholders on board. This is often the case even when the old, familiar and the comfortable are failing to deliver or no longer fit for purpose! 

This point brings me, finally, to Dale Carnegie and his observation that: “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”   

Above all else, SBMs should be celebrated for their courageous management of people.  I’m yet to meet a SBM who hasn’t said that people take up more of his or her time than all their other tasks and responsibilities together.   

Whether leading their teams, integrating with senior leaders and communicating with governors, suppliers and external agencies - successful management of these critical relationships takes courage, commitment and passion. It is the successful collaborative practice of SBMs that I celebrate above all else.

Nickii is a well-known school business management and leadership consultant, specialising in training and supporting high quality management and leadership. Nickii is a popular speaker at national and international conferences, an author, and a regular contributor to a variety of educational publications.   For more information visit  www.nickiimesser.com