Managing your managers

Start managing up to improve things for you and your nursery, school or college.

By Dr Morris Charlton, Voice Regional Officer (personal view)

I was lucky to have outstanding role models and mentors in my career in education and prior to that in the military. Good mentoring and opportunities for personal and professional development are key to ensuring we develop management teams that are fit for purpose and fit for the future.

I have to say that although I see good practice as a union officer and previously as an inspector, I also see, increasingly, a lot of woeful practice.  I’m therefore concerned for the future quality of senior management in our nurseries, schools and colleges, and the impact that has on staff and youngsters, although there is some high quality work being carried out by ASCL and NAHT on ethical accountability of and for managers.

What makes someone a good manager for you?

What are the key characteristics that makes special managers?

Do you sit back and admire them, or do you incorporate those characteristics into your practice?

What is the result of poor management in schools? Poor morale, stress………. etc. 

The net result is an unhappy staff with poor pupil outcomes. Do senior management try to improve your working conditions, or do they seem to make them more complex and difficult?

Do you have any examples of how your work is impacted on by poorly thought through initiatives?

I worked for 30 years as a headteacher, admittedly with many secondments, which helped my personal and professional development. I was fortunate to be highly successful – not due to brilliance but to the staff teams I had.

Secondments were always to establishments or areas involving significant crises – challenges are always a steep learning and experience curves. You can either manage them or not!  Many of the schools I visit as Regional Officer are struggling or are in crisis.

How come some senior managers crisis manage and others can’t?  

What’s different between those who can and those who can’t?

Do you work with team builders or individualistic approaches?

What’s your experience of crisis in your nursery, school or college? How was it managed and how could it have been done better?

Did you ever dare suggest how something could be done better only to get “snubbed”? 

Is your establishment all top-down in management style?

So, what’s to be done?

My first mentor and brilliant headteacher, Norman Rigby, always said he didn’t want pompous managers, he wanted people who did things to improve the school, created top teams and got on with it.

I suppose his message would have been similar to that of ‘organizational development consultant’ Mary Abbajay – stop complaining, do something about it and start managing up to improve things for you and your nursery, school or college.

Managing up

‘Managing up’ is not about sycophancy – anything but. It’s about consciously and deliberately developing and maintaining effective and positive relationships with your senior managers. In my more Machiavellian moments, I would say, yes, it can be construed as a little manipulative!

It’s about deliberately developing cooperative and collaborative working between people who have different perspectives and power levels.

It’s about ensuring the best results for you, your boss and the school, nursery or college.

I’ll be exploring management issues on a new course to be held at Voice’s Derby HQ in May. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there?

And finally – thank you to the outstanding staff I worked with who allowed us to do fantastic and exciting projects at school that brought about real achievement and change for young people.


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