No longer just ‘numbers people’, the new generation of business managers in schools are extending their skill set to effectively lead education support staff and to closely collaborate with principals and teachers to implement positive changes within schools.
Lisa Sutherland started as the business manager at Lyndhurst Primary School when it opened five years ago. Being a new school and Lisa’s first time in the role, much of this time was spent reacting to situations as they happened.
“I knew I was doing a good job and everything was going pretty smoothly, but I didn’t have the opportunity to reflect or focus on my leadership style or on my strengths and weaknesses,” explains Lisa.
To extend her capability to develop strategies, processes and goals and to effectively communicate her ideas for change, Lisa enrolled in Bastow’s Leadership for Business Managers course in 2014.
“The course gave me the confidence and the language to go forward, as well as to evaluate and highlight what I do well and areas I need to improve on,” says Lisa. “Believing in and understanding your own capabilities is a big part of other people recognising them and having the confidence in you to introduce change.”
As a practice-based course with a strong collaborative component, Lisa was encouraged to share her experiences with the other participants - all from different school settings and with varying levels of leadership experience - and was motivated to find scenarios in her school where she could immediately apply her learning.
“Whether it’s having difficult conversations or leading or managing change, everything was so relevant and applied directly to my role,” says Lisa. “And connecting with people who understand the day-to-day ins and outs of this job was so valuable - it’s such a diverse role and very different from working in a corporate setting.”
With a clearer vision of how she could build both her own and others’ capacity, Lisa encouraged educational support (ES) staff to recognise and utilise their strengths, developed shared goals for professional learning, and looked at how staff wellbeing could be improved.
“I am in the process of setting up a skills database with my ES team, I have modified the professional learning team documents used by teaching staff to make them more relevant to ES staff, and I’m spending more time and resources on staff health and wellbeing.”
Lisa strongly believes that these changes will have a positive impact on student learning outcomes.
“I see the flow-on effect to our families having positive experiences at the school, which leads to positive talk within the community and a higher level of morale within the school,” says Lisa.
As testament to just how much Lisa has grown and as recognition of her impact on whole-school workforce planning, she was invited to join the leadership team.
“I was asked to join the team in 2012 and at the time, I just didn’t think I had the right set of skills to really add value. But when asked again this year I didn’t hesitate to say yes.”
For more information: Leadership for Business Managers