Leadership, Well being

Ooh delegation that’s what you need*

*sing it to the tune of Record Breakers (The Roy Castle years obvs!)

Delegation, Delegation, Delegation.

That’s what you need.

If you wanna achieve the best

Empower the rest

oo-ooh Delegations what you need.

(Trumpet solo)

Delegations what you need.

If you wanna be a healthy Business Manager, oooooooh!

group hand fist bump
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Through conversations with SBMs, it’s very clear there is an awful lot of plate spinning and an even larger amount of concern about how it is going to be sustainable going forward.  Some SBM colleagues are clearly hoping Term 7 is their safety net, but already I’m predicting mine isn’t long enough to clear the cupboards of the back log of plates and allow for a two week break to recharge my SBM batteries ready for the new academic year.  I suggested in my “And for my next trick” blog that one solution to combat the volume of plates you spin is to delegate.  Whilst discussing this option with SBM colleagues it became clear they wanted to delegate but saw it as another plate to spin.  I completely understand that and have subscribed to that belief before (sometimes I revert to it still – hey no one is perfect!).  Then my Headteacher, who you need to know regularly stretches me out of my comfort zone, challenged me to delegate more.  It was even mentioned on my performance appraisal.  In other words, I had to learn how to delegate and then demonstrate I was delegating! Cue me singing in my head the Record Breakers theme tune.

Einstein is credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”, so are you going to carry on doing the same thing over and over again and this time next year expect to feel different? Or are you resigned to this feeling and accept it as part of the SBM’s role? Or are you going to make some small changes, which will enable you to reduce some of your operational tasks and develop your strategic role?

Maybe this Term 7 you could dedicate some time to reminding yourself how to delegate?  Page 185 of The School Business Manager’s Handbook, or Kate Keenan’s “Delegate – learn how to let go with confidence and get more done” or Brian Tracy’s Delegate and Supervision” have been useful resources for me.  Then list your tasks for a term or preferably for a year, in a lovely personalized excel spreadsheet.  Rate those tasks using the 3 Ds – Dump it, Delegate it or Deal with it. Do a quick sort on the tasks.  Have a cup of tea and reflect – can you really Dump all of them? Now the ones you have said you will Deal with, is that because you really like doing them? Should you really delegate them? Now consider the tasks for Delegation – add columns on your spreadsheet:

  • who could be delegated with this task?
  • how long the process of delegation would take i.e. 5-minute handover or 5 days?
  • is external training required?
  • would they need additional logins or access given to certain software? Who can authorize that?
  • can software help? Online Parents Evening system? Cashless school? SIMS ParentLite?
  • can it be outsourced – an alternative to selling school uniform via the office.
  • can procedures be tightened? For example, introduce a Zero tolerance to debt policy.

Review for quick wins, then select those tasks which will have the biggest positive impact on you if delegated.  Start with prioritising them.  You may wish to consider a gradual increase in delegated duties to your colleague(s) to stop them feeling overwhelmed.  They may need to dump some of their own tasks – maybe you can help them with that review process?  Book out some time in the diary to do the training / handover required, treat this as On Job Development (OJD), schedule it like you would for other important tasks for the school.  Consider what you already delegate to that person, could you expand on those tasks?

Hopefully this will mean by the time your Office Crew return in September and your appraisal process has started you will have a clear idea as to the new tasks being delegated to them and could maybe incorporate some meaningful tasks into a target for them.  It could be that you feel all these tasks actually require some coaching from you to your chosen delegate.  I’ve found helpful sources including Hayley Dunn’s The School Business Manager’s Handbook, Carol Wilson’s Best Practice in Performance Coaching and John Whitmore’s Coaching for Performance.

By now I can hear some rumblings from the small schools “All very well Helen but there is just me running the school office!”.  Having worked in school offices of all sizes, I do completely understand the issue of having no one to delegate to. This is where having fantastic systems in place really come into play, thereby reducing the need for operational tasks.  Communicating those systems so others can access them without interrupting you is also key.  Do you have a supportive Governor who could help? Or is there a parent willing to volunteer in the office, to gain some office experience before returning to work post having a family? Could you get an apprentice or trainee for your Office using your Apprenticeship Levy?

As I wrote last month it’s always good to compare and contrast your spinning plates with other SBMs, maybe you could compare and contrast your chosen delegation tasks?

If you want to be the best (mental health), if you want to complete all the tasks, Delegation is what you need.

Good luck! Be kind to yourself and prepare to stretch out of your comfort zone.

Helen Burge

Academy Business Leader

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